Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, Vol. 3

By TAa, based on Fate/Stay Night by TYPE-MOON. Released in Japan as “Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace Up. Released in North America by Denpa Books. Translated by Ko Ransom.

This series has shown a very delicate touch when it comes to the “canon” of the Fate universe. To a fairly large degree, understanding the character interaction requires familiarity with the source, be it the game, anime, manga, whichever. There are also little “bonus” bits that reward a reader who knows things deeper than the source, but aren’t required, such as why Gilgamesh is hanging out with a bunch of little kids. That said, sometimes you actively have to ignore the original game. Emiya Family is a light, fluffy spinoff where everyone is happy and everyone cooks. When we see the backstory of how Shinji and Shirou became friends, we’re meant to think “a ha ha, what a delightful tsundere he is!”, not “what a disgusting rapist abuser”. Shinji isn’t a villain here, just a jerk who doesn’t know how to be a good friend. Maybe food will help!

Likewise, there is a story here where middle-school Sakura asks Shirou to teach her how to cook, and we see her sad dead eyes and think “poor girl, she must be having a rough time at home”. But we’re not going to ever see HOW rough a time in this manga. At the end of the chapter, we see Sakura happy and full of life, but it’s not because she’s in love with Shirou, it’s because she was saved by the power of beef stew. Emiya Family is a light-hearted slice-of-life manga, but it never forgets its purpose of food and recipes. As a result, even Caster and Shirou are getting along now, mostly as her cooking has improved enough that Kuzuki is consistently praising her now. That said, the Gilgamesh chapter comes close to just being written for fun rather than food, despite the fact that yes, there are corndog recipes here. (What would Lancer think!?)

Speaking of spinoffs, I’ve said before that the core of this “universe” is Fate/Hollow Ataraxia minus the plot, and we get a chapter here that the author basically admits is just one of Hollow’s scenes made into a manga, where Yukika (one of “those three girls”) gets a mild crush on Assassin and gets Shirou’s help in making him sakura mochi. Assassin’s incorporeal nature is not really brought up until the final panel, so it works very well as a “cute girl + stoic guy” story. There’s also a shameless fanservice chapter where the girls all go shopping because they want to see Saber in different outfits, but it’s wholesome fanservice – we the reader also want to see Saber dressed in something different. And one of the chapters was made into the first episode of the anime, which was being created at the same time, and is a must for fans of the Shirou/Saber pairing.

Unless you don’t think it’s Fate unless there are people dying (in which case, Fate/Zero is right over there), this is a must buy for fans of these characters. And try a recipe or two as well!

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, Vol. 2

By TAa, based on Fate/Stay Night by TYPE-MOON. Released in Japan as “Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace Up. Released in North America by Denpa Books. Translated by Ko Ransom.

Admit it, you’re surprised this review is here at all. Let’s face it, if ever there was a manga series that cried out “review the first volume, then do the subsequent ones as Bookshelf Briefs”, it’s Emiya Family, a series that has zero plot and static characterization. And yet that doesn’t make it bad – indeed, its lack of plot and the fact that the characters are all basically “lovable cooks” is its main selling point. We don’t want to be reading about Sakura’s abuse at the hands of her brother, we want to be getting gags about how seaweed reminds Rider of Shinji’s hair, and Shinji’s complete lack of presence in this volume. (At one point, Sakura is described as “Matou’s sister”, and it took me a bit to realize they meant Shinji.) If you loved Fate/Zero and its grim darkness, this is obviously not for you, but it’s a great antidote. Heck, even Saber Alter shows up here ready to eat rather than ready to kill.

First of all, a sad note for those who were hoping this emulated Fate/Hollow Ataraxia a bit more: Kotomine Kirei seems to be alive in this universe. One of the joys of FHA was that everyone was alive and living in peace except for his dead ass, and I will miss that. Also, please, no mapo tofu recipes. Gilgamesh also gets a brief cameo, and we may be seeing more of him in the next volume. Archer continues to be absent from the main series, but in a special chapter that ran in a different magazine, helping Otoko not fall to her death on the steps to the shrine and making delicious food that tastes oddly like Shirou’s for some reason. And while Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family mostly concerns itself with the “original” cast, it is also a giant advertisement for the universe in general, so it’s no surprise that there’s also a Fate/GO extra chapter with Mash asking Archer and Boudica how to cook dragon meat stakes. We even see Jaguar Man! (I also like that the book did NOT offer an alternative meat to dragon in the recipe. Go kill a dragon to cook this properly, dammit.)

