Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Kitchen Princess, vol. 2
The story: This volume picks up right after the events of the first, and Najika is upset and thinking of leaving. Thankfully, Sora and Daichi convince her to think about it, and Sora helps Najika discover her special talent—an absolute sense of taste. But, this is only the beginning. Even though Njika decides to stay at Seika Academy, she has to deal with her classmate Akane, who seems to hate her guts. Akane, jealous of Najika's relationship with Daichi, challenges her rival to a cake-baking contest. While Najika wins, it's only the beginning of her "love-hate" relationship with Akane. As the volume continues, Akane suffers through a debilitating eating disorder and Najika tries to help her.
Reaction: While this volume started as I expected, I was surprised by the deeper themes it explored with Akane's body image issues. While I'm not sure how to feel about Najika's all-to-simple solution, I did like the basic premise of food serving as a representation of love and people caring for one another. I also liked the vacillation between self-doubt and confidence that Najika showed in the first half; it came off as realistic to me, although I could see how others might get tired of her waffling. Of course, I also liked the love triangle forming between the two brothers and the budding pastry chef. Yes, it's cliched, but it's used because it captures your attention!
Deep thoughts: Akane, an aspiring supermodel, suffers from a couple of eating disorders, namely anorexia (starving herself) and bulemia (binging and purging). And while she seems to have a one-track mind in losing weight for her career, there are actually a host of issues that play into creation of an eating disorder. Besides psychological factors, like feelings of inadequacy, there's also interpersonal reasons, social factors and a possible genetic link. I found the genetic link the most interesting, as it's still being researched, but also because it's mentioned that Akane's mother was a model, too. While we haven't seen to many parents in this manga, the appearance of Akane's mother showed her support of her daughter, but she also served as the main reason spurring Akane towards self-starvation.
Artwork: There are a lot of emotions expressed in this volume, many of them featuring blushing cheeks. Whether you're mad, crying, crushing or something else, it seems that Natsumi Ando is fond of tinting one's cheeks to illustrate it. Thankfully, the facial expressions are well done enough that you can overlook their overuse of blush. Of course, the food is the star here, with lots of attractive dishes throughout and even one that looks disgusting (it's made by Sora and Daichi). Otherwise, expect the usual shojo trappings—screentone, sparkles and floating flowers abound.
The verdict: If only... I'm not sure what to think when I have a true "moral to the story" in a manga. Perhaps it's because I'm an older reader, but I think Najika's answer to Akane's eating disorder is a bit misleading. The exploration of Akane's situation was good, but I felt like there could have been more to her story. Hopefully, the next volume will expand on it a bit more! Kitchen Princessis available in the U.S. from Del Rey.