Wagamama Kitchen Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1569708711
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Wagamama Kitchen Vol. #01

By Danielle Van Gorder     March 30, 2007
Release Date: February 28, 2007


Wagamama Kitchen Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kaori Monchi
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:Daryl Kuxhouse

What They Say
Handsome Kumaki hides a burning secret. This serious salary man appears to be quite the lady-killer, but in fact, he constantly finds himself head-over-heels in love with guys - straight guys! Kumaki's crush of the moment is on Naoto, a temperamental artist he met on his rounds as an office repairman. Will this be yet another disappointment in a never-ending series of heartbreaks? Or can Kumaki convince the doubting Naoto that true love lies within his embrace?

The Review
Packaging:

Wagamama Kitchen comes with the same packaging as all June books - larger size, slipcover, and decent print quality. The cover has a shot of Naoto and Kumaki together. It's certainly not the most eye-catching of covers, but that might just be because Kaori Monchi's art doesn't really work as well in color. The series title is very large, and almost overpowers the cover, or at least makes it feel a bit unbalanced. At the end of the book are seven pages of advertisements for other June titles and the POP Japan tours.

Art:

Monchi's art is very sketchy and angular, with huge eyes, simplistic facial features, large blocks of uniform screen tone, and simple line work. There's not a lot of detail here, either in the characters themselves or in the backgrounds. It's a style that works much better in black and white than it does on the cover. Panel layouts are fairly simple, with transitions that are sometimes confusing. The print quality overall is very good.

Text/SFX:

All sound effects are subtitled on the page near the original effect, in a font that is close to the original. It's done very well, and does not detract from the art.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Short, girlish Takashi can't stop thinking about Wakana, a childhood friend who he used to kiss. They were separated six years earlier, but Takashi has never stopped looking for him. When Takashi is waylaid by a group of older students who mistake him for a girl, Wakana, now a teacher, is the one who steps in to save him. But Wakana insists that he doesn't know who Takashi is. But much to Takashi's delight and Wakana's dismay, it turns out that Wakana is a teacher at Takashi's new school.

Takashi is delighted, but doesn't seem to realize that openly talking about their past relationship could cause trouble for them both, especially Wakana. Wakana, on the other hand, can't seem to stop toying with Takashi, flirting one minute, and all but ignoring him the next. And Takashi's brother seems to be dead set on keeping the two of them from getting too close.

Finally reaching his limit, Takashi forces his way into Wakana's apartment - to study, but the flirting continues, and we also hear a bit more about their past together. Takashi's grades improve, but his confusion over Wakana doesn't. When he works up the nerve to confess his feelings, Wakana gets rather aggressive with his affection - but then backs off again. Takashi is heartbroken that Wakana won't take him seriously as a partner. At that point, Takashi's brother shows up again, and reveals that Takashi and Wakana had been deliberately separated when Takashi was younger. After this, Wakana's true feelings come out, giving quite a bit of insight into his character.

There are two smaller stories focusing on the couple - one dealing with how Wakana deals with his jealousy and the needs of a younger man, and another set several years later after the two are living together. While the first is rather interesting, the second feels completely out of place - Takashi looks exactly like he did in the earlier stories, and their characters are exactly the same, so without being told that it's set later, the reader would never know.

The second half of the book deals with Kumaki, a gay man who's fallen in love with Naoto, a slightly temperamental (and straight) artist. Using the pretense of teaching him how to use a computer, Kumaki invites Naoto over to his house. While he's over there, Naoto discovers that Kumaki is gay, and has a crush on him. Rather than being upset, Naoto feels relieved - he didn't know how to handle Kumaki being so kind to him, and knowing that there was an ulterior motive made him feel better about the whole situation.

Their odd relationship continues - almost completely one-sided, but Naoto doesn't seem to mind for the most part, and even says that the pair are dating. But it doesn't go smoothly, as Naoto doesn't understand Kumaki, and Kumaki doesn't really understand Naoto, either. This leads to a huge disagreement, and Naoto leaves after saying he'll call Kumaki later - but never does. When they finally meet again by chance, they fight, but manage to finally reconnect.

A couple of smaller side stories deal with their oddball relationship as it progresses. They're slightly humorous, but not quite as interesting as their main story.

Comments
After reading through this, I'm really not sure how I feel about it. The characters are somewhat two-dimensional and not well developed, plot elements fly in out of nowhere just to vanish just as quickly, and even after multiple reads, so much of the story just doesn't make sense. The relationships never really manage to feel convincing, although I found myself feeling most sympathetic towards Takashi's brother - Wakana comes off as slightly creepy in a couple of scenes, definitely the type of person I'd want to keep far away from any young, impressionable siblings. The second story in the book definitely worked better on that front, and had some real emotional payoff.

With more cohesive writing, this could have been something really amazing, but it managed to fall short of its potential. If you're looking for some humor in your BL, this might be for you, but there are just so many other titles that are better written.

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