Attack of the bad cover art.
While I still do prefer physical volumes of manga, I have found that e-book format is quite the temptation when it comes to older releases, and when Barnes & Noble announced a sale on select Viz titles recently, I could hardly pass the opportunity by. So it was that I found myself reading Mixed Vegetables, a cooking-centric shoujo romantic comedy that I’d considered picking up before, but never quite gotten around to.
High school student Hanayu dreams of becoming a sushi chef, but despairs of her dicey situation – her family owns a pastry shop, and she’s fully expected to inherit the business, whether she wants to or not. Luckily, she thinks she’s found the perfect plan – just get classmate Hayato, whose father is a sushi chef, to fall for her, and she’s all set, since then she can marry into a sushi restaurant! When Hayato asks her out, everything seems to be working out… except Hayato prefers pastries to sushi himself, and everyone’s attempts to be devious fall to pieces. But school life at their cooking school goes on, and its ultimately up to both teenagers to have the guts to admit their true dreams to their families, if they can manage to.
I like the basic premise of Mixed Vegetables – Hanayu’s scheming is fairly selfish, but I find it so much more preferable to the wavery shoujo heroine who simply gets whisked off her feet. The comeuppance itself comes fairly early on, anyway, leaving us with a pair of less than ideal leads, although it isn’t quite in Missions of Love territory (which is good since I’m not sure I could handle reading two shoujo stories like that at once). And while Hanayu and Hayato may start off with some boneheaded teenager moves, at their cores they’re both pretty likeable, something helped in large part by their relative intelligence… which shouldn’t, honestly, be counted as a plus but ends up being counted as such given how idiotic so many characters are in shoujo romances. Another big plus is that Hanayu actually has a female friend who she a. talks to regularly, and who b. isn’t secretly stabbing her back (see: Absolute Boyfriend *gags*, or Peach Girl).
At the same time, though, it must be said that Mixed Vegetables isn’t one for big shocks outside of its early twist. Is it surprising that Hanayu seems to start feeling uguu-uguu toward Hayato by the end of volume two? Nope. Is it surprising that she can’t figure out what ~these feelings~ are? Nope. Do we really expect that Hanayu will fail to at least be well on the way to achieving her dream by the end of the manga? No. Will Hanayu and Hayato not end up together at the end? Probably not. And do we think Hayato’s lone male friend was introduced to be a love interest for Hanayu’s female friend? Absolutely.
I’ll also note that anyone reading this because they enjoyed something like Yumeiro Patissiere or Kitchen Princess is going to be sorely disappointed, as food does not figure in nearly as prominently as it does in either of those. Yes, the food is there, and, yes, Hanayu’s goal of sushi chefdom is central to the story, but there’s relatively little time spent on actually cooking things.
Viz’s release is fine, although they struggle with how to handle one of the character’s who is deliberately androgynous – the release flops back and forth between gendered pronouns where I would simply prefer they went for ‘they’ or ‘their’. Viz does include a lot of translation notes, which is a big help when so much time is spent talking about cuisine. As for how it all looks in digital, its quite crisp, and zooming in is only necessary with some of the sidebars that I honestly didn’t care much about reading, anyway.
I think if I’d picked up these volumes at $9.99 each, I’d be done with this series, as while it is a pretty decent one, its largely a pretty “been there, done that” sort of story. However, for $3.99 each full-price, I find it to be a good enough diversion. Good for folks who are looking for a shoujo romance but have a strong distaste for weak-willed heroines and asshole love interests.
Oh, and, no, Hayato isn’t one-armed, the author just forgot to include his right arm for the cover. HMM. Go figure.