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MANGA REVIEW: Shinya Shokudou

 
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Overview
 

Story by: Abe Yarou
 
Art by: Abe Yarou
 
Publisher: Kodansha
 
Publisher:
 
FG RATING
 
 
 
 
 
4.5/ 5


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Raves


A manga with down-to-earth and seemingly-simple stories and a cast of less-than-perfect, lovable characters; Shinya Shokudou also offers some interesting and informative tidbits on Japanese cooking

Rants


Many characters are not exactly wholesome - the setting also mentions bars and brothels; Abe Yarou's drawing style may not appeal to those who are used to more stereotypical manga art.


To sum it all up..

If you have time, pull up a chair and take a seat. Eat. And listen.

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Posted January 13, 2015 by

 
FULL REVIEW
 
 

Abe Yarou‘s award-winning manga Shinya Shokudou (Midnight Restaurant) is about a humble but unusual little diner that only opens at midnight and closes at 7 A.M. the following day. The proprietor, a middle-aged cook known only as “Master” has a very basic menu that only consists of a pork and miso soup set with rice, and a few alcoholic drinks. But he can prepare anything a customer requests for, as long as he has the necessary ingredients. This is a down-home sort of place, so expect simple and unpretentious Japanese comfort food combined with the simple, sometimes-sad, sometimes-funny stories of his customers. If you have time, pull up a chair and take a seat. Eat. And listen.

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Each chapter title of Shinya Shokudou usually has the name of a dish, with a corresponding story connected in some way to the person eating that dish. These stories offer a peek into the lives of some of its regular customers, who come from all sorts of backgrounds. Shinya Shokudou was nominated for the Manga Taisho Award in 2009, and won the prestigious Japan Cartoonist Awards Grand Prize in 2010. It became popular enough to be adapted into a live-action drama in 2009 and has just finished its third season in 2014. The movie version will be released in Japan on January 31, 2015.

Some stories are funny, like one titled “Hiyajiru” (a type of cold soup made of miso and fish stock, and served on hot rice). Mayumi, a plump girl worked hard and exercised to slim down and look good when she meets her crush at their upcoming high school reunion. But things take a surprising turn when she unexpectedly runs into him in the restaurant. Let’s just say there is a reason why Mayumi is also nicknamed the “Rebound Queen”.

Other stories are sad, such as “Nekomanma” (literally, “cat rice”, or warm rice with soy sauce and dried fish flakes sprinkled on top). It was the favorite dish of a struggling enka (a type of Japanese folk music, similar to blues) singer who enjoyed a brief moment of success with a ballad entitled “Mayoi Neko” (“Stray Cat”) before she passed away. But the story didn’t simply end there. In this case, cats figured heavily in this tale.

Something to keep in mind though, when reading Shinya Shokudou - don’t expect a lot of martial-arts action, magical sailor-suited girls or even eyes that fill up more than half of the characters’ faces. The characters are drawn in Mr. Abe’s simple but distinctive style of thin and clean, curved lines that almost resembles a child’s sketches. Most of the time, he uses very little shading and his style has a “flat” feel.

But I think this is a perfect foil for his characters and his stories. All his characters are ordinary, average people, ranging from single mothers and office workers, to the likes of gangsters and strippers. There is even one character who is the aging owner of a gay bar, while another is a well-known actor – in porn films. But despite this, they are somehow very solid and all-too-human characters. They have less-than-perfect lives, but that is what makes them endearing to the reader.

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Heartbreak, losing a loved one, trying to re-connect with long-lost family and friends, forming friendships, even losing weight – we’ve all gone through several of these experiences at some point in our lives. And Abe Yarou’s stories are thoughtful reflections of these events. They are often short, simple and most do not even have happy endings. But they are full of quiet and meaningful moments that resonate with the reader even after each ending. Add to this the dishes featured in each chapter – they’re not gourmet fare. Just simple dishes that are both delicious and filling, which reflects what this manga is all about – it maybe simple, but it carries much food for thought (pun intended).


Patricia Acevedo

 
Growing up, my telenovelas were not "Anna Lisa" and "Gulong ng Palad" but "Daimos" and "Voltes V". And let's not forget "Candy Candy".


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