New this month from Square Enix Manga is Beauty and the Feast, a slice-of-life comedy looking at the comfort food can bring to both cook and diner. When her husband passed away, Shuko Yakumo lost her appetite for life, and with it, her love of cooking. But her neighbour Shohei Yamato brings an end to Shuko’s solitary existence. A high school baseball player living on his own, Shohei has a seemingly bottomless stomach… and this presents a challenge that Shuko is only too happy to accept! As her days begin to revolve around her secret hobby of feeding Shohei, will Shuko rediscover the happiness life has to offer?
There has been a growing popularity in food manga in recent years, with series such as Food Wars; What Did you Eat Yesterday and Sweetness & Lightning leading the charge. These all take different approaches and occupy different genres, whether it be family drama or going in the shonen action direction. Beauty and the Feast slots well into the slice-of-life genre, but whilst the food is a key driving point, this is definitely a character driven series. Satomi U keeps the focus on Shuko, with most of this opening volume dedicated to establishing her mindset following the death of her husband. It is a very real depiction of coping with loss, with Satomi (still being in her 20s) losing all interest in carrying on with her hobbies following this tragedy. U has an excellent grasp on what grief can do a person and how it can take control of their life with Shuko’s reactions come across as very natural.
This is only the first volume, so we don’t know how far the rekindling of Shuko’s passion for cooking is going to go, but this is a fun exploration of why people enjoy cooking. For some, it is about achieving fame and fortune; or they’re passionate about food. For Shuko, it appears at the moment that her enjoyment comes from the pleasure her cooking brings to other people. Shohei devouring her food brings back memories of her husband and seems to reinvigorate her, once again proving the power of cooking.
Satomi U’s art is very strong. The style is a little more delicate than the zanier slice-of-life comedies out there, which suits it to a tee. Shuko is a very expressive protagonist and Satomi does wonders showing the different emotions she goes through. Shohei meanwhile provides a great contrast as the straightlaced almost stoic at times student who lets his guard down when it comes to food. There’s plenty to enjoy in this opening volume and it’s a promising sign of things to come. Slice-of-life and comedy manga fans will eat this right up (no pun intended).
Beauty And The Feast 1 is out 25 March from Square Enix Manga (9781646090624, p/b, £10.99)
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