Manga-ka: Ayumi Komura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2008
Synopsis: “Hanayu Ashitaba is the daughter of the celebrated Patisserie Ashitaba, but all she wants to do is be a sushi chef. Hayato Hyuga is the son of the prestigious Sushi Hyuga, and all he wants to do is be a pastry chef! Hanayu knows that it will break her parents’ hearts if she defects from the bakery to become a sushi chef. But if she marries into a sushi family, they’ll have to understand her decision. Now she just has to get Hayato Hyuga interested in her, and what better way than to wow him with her cooking skills?!”
Hanayu Ashitaba is set to inherit her father’s business, a bakery that specializes in all things cute, sweet and delicious, and yet Hanayu’s culinary passion lays elsewhere. Instead of icing cakes she’d rather be filleting a fish. But with her future career decided for her, what’s a girl to do? Marry into a sushi family and join her future husband in sushi-making bliss of course! Conveniently for her, a fellow classmate offers up just such a perfect opportunity, but when she discovers he likes her under more romantic pretenses, can she go through with her plan to use him for a fishy future?
At first I found the premise of the story worrisome: girl wants to use boy to further personal goal. Not exactly a romantic, or even very kind, gesture. Fortunately the story and its lead heroine are perfectly aware that playing with the heartstrings of a young boy genuinely in love doesn’t rate you on high on the good person scale. Though determined to become a sushi maker’s wife, Hanayu battles with the guilt of pretending to return Hayato Hyuga’s feelings, that is until she honestly decides to take a step back and see him for who he is. Who he is happens to be a kind, talented, loyal and good looking young man… which certainly works in her heart’s favour.
I found Hanayu’s enthusiasm infectious and her driven nature provided much of the book’s charm and humour. Watching her naturally begin to fall for Hayato is sweet in all the ways a shoujo should be, and it’s always a pleasure watching the lead fall for the nice guy over the dark, brooding type who often seems doomed to mistreat her, a shoujo stereotype that’s thus far missing from this lighthearted comedic romp of culinary cupids (to no complaint from me).
The cooking aspect of the story made for a good backdrop as well and I was both interested and curious by some of the things they had to do in their cooking class, along with Hanayu and Hayato’s zeal for their particular food fortes. I even tried to slice cucumbers in the manner the students in the book had to, which ultimately failed horribly for me, but did instill further respect in what’s considered the more basic skills by their studied standards. Though Hanayu’s love for slicing up fish didn’t hit any real strikes home with me, I still enjoyed watching her joy as she created, with the same being said of Hayato’s skill at baking.
Mixed Vegetables was a random volume one I picked up because I wanted more shoujo in my manga-reading diet. Pleasantly for me, it would’ve been hard to be any more pleased with what I picked up. The premise isn’t revolutionary, but a cast of wonderfully charming characters, and pages chock-full of amusing antics, made this first volume a fun read whose charms I look forward to enjoying again in volume two.