Takasugi-san’s Obento, Vol. 2

By Nozomi Yanahara. Released in Japan by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Digital Manga Publishing.

In general, one of the more disliked traits in manga among Western fandom is the oblivious harem hero who cannot see the obvious crushes that all the girls have on him, and wonders why it is he’s so unpopular. I agree 100% that this can be aggravating, but I have to admit that I am so very happy that Harumi, the start of Takasugi-san’s Obento, is exactly like this. Because the longer he keeps trying to act like a father and close family member to Kururi and doesn’t notice her blushes and googly eyes whenever he’s around, the happier I am. Mostly as despite the threat of this happening, this is a very good manga, with Vol. 2 having lots of great moments.


I’d mentioned in Vol. 1’s review that Natsuki, the snarky girl who was introduced to be the class bully but actually formed a close friendship with Kururi, reminded me strongly in both looks and attitude of Shinobu from Hakusensha shoujo series Teru Teru x Shonen. That opinion is reinforced by my favorite chapter in the book, where they start a new year only to find that Kururi and Mitsuru, the two that she’d bonded with, are in another class, leaving her alone with all of her former friends and cronies, who are very bitter about Natsuki changing her affections to the quiet weird girl. And so the bully becomes the bullied. That’s not what I liked about the chapter. What I liked was the way Natsuki handled it, being totally aware of what was going on, and then taking the earliest opportunity to gain the upper hand and reassert her position. We do see a teacher talk about stepping in, which is good, but I enjoyed seeing Natsuki being empowered again all by herself.

It also helped that she used a bento to do so. This still is not quite a foodie manga, but food certainly plays a major role in it, with Harumi and Kururi constantly trying new things and enjoying seasonal treats – even if their cooking skills don’t necessarily match up with their intentions. This is true of Harumi in general, who continues to be very awkward with most social interaction, and has a tendency to not think about what others around him might be feeling before he decides on a course of action. This is, of course, part of why he’s still an oblivious harem protagonist. The author’s notes said she has fun with him beign a passive, sad guy. Kururi, on the other hand, is a full-blown introvert, and this is also shown very deftly in several chapters.

Finally, let’s go back to Kururi’s crush. It’s still there, and everyone but Harumi seems to be aware of it. I was very grateful for the expansion of Mitsuru’s role, as he’s not only an age and family-appropriate rival, but his bluntness about liking Kururi and reminding her of it – a lot – is refreshing. That said, that sort of guy often ends up on the losing side in these sorts of mangas. His older brother, who’s in Harumi’s workplace, is more a fan of passive-aggressive poking – his queries at Kosaka are clearly meant to force her to admit that she has a crush on Harumi, and since she doesn’t admit it he wants to go for it as well, but is not as self-confident as his younger sibling. Normally all these harem antics would be annoying, but here they are giving a hint that maybe the manga won’t end like we fear.

Despite that fear, I still greatly enjoy Takasugi-san’s Obento, which hits a lot of my buttons, and reminds me of the old CMX shoujo days, despite being a DMP seinen title. Recommended for heartwarming comedy with lots of food.

Takasugi-san’s Obento, Vol. 1

By Nozomi Yanahara. Released in Japan by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Digital Manga Publishing.

I must admit, as I got further and further into this series, it kept reminding me of a Hakusensha shoujo. The art style and tendency towards tinny textual comments in particular, not to mention that one of the characters is a straight up Expy of Shinobu from Teru Teru x Shonen. And sure enough, the author worked for Hakusensha for years doing one-volume short series for LaLa and LaLa DX before starting this series, her longest, for Comic Flapper. Flapper is sort of a seinen title, but in practice tends to be ‘shoujo for adult males’ a lot of the time. And for this title, the adult male is also the star of the show, as the titular Takasugi takes in his 12-year-old cousin after her mother dies.


(The cover art has been slightly changed for the print edition, but this is the only image I could find.)

It’s honestly really hard not to compare this to Bunny Drop. Takasugi-san’s Obento has an awkward single male, around 31, who ends up being the relative who takes in a quiet and closed-off child still grieving for the death of her parent. Things are awkward but they slowly begin to bond and forge a life together, with the help of his workplace friends, one of whom begins to have a major crush on him. Takasugi seems to be somewhat bad at reading people’s hearts, despite having a Ph.D in Geography (I agree with Anna from Manga Report, by the way, clearly Cultural Anthropology is what’s implied here). Luckily, he improves over the course of the volume to a certain extent.

The interesting thing here is that he and Kururi, his cousin, end up bonding over their shared love of bentos, which his aunt made for him when he was growing up and then continued to make for Kururi when she was growing up. Kururi really comes alive when she’s comparison shopping and stressing over food prices, which are really important to her (to an extent her obsession with food almost reads like a function of her grief, but I think a lot of it was there to begin with). This is not a foodie manga by any means – you get no recipes, and will have to google to see what Kimpira Burdock is, as there are no translation notes – but the food seems to help tie everything together, both with Takasugi’s new family and with his friends and colleagues.

The series is seven volumes and still going in Japan. It’s also, unlike Bunny Drop, not scanlated and spoilered to hell and back. Which makes it all the more awkward that the first volume ends by showing us that 12-year-old Kururi has a giant crush on her 31-year-old cousin, and is drawing charts to see if they can get legally married. I’m hoping the series backs away from this pairing eventually – there is a running gag of everyone thinking Takasugi is a horribly creepy pervert that I had thought was there to show people the title wouldn’t go that way, and Kosaka (the colleague who has a crush on him) is adorable and I really want to see that relationship develop instead. But I can’t deny that this is Japan, and it’s possible that the manga might go down that road eventually. So if Bunny Drop burned you, consider yourself warned.

Overall, though, this was cute and adorable, and I managed to like all the characters quite a bit. I want to see Kururi grow and open up to others, and of course I want to see them eat more food. I will be checking out the next volume of this series (Due out in May, theoretically).