Manga-ka: Ayumi Komura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “Hayato and Hanayu learn that blood is thicker than water, even in the kitchen. First, Hayato tries to explain to a heartbroken Hanayu why a commitment he made to his ailing grandfather may jeopardize his dream of making pastries for a living. Then Hanayu learns about self-sacrifice firsthand when Patisserie Ashitaba is offered a high-profile pastry project the night before her big exam. Are her sushi dreams more important than keeping the family business afloat? Can Hanayu creat the recipe for happiness?”
After a rocky road of revelations, Hanayu and Hayato have remained friends despite their original relational-intentions. But all is not well, for along with conflicts in their dreams, Hanayu’s of being a sushi chef and Hayato’s of being a patisserie, they still have the feelings of their family to consider as well. And yet the two still have feelings for each other that go beyond friendship too, and along with some vital school exams sneaking up, there’s plenty to consider. This fifth of Mixed Vegetables is all about balance, and whether or not the volume itself achieves this with its blend of humour and romance, readers will still be left hoping Hanayu and Hayato are successful at the task.
Trying to please everyone ultimately appeases no one and this is a lesson that the lead couple spends the volume learning. Finally opening up to each other in a slightly contrived, though fairly heartwarming, moment of emotional indulgence, the two become a couple once again, this time under more romantic resolve. While Hanayu’s dream of being head chef of a sushi store is undeniably the most benefitted, she still takes care to consider the opposite ramifications, showing a pleasant amount of evolutionary thought compared to earlier volumes.
While I really like that the story needs to work through the challenge of balancing both their dreams, I’m still left a little disheartened by the fact they seem so unwilling to consider that both goals are possible. Heck, couldn’t you have a shop that specializes in both someday and live blissful marriage selling pastries and prawns? Though I understand the importance of continuing on their respective family businesses, the occasionally black-and-white nature of their resolve is a little depressing, if not a tad frustrating.
Good thing there’s still a healthy amount of humour in the story to keep things from feeling too repetitive on the ‘can-she-can-he’ side of things. Hanayu in particular is as vibrant and energetic as ever but it’s her and Hayato together who really make me smile. Their continued rivalry makes light of their situation in a way that actually comes across as sweet in light of their relationship. The two being so headlong for their passions of sushi and cake are also comically sidetracked when the two remember about their exams at the last minute. The art style grants much of the flair to these moments with cutely drawn deformations of their regular selves (ala ‘chibis’) that bring a spontaneous charm to each panel.
A distracter from the story however was the lettering, usually not an issue for me in Viz’s work but in this volume there were some size discrepancies that were hard to ignore. Much of the lettering is considerably larger than other books, including those before this in the series. They’re easily double the regular font size and stand out considerably against the artwork. Though I appreciate the visual variances in font sizes to compliment importance and placement, here it was too much and served as a pullout from the story when it should’ve been a draw.
Though the series hasn’t managed to keep me as charmed as the first volume did, there’s still plenty of material to make for a satisfying read. The characters are endearing with their own individual quirks and the food-as-a-backdrop aspect of the story is nice, playing on their passion for the culinary arts without boring uninterested readers with cooking facts unnecessary to the flow of the story itself. I look forward to the two of them working out their problems, and finding a way they can both follow their own ambitions without stepping too much on each other’s proverbial toes.