Monday, October 17, 2011

A Manga for the Sweet Tooth

I've just started reading a very adorable manga that I am thoroughly enjoying.

Kitchen Princess is the story of an orphaned girl, Najika Kazami, who is able to cope with her grief thanks to two things: her love of and talent for cooking and the cherished memory of a little boy who showed her kindness during the darkest moment of her young life.

Brought up in an orphanage in Hokkaido, Najika has always been cherished and well-loved among her friends and the orphange director, who writes a personal recommendation that gets her into the prestigious Seika Academy in Tokyo. I liked this portrayal of her childhood- while the loss is very present in Najika's life, there are moments of warmth and joy, and kindness. It is an idyllic situation, of course, but I like that she wasn't someone who was mistreated and unloved during her childhood. The nurturing she received at the orphanage made her strong- and she will need that strength for what awaits her in Tokyo.

Enter that annoying trope: the petty and jealous girls who immediately resent Najika because she captures the attention of the school's two most fabulous guys...who are brothers (of course). The petty girls do not understand why she is placed in Class A, along with the most talented and impressive students. They don't realize that Najika has an incredible talent: she knows how to cook very well. Not only that, but she understands the importance of good and satisfying meal, and all the pageantry associated with the ritual of eating well (ambiance, presentation, etc.). At Seiko she hopes to find the boy who showed her so much kindness years ago (she suspects he is there because years ago he gave her his flan dessert along with a silver spoon with Seiko Academy's crest), but while she searches, she shares and develops her culinary talents further.

I've just started this manga, so I'll report back when I finish reading, At this point, Najika reminds me so much of another manga heroine with a culinary gift: Fujiwara Momoe, from Oishii Kankei, one of my favorite mangas ever. She has an inner radiance and joy that give her grit and strength to move forwards. I really like it when manga heroines are stronger, determined, and have other goals in life other than falling in love and dedicating their lives to their beloved one...