Friday, October 31, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sunday, August 31, 2014
Friday, August 1, 2014
I can't help but think these panels from Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! are pretty much the genesis of What Did You Eat Yesterday? By which I mean, Fumi Yoshinaga seems to be going out of her way to write a story about a gay couple that avoids pretty much every staple of the yaoi genre.
In fact, they're kind of a dull couple! Shiro and Kenji are pushing forty and just flat-out done with having drama in their lives. Theirs is not an especially affectionate relationship; the honeymoon is well over, and there's a lot of intimacy, but no romance (in fact, in three volumes I don't think we even see a kiss). In some ways, they don't actually know each other very well at all; there are some pointed minor revelations in v3 especially. To a certain extent, they've kind of settled for each other and are happy enough with the way that's working out. As the mighty Shaenon Garrity says, "most BL is about horrible screwed-up relationships: they have the unfortunate tendency to be more exciting."
A lot of this is Shiro's fault; he is pretty much Yesterday's straight man (no, I couldn't figure out how to avoid saying that) and just not a vivacious kinda guy. He's not unlikable, but he is a much lower-key protagonist than you may be used to, especially since much of his internal monologue is about food, his one true passion.
That's the other thing about Yesterday; fundamentally, it's an illustrated recipe book. The centerpiece of every chapter is Shiro bustling about in the kitchen for several pages, narrating what he's doing and what the ingredients are; the human drama elements of the series are frankly there as seasoning. I see a fair amount of complaints about that from people expecting this to be more of an ongoing story; for the most part, chapters are standalone vignettes of Shiro working as a lawyer, dealing with his family, and shopping, then he and Kenji come home and eat. I'm actually fine with the pacing; Yoshinaga is sort of cheating the way the Astron-6 crew do by shooting trailers they never intend to flesh out into movies, and her stories here tend to be snapshots of awkward moments or part of a particularly juicy case, without any real buildup or denouement. I think what's there is interesting reading (Yoshinaga has a surprising amount to say about Japanese law and social custom, especially as they relate to the gay experience), but it is slight and there's not much you could really call forward motion. It's pretty much a bunch of character sketches, but Yoshinaga is very good at those.
Unfortunately, what she isn't very good at is drawing the food! She's excellent with facial expressions and body language, but everything else is basically workmanlike (there are some serious Giant Yaoi Hands all up in this), and most damningly, she just does not make the food look appetizing at all. Kaoru Mori makes me hungry every damn time I read A Bride's Story (oh god all that fried rice), but I may as well be reading the phone book here.
This is actually something she was much better at in Delicious Foods; the food didn't look any better, but there was tons of nigh-orgasmic dialogue from everyone savoring the chow, which was way more my speed. I am not so much a foodie or gourmand as a hedonist; I love me a good meal, but when I'm hungry I get too damn impatient to spend time doing anything elaborate. The way Yoshinaga structures the story, Shiro and Kenji spend like six pages making the food and then about two panels enjoying it, and that is some serious cuisine interruptus as far as I'm concerned.
Delicious Foods is actually a much grabbier book than Yesterday in general; I picked it up looking for those panels to scan, then ended up rereading the whole thing in one sitting. It's basically a farce, which puts her wit and strengths as an artist to much better use than the dryer and more naturalistic material in Yesterday.
So I guess, to end on an unavoidable food analogy, What Did You Eat Yesterday? is an acquired taste. Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! or Antique Bakery are more obviously crowd-pleasing intros to Yoshinaga's work, Ooku has a more original premise and stronger drama, and you'll probably get more quiet amusement if you've read enough yaoi to notice all the genre tropes and weird power dynamics she's going out of her way to avoid in Yesterday (or at least I do), but it's an enjoyable series on its own merits. It's not flashy or obviously hooky, but I'm not reading anything else quite like it and I've enjoyed every volume so far.