Goro Inogashira is a private merchant and every chapter in Kodoku no Gourmet, covers his eating experiences around Japan. The format of Kodoku no Gourmet is similar to a Zagat type of restaurant recommendation series, coupled with a fictional character. This is something that was similarly seen in Fumi Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Food. Obviously lots of tasty research is done for manga like this. This is quite the slice of life experience manga that I would try to read in English at any chance. Combine it with Jiro Taniguchi’s detailed artwork; it is not a wrong recommendation right?
It has been a while since I actually have learned about a new Taniguchi title, majority of my titles from this mangaka are purchased when I run into Fanfare at comic conventions like MoCCA. Upon reading Kodoku no Gourmet, I am quite surprise to say that this was a good experience and some bad experience, when normally I expect mainly good things with Taniguchi titles I purchase.
I probably should try to get the bad out of the way first, before I get into the good. Bad is in my expectation and experience in reading Taniguchi. It has always been print, so this is the first time I am reading a digital version. Not to say that JManga is not a good source to go for legal manga, since I have liked a recent boy’s love purchase I made there. Still it was a challenge to just sit there, and read the entire volume. Now if it was a book, I can place a bookmark in it, but obviously there’s a mental voice that said…better finish reading this. A book that you want to mean something to you often is best read in more than one sitting. I was able to pace myself over two days in reading A Distant Neighborhood. Yet for Kodoku no Gourmet, I had to zoom in a lot, since there are quite a lot of details. But that is an aspect I expected about Taniguchi. Still I do hope that the portable version of JManga would be available soon as an iPad app, or there would be a print version of this book. So that I can re-read this book without feeling the pressure of reading it all in one sitting.
The other bad experience was that I ended up feeling like I have a pretty bad opinion about Inogashira, the protagonist. Many times I wonder was it the translation that set me off thinking he was a skeptical jerk, or the fact that it was his internal voice that annoyed me. Either he walked into a restaurant hungry, and then internally complaining about the restaurant, on how he didn’t like the combination or mixture of tastes. Then he backtracks to say that the experience is a good one. There was an example of this in the second or third chapter, as he insisted his then-girlfriend wore his leather coat to prevent from catching a cold. That is a machismo behavior. Still he ends up with being the protagonist, so readers follow his journey.
The good aspect is of this being a Taniguchi work, so you are guarantee a rich story coupled with detailed artwork, that is sure to not turn adults from reading, and thinking that this is a children or teenage book. Also the journey of Inogashira, always makes me nostalgic for the short time I spent in Japan. Thought if you ever ask me about a food recommendation, I would seriously recommend, and was quite enamored with the parfaits of Milky Way in Ikebukuro. This book is a good follow-up for those who have tasted Japanese foods, and continue to want to explore more of the foods. One of my favorite chapters of this book centered on the conbini foods, since Japanese combini are a hundred times better than the American counterparts. (Image above is a clip from that chapter.)
Another aspect that endeared me to this manga, is the fact that there is a currently a live action television series airing in Japan. It is a dramatization of the manga, which have also made a comeback in terms of being serialized once again in a new magazine. The live action stars Matsushige Yutaka, who I last saw in Shinya Shokudou, which is another drama adaptation of a food manga or light novel that I hope to read. He plays a very likable Inogashira, since his acting, and internal dialogue doesn’t sound as obnoxious as the manga version. Every episode, they go to a restaurant, and then following every episode, there is a documentary recap to the restaurant that was featured in the drama. Getting back to Kodoku no Gorumet, if this series goes beyond volume 1 at JManga, then I shall also hope to read more of this series.