The entire series, of course, is based on the original Fate/Stay Night visual novels, and the large, LARGE amount of cooking that goes on there. Here we see that Shirou’s cooking has become almost legendary among the school, to the point where the student council get fired up at the sight of his fried chicken nuggets. There’s also the Christmas episode with Berserker, but I will admit that the anime’s vast expansion of that chapter works better. This is still sweet, though. I was also highly amused at Lancer being aggravated that Shirou is not banging Rin, and spending his meal trying to get the two of them together. (Sorry, Lancer, status quo is the norm here.) And Sakura doesn’t get as much to do, but I was sort of amused by the chapter where she gets upset at the Servants never gaining weight when they eat, unlike her. (Everyone assures her she looks fine, and I’m sure if Rin were there she’d add that it all goes to her chest.)

Again, unless you only read Fate for tragedy or battles, this is almost the perfect manga to pick up. It will leave a smile on your face and a growl in your belly.

Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, Vol. 1

By TAa, based on Fate/Stay Night by TYPE-MOON. Released in Japan as “Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace Up. Released in North America by Denpa Books. Translated by Ko Ransom.

In the beginning there was Fate/Stay Night, a visual novel with three routes, a whole lot of dead cast members, and infinite anime and manga spinoffs. Then there was Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, a sequel to the visual novel which asked the question “what if everyone in the cast was still alive?”. That too has a manga. This… is not that manga. Sorry, Bazett. Instead we have Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, which asks the pertinent question “what if we adapted FHA but removed everything that wasn’t making food and sweet, heartwarming scenes?”. This also had an anime, which was just as heartwarming. Now we have the original manga, which is kind enough to not only give us the recipes, but also still has Shirou talking himself/the reader through each meal. The result is the perfect Fate adaptation for those who want to see everyone stop dying and just being really nice to each other. It’s as sweet as pie.

The “Emiya Family”, at its core, are the five who tend to eat dinner at Shirou’s house almost every evening: Shirou, Saber, Sakura, Rider, and Taiga. That said, worry not if you’re a Rin fan, she’s all over this volume and a frequent visitor, as are Illya, Lancer and Caster. Heck, even Assassin gets a chapter devoted to him and delicious sandwiches. Archer is around as well, though for most of the volume the joke is that we never see his face. Each chapter follows a similar trajectory: we set up a situation, find the perfect food for the situation, and the food is made over the course of the next few days. This could be salmon Lancer recommended, sweets celebrating Hinamatsuri nd Illya growing strong and healthy, Chinese food to celebrate Rin and Sakura’s new bond, etc. Even when there’s a brief hint there may be conflict, such as when Saber sees Shirou teaching Caster how to cook, it’s quickly defused.

The manga does, I will let you know, assume that you are familiar with the original Fate visual novel and what happens in it. (Though my guess is that, in regards to the chapter with Shinji, they’d rather we forget about it. It’s the only chapter that left an unpleasant taste in my mouth, though at least it’s less “Sakura is trying to please her abusive brother” and more “Shinji is the pickiest eater around.) In particular, if you don’t know the relationship between Rin and Sakura, you might wonder why they’re flirting with each other. They’re embarrassed for a different reason. That said, apart from that, the manga can be read by anyone who enjoys Fate and doesn’t mind a complete lack of conflict. Even Caster is on her best behavior here.

Most importantly, as every good foodie manga should, this volume made me hungry, and wanting to try some of the recipes. If you are like Shirou, Rin and Sakura and love to cook, or are just like Saber and love to eat, this is a terrific pickup. And for anime fans, there are one or two things here that weren’t animated, though future volumes should have even more of that.