What Did You Eat Yesterday?, Vol. 1

By Fumi Yoshinaga. Released in Japan as “Kinou Nani Tabeta?” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Morning. Released in North America by Vertical.

This series has been demanded by the manga cognoscenti almost since it began serialization, and particularly since Yoshinaga’s other titles made it big over here (well, semi-big – no one’s comparing sales between Antique Bakery and Vampire Knight). The story of a gay couple and their everyday lives and eating habits, it’s an intriguing title if only as, unlike other BL titles released over here, it’s very much slice of life rather than oriented towards BL fans like many other series with gay men released in North America. In a couple of ways it reminded me of the Odd Couple, if you replaced Oscar with another, slightly different Felix and made them both gay.


Our three lead characters are Shiro, a dapper lawyer who looks younger than his age and loves bargains; Kenji, a hairstylist who seems to live around the emotional extremes; and the food that they eat each chapter. Yes, trust me, the food is a main character, as loving attention is devoted to purchasing, cooking and eating it. Indeed, at times it seems the only thing keeping the characters sane and happy is delicious meals, as they (as well as the minor side characters) have a bunch of personal problems and neuroses that are equally on display here.

I must admit, while I found Shiro to be endearingly dorky at times, particularly when he’s fretting about bargains, I’m not sure I’ve really warmed to him, as he’s rather hard to like. He’s still in the closet at work, and takes pains to remain so. He and Kenji fight a couple of times here, but nothing is particularly resolved, it more or less just goes ignored or gets papered over with delicious meals. Which I admit is very true to life and absolutely what some couples are like, but it doesn’t make for entertaining reading. Shiro works a little better when he’s dealing with others, such as the housewife he befriends who shares his love of food bargains.

As for Kenji, he seems nice enough, but there are undercurrents there as well. He’s far too passive and accepting in his relationship, though he does show signs of jealousy when he sees Shiro shopping at a bakery owned by his ex-girlfriend from college (an attempt to ‘play straight’ that didn’t last long). On the whole, though, he seems to be a bit more at peace with his life than Shiro is, though I’m sure he’d appreciate being more open about their relationship.

And the food? It looks delicious. Some chapters get recipes after them, but not all – Shiro thinks aloud as he cooks, letting us know the details of exactly what he’s doing. Cooking and eating seem to be the one thing that relieves him of his daily stress. I wouldn’t call this a ‘foodie manga’, though – the food is a spice, giving you another reason to read the story about two men and their everyday lives together. It’s definitely a title worth checking out, and features a lot of what people love about Yoshinaga. Just be aware that sometimes you’re going to want to shake the protagonists and say “What are you acting this way? Stop it!”

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  1. I thought that I would be bored by this one, as I am NOT a foodie, but — as you say — the dinners are definitely a third character in this relationship, and possibly the most likable one! I suspect that there is some sort of correspondence between the meals and the conflict in each chapter, but I don’t know enough about Japanese cuisine to pick up on it.

    But the art has Yoshinaga’s delightful spare elegance, and the characters are quirky enough to seem very real, although I agree that Shiro is hard to like. I wish I had a better feeling for what drew (and keeps) him and Kenji together, besides food.

  2. Pedantry insists that I point out that this is not a BL manga: it is a seinen manga about a gay couple. Just being about gay men does not make a work BL (although the fact that Yoshinaga is a BL author probably has something to do with the character choice… and why her editors at Morning let her do it).

    The food sounds and looks great, but I wish there had been more explicit recipes; Shiro’s stream-of-consciousness cooking is hard to interpret if you aren’t familiar with the dishes in question, and I suspect most US readers won’t have a lot of experience with these sorts of low-key home-cooking dishes even if they are interested in Japanese food. But maybe WDYEY will serve as an inducement for people to buy Vertical’s translated cookbooks. They should have put an ad for those in the back. :)


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