A descriptive title in so many ways
Writer/Artist: Yamimaru Enjin and Jinko Fuyuno
Translation: Karen McGillicuddy
Adaptation: Karen McGillicuddy
What They Say
Successful restaurateur Yaginuma decides it will be best to get outside help from management consultant Maski Ashizawa in order to find a new chef for his French-concept restaurant. After a few recommendations, Ashizawa pays a visit to Shuichiro Tsubaki, who is currently executive chef at a French restaurant. Ashizawa loves the flavor of the chef's food, but the chef shoots down the offer made to him. In order to pry away the chef from his current work, Ashizawa decides to begin working for Tsubaki. Will Ashizawa successfully exercise his powers of persuasion?
If the cover of Eat or Be Eaten with its clean pastel rendering of Tsubaki and Ashizawa doesn't let the reader know what to expect, the color insert with its carefully chosen novel quote will. This color insert, in addition to producing an amusing visual metaphor inspired by the quote, echoes the art included in this volume - clear with attractive characters that embody their verbal descriptions and providing just enough of a tease for the reader.
The test is very readable and it does have the usual questionable metaphor and descriptions, a source of amusement for so many. Full points for the use of the word "flinty". Although I don't think it correctly describes the individual in question, the fact that it's even in the text is impressive. It's good to see a break out from the same 200 words, often in interesting combinations, that we find in these novels.
A big disappointment is the condition of this particular copy. The gutters are huge and the print reaches right out to the edges of the pages. This seemed to affect the binding and pages fell of the book with very little use.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Masaki Ashizawa is a crack management consultant with a firm that specializes in revitalizing restaurants that have lost their focus and their mission. His latest project does not concern revamping an existing restaurant, but in finding the right chef for a new one, whose silent owner is Chef Yanaginuma, culinary master of French cuisine at grand maison Grande Royale and longtime family friend of Ashizawa and his father.
And find one he does in a small bistro type restaurant called Individu with its Chef, Shuichiro Tsubaki, and an impeccable supporting staff. Ashizawa is very serious about hiring Tsubaki for Yanaginuma's new venture, so much that so that after vetting the restaurant though any number of dishes, he approaches Tsubaki about the venture. As it happens, Ashizawa's enthusiasm leads him to deliver his proposal in terms that could be very easily misconstrued, which only amuses the avowedly gay Tsubaki. Tsubaki, in the self-satisfaction and pride of ownership in his restaurant, refuses to work for anyone else and dismisses Ashizawa's offer before he's heard much of it. Ashizawa is not to be deterred and in assuming that the problem lies in Tsubaki not trusting him, he volunteers to work at the restaurant to show his sincerity. This allows Tsubaki and Ashizawa to get to know in each other in so many ways, and is an opportunity to provide the reader with interesting look at the day to day running of the restaurant, its approach and its philosophy. Those who are careful readers will anticipate the final stumbling block to Ashizawa's plans, but it all works out as expected.
While Ashizawa is fairly straightforward and a guy with whom we're all pretty much familiar , Tsubaki is a character hard to know; he is a man of few words which makes him seem one dimensional. It's tempting to assign him to the category of "strong and silent" type, but it doesn't quite fit. His universe is so food centered that even the most intimate moments find him talking about food. And yet, aware of this, I was brought up short and out of the moment by this -
"I'll cook you some nice food. Just relax."
For those of you who are seasoned BL readers, no meaning for the code phrase "just relax" is necessary; for those of you who are not, let's just extend the food metaphor and say that Tsubaki is getting ready to encase his beefy "Wellington" into some flaky (or should it be "flinty") Ashizawa pastry. Even in Tsubaki's weird food-centric existence, the cited dialog sounds odd and I was prepared to write this off as a stodgy translation, but it occurs more than once. However, my cheesy metaphor may have some truth in it, for as much as Tsubaki lives food, there's no reason he doesn't **** as food, and in going back over the scenes between Tsubaki and Ashizawa it makes much more sense to consider Tsubaki himself as the dish he's cooking up and serving to Ashizawa. It's sexier and it has the added bonus of avoiding so much of the cliched dialog of which we see all too much.
There are some situations here that could be interpreted as non-consensual, but the protests aren't very strong or convincing. I'm with Tsubaki on this one; Ashizawa wanted to.
Certainly not up to the level of the conjoined delight of food and sexuality served up by Tony Richardson in Tom Jones, but Eat or Be Eaten succeeds in its own modest way. Enjoyable with an unusual setting.