Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Ayumi Komura
Genre: Shojo (Graphic Novel)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
Some vegetables weren’t meant to be mixed in together.
There’s a romance manga for everyone whether you’re a volleyball enthusiast, an athlete looking for love or a social misfit that finds romance in the most unusual of places. I love to cook and so a Shojo Beat Manga like Mixed Vegetables comes along and I’m all over it like Elvis and a banana and peanut butter sandwich. Imagine my great disappointment when read through the volume only to find that this one just feels like wasted potential. Ayumi Komura, you just disappointed a manga reader that looked forward to a culinary romance.
You will come to hate Hanayu Ashitaba. She’s a pretty Oikawa High School student who is the daughter of a much-liked pastry chef and not bad when it comes to the culinary arts in general. However, being a pastry chef like her father isn’t what she wants out of life. Ever since her father took her out for sushi one day when she was little, Hanayu has made it her life mission to one day become a sushi chef herself. The way she sees it, the only way to become a master of sushi is to marry into a sushi chef’s family. It so turns out that a fellow classmate – the cute Hayato Hyuga – happens to be the son of a respected sushi restaurant in town. She makes it her mission to have Hayato fall in love with her for the sole purpose of learning his family’s trade.
What’s that you say? Why doesn’t Hanayu simply go to a culinary school that specializes in making sushi? Well, that would have made sense, right? If this were a different time period or if Hanayu’s father would be crushed if she chose to turn away from her own family’s then the premise would make sense. The truth is that Hanayu’s real reason for wanting Hayato to marry her is an old-fashioned statement that just seems so unlikely.
For the sake of this review, let’s say we understand this reasoning and go along with it. The problem is that Hanayu’s selfish quest makes her the most unlikable character in this manga. It’s clear from the way she talks to Hayato that she’s not crazy about him even though he clearly likes her. She often criticizes him and yells at him even though he tries hard to please her and at one point she even laughs at his face when he thinks he offended her by asking for her cucumber jam recipe. Even when Hayato somehow (Komura doesn’t explain when exactly they become a couple) becomes Hanayu’s boyfriend, she only thinks about the types of sushi trade secrets she will steal out of his family.
At one point, though, Hanayu begins to question if what she’s doing is right. It’s clear that Hayato is crazy about her but is it right to want to be close to him just for the sake of marrying into his family’s business. She quickly dismisses any thoughts of guilt because – during a date where they go off picking wild strawberries – she suddenly “feels” something for him. She doesn’t say it’s love even though the day before her thoughts of what exactly is love consumed her so much that she failed one of her final exams.
Ayumi Komura isn’t a bad writer (nor a bad artist, for that matter), but Mixed Vegetables isn’t her best or strongest work. It lacks all the things other shojo manga out there possesses. There’s no real conflict here seeing as Hayato likes Hanayu and this manga would have been different if it turned out that he didn’t like her at all. Secondly, I wasn’t rooting for Hanayu the way I would other shojo manga main characters. In fact, I was hoping Hayato would see right through her desperation and lack of charm that he wouldn’t want anything to do with her. Finally, we learn very little about Japanese cuisine. We’re not looking for cooking lessons here but in a manga about chefs, wouldn’t food be a central part of it?
In the end, Mixed Vegetables is a major disappointment and a weak entry in Komura’s otherwise decent body of work. You’ll find it hard to like a character who comes off selfish and one-dimensional and with very little in terms of humor you will find yourself wishing this manga would be a lot better than it could have been seeing as most of the main ingredients are present. I find it hard to recommend this one to any shojo fans out there so I highly recommend you turn elsewhere for your shojo manga fix.
Boy likes girl but the girl just wants to be with him to marry into a sushi household. This works … if the time period were Feudal Japan. Here, Hanayu’s quest to become a sushi chef is somewhat plausible but how can somebody this unlikable catch the eye of somebody that cute, sweet and charming? Sorry, Komura, but the romance here is handled weakly.
Komura’s art is a bit by-the-numbers but it’s not entirely bad seeing as the main characters have their own distinct look and the backgrounds are not bad at all. Also, Komura draws the food wonderfully enough.
It’s hard to like a manga like Mixed Vegetables when the main protagonist isn’t likeable or the story not compelling or fun enough to follow. Sure, the premise is interesting but with no “real” justification for wanting to be with the cute guy in class other than to be a sushi chef just makes this manga hard to swallow. What little meat there is in this one just leaves a bad after taste.