About a month back Digital Manga (also known as eManga) sent out a tweet asking if anyone would like to review their works and, especially since I had no idea what my book situation would be for the next few months, I said sure and now have quite a few things from them to review. So for the next couple of months I'll alternate every week between one of their titles and one that I found at the local library, turns out I shouldn't have been worried about having enough to read but that's a problem I can live with.
Takasugi-San's Obento by Nozomi Yanahara (volume one)
Summary: Harumi is a 30 something university researcher who has yet to be hired on as a full time staff member anywhere due not so much to a lack of drive but simply getting too scared to do anything when the opportunity arise. Thus he would have refused the care of his younger cousin Kurui if he could have but, since it was in the will of his favorite aunt who helped raise him, he does and slowly the two get to know each other and navigate through life.
The Good: At first I couldn't work out how the title was supposed to connect to the story but slowly it turned out to be a rather appropriate title for how both Harumi and Kurui cook (bentos in particular) to become closer to each other and to remember Miya (and then technically the title could refer to a lunch made by any of them). I'm not sure how long the entire series is, the website only has this volume, so while I wonder if the entire story could have been told in a single volume I thought that the pacing was fine since we can already seen changes in both Harumi and Kurui which is what I was hoping to get out of a character-driven story.
The Bad: There were a couple of moments in the manga that came off as a bit, creepy, to me. Namely little things like Harumi half wishing Kurui was younger so he'd have an excuse to wash her back and then a short scene where Kurui counts out how far removed she is from Harumi (you need to be at least three removed to be able to marry) and smiles when she sees that he's four removed. Little details like that killed the good vibes the story was putting out before that, it just felt a little too skeevy for me. Oh and I was frustrated to see that Harumi's two, rather close, female coworkers were in fact not a lesbian couple just really close friends but that's just personal bias talking there.
The Art: The art is okay, for a story with the word "obento" in the title you would think that it would spend a lot of time focusing on the food with meticulously detailed drawings but that wasn't the case (although, as noted earlier, the bento is more a symbol of how the characters are becoming closer and that bond is more of the focus than the food). I was looking forward to some well drawn food so I am a tad disappointed there, otherwise the characters are distinct, the paneling flows well, et cetera, there's nothing to complain about.
For having both sweet and a few skeevy moments I'm going to give the manga a 2.5 out of 5. It's the kind of thing which I would check out from the library, read, not feel like I wasted my time, yet not pick up the next volume in the hope of finding something more interesting to read next time. Interested folks can check out emanga.com to purchase, although it appears that it can only be read on their online e-reader (which is alright, I wish it gave the option to display manga as single pages a-la scanlation sites however, zooming in and then moving around a two page spread gets a bit awkward), not downloaded at this time.