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Shinya Shokudou: manga recommendation

Sorry to all hungry folks, I'm not sharing any recipes (because I know none) for midnight snacking, but I do have something to stave off mental hunger...

This manga is it. It's yet another food manga! This one is called Shinya Shokudou. If you can read chinese, you should be able to guess what it is about already based on the kanji『深夜食堂』which literally translates to "late night cafeteria" from chinese, and that is very close to the official english title Midnight Cafeteria. While I have yet to meet anyone who reads the manga, I know a friend who has watched the drama adaptions! (Two seasons of live-action drama adaptions have aired and a third is currently broadcasting.)

Kobayashi Kaoru as the main character

Shinya Shokudou is by Abe Yarou, whose work I feel is severely overlooked outside of Japan! I was surprised to find that he has several other food-related publications, one of them being Sake no Tomo, Meshi no Tomo, and the other Shimanto Shokudou, both untranslated. Shimanto is a place in Japan; I imagine Shimanto Shokudou introduces the food there!

Sake no Tomo, Meshi no Tomo

Shinya Shokudou tells the story of an old-fashioned all-night food stall, the dishes that the stall owner, simply known as Master, prepares for different customers, and the joys, grief, trials and tribulations of the regular patrons.

Each chapter focuses on a particular dish! My favourite is actually the very first one, on hotdogs and tamagoyaki. A yakuza who likes bento box-style octopus hotdogs and an okama who likes tamagoyaki share their food one day. An unlikely friendship is born. From then on, every time they are in the stall at the same time, they will give each other some of their food. When one does not appear, Master offers to cook the other's food anyway, but without each other's knowledge, both agree that it does not taste as nice when it is not taken from each other. I particularly like this story because it sets the tone for the manga. Prejudice is overlooked and the heartwarming undertone makes one yearn for the company of their loved ones!

Their friendship is pretty cute, actually.

Over the course of thirteen volumes (and counting), people from all walks of life appear. Best friends who have a falling out due to men, an obese girl who turns to comfort food every time she feels down from dieting, a stripper who cannot find love, a foreigner, several porn stars, a tragic enka singer... The list goes on. As you can tell from the characters of the story, it's an adult manga. It's not just because of the gritty lives of the characters that I say so though. There is a certain gravitas in the story which younger readers may not relate to.

The art style is not one I've seen before. It looks sparse, like Abe sensei is drawing with a very loose hand. There might be a lack of prominent profiles, but the simple style works well in this down-to-earth manga. He also takes care of the characters details so there is no confusion about who's who. Plus, the man definitely knows his way around drawing food!

Suddenly I feel hungry...

Really hungry...

This was meant to be a recommendation post, not a review post, but I'll put my rating down for it anyway!

Plot: 10/10 - The concept of taking something from daily life and recreating it have been adapted many times, but in this case it is a simple sharing of daily life. Instead of over the top drama, it retells the bumps and potholes on the road called life. While it does not have the "oomph" of say, a shonen manga, the intended message is clear.

Art: 8/10 - It works really well matching the manga's tone, it's clean and I like the food drawings (the main character that is happy to recline on the backseat). However, it is also bland.

Characters: 8/10 - Likable and relatable characters! Most of the characters only appear for their chapter but we get sufficient sense of their unique disposition despite the fleeting appearances. It's a shame their personality is limited to the interactions they have with the motley crew at the food stall though.

Personal enjoyment: 9/10 - It's interesting and heartwarming, filling the gap for a good quality manga that manages to be light yet sincere!

Overall: 9/10 - As good as I find it, it slightly lacks in mainstream appeal (especially when it comes to the art), yet does not have an extreme factor to earn cult status. The fact that it cannot be guaranteed to be enjoyed by everyone makes me minus a point.

That said, if you're still itching for a midnight meal, search for the recipes of the food mentioned in the manga. They're pretty easy to make!

Written by Nana

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2 comments to ''Shinya Shokudou: manga recommendation"

  1. I've found this manga in my reader, quite randomly actually, but I love. I've lost all my data from the phone and could not remember the title, so I am so happy to have it back in my fav list!

    1. I'm glad you found it again! It really is a great manga! Check out the live action drama as well ^_^