Mixed Vegetables 7

March 8, 2010

Ayumi Komura – Viz – 2010 – 9 volumes

For the first time, I found myself genuinely drawn into the story in this series.  Hana and Hayato are separated and go on separate “training missions.”  Hana’s family takes a vacation to France, and since Hana doesn’t want to go, they take Hayato instead.  Since that leaves Hayato’s room empty, Hana opts to stay with Hayato’s family and learn a lot about making sushi.

Hana is still the focus of the story, and I’m a little sad to see that Hayato still has not moved any closer to becoming a pastry chef.  With hints dropped in this volume, it’s possible he just won’t, which would be sad considering he seems to genuinely want to.  Hana has some special skills that are revealed in this volume.  Not necessarily concerning sushi, just cooking in general.  Even Hayato’s father acknowledges her skill, and she moves up in the world and her training intensifies.

The parts with Hana’s training were the most interesting, especially considering how weird and awkward the France parts with Hayato are.  The pastry apprentice from Hana’s family’s shop is also on the trip, and he makes everything extra hard.  Things are more or less straightened out by the end of the volume, and Hana’s father makes a surprise request on the last page, but given how much time is spent dwelling on a particular photo and various relationships, I doubt that’ll go anywhere.

I found this volume to be far more interesting, but I still don’t think Mixed Vegetables is anything more than average.  There’s still nothing to really hook or engage the reader, it’s just a smooth shoujo story.  It’s fine as far as that goes, but there are better series out there.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Mixed Vegetables 6

November 17, 2009

Ayumi Komura – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes

This volume was an improvement over the others I’ve read, which were mostly lukewarm.  It started pretty dramatically, with Hana having to quit the sushi shop because of a failing test grade.  I suspected nothing much would come of this, but it was still pretty nice to see the characters taking things so seriously after the wishy-washiness of the previous few volumes.

An assistant at Hana’s family bakery named Maezawa was a major player through most of the second half of this volume.  I don’t remember him at all, and the story mentioned he’s been out of things, but he could have been introduced earlier and just been a faceless assistant, like the one at Hyuga.  I also skipped over volume 5, so there may have been a big story there about his illness.  Anyway, he serves as an agressive competitor for Hana’s feelings, and I have to admit, I liked him a lot.  I liked him from the first page he appeared on, where he offered to show Hana his brand-new surgical scar several times.  I have no idea where this scar is, but I like letting my imagination run wild.  He’s also a major jerk, and both Hayato and Hana hate his guts, which doesn’t stop him.  He’s smooth and agressively nice, and seems to be a master of the mind game.  Admittedly, I don’t see where he’s going with things most of the time (aside from generally rocking the boat), but he’s still a good way to shake things up.

Also in this volume, a random and very serious marriage proposal.  You never see that in shoujo manga.  I liked it.

This still isn’t one of my favorite titles, but it seems like the story is getting better as the series continues.  I’m still not fond of either of the main characters, and some of the things Hayato does are nonsensical and baffling.  That, coupled with mostly unremarkable and short storylines, keep it firmly in the realm of mediocre shoujo, but it’s still pretty fun to read.  There’s a couple volumes left, and I suspect it won’t have much of a definitive story wrap-up, but it’ll be nice to see things end.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Mixed Vegetables 4

August 5, 2009

Ayumi Komura – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes

Hmm.   I don’t know what to say.  Normally I can find something noteworthy about even the weakest, most mediocre shoujo series because I just love the genre and everything that goes along with it.  I mean, I thought Magic Touch was okay because it’s a massage manga, something you don’t see often, even though nothing particularly inspiring is going on otherwise, and I actually quite like Monkey High, which has great characters but lame plots.  But Mixed Vegetables… what am I going to do with you?

I can see where it’s going.  Hanayu lives with a pastry chef and wants to be a sushi chef, Hayato lives with a sushi chef and wants to be a pastry chef.  When boy and girl meet, they will inspire each other to realize their dreams.  In this volume, it looks like Hayato’s dream might not be as clear-cut as that, but I find I really don’t care.  There is absolutely no chemistry between Hayato and Hanayu, no interesting obstacles or incidents coming up to either help them down their path or hinder them seriously,  and the best things they have going for them are being optimistic, seize-the-day manga characters.

There was a chapter about the teacher making home visits to discuss things with the students’ parents.  I have no idea why Hanayu was freaking out about this since she’d already been given everyone’s blessing.  Later, there’s a kind of boring subplot about Saki, the other employee at the sushi restaurant.  I just could not be made to care.  Then it moves into a little bit of a story about Hayato’s grandfather, who is no longer alive.  We just have to relive sketchy memories that the characters are using as inspiration.  Maybe there will be flashbacks next volume, but… it looks like a major point of contention for the next volume or so is going to be this character that we don’t get to meet or really even know.

They don’t even cook in this volume.

There’s all sorts of problems when a cooking manga becomes a life story about characters who like to cook, but don’t, and then don’t do anything else interesting either.  Like I said, it’s rare that I can’t find something to like in even the lamest shoujo, but that’s just how things are in Mixed Vegetables.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Mixed Vegetables 3

July 22, 2009

Ayumi Komura – Viz – 2009 – 8 volumes

This continues to be a sort of lukewarm, yet enjoyable series through this volume.  It’s still mostly talk about Hanayu realizing her dream of becoming a sushi chef, and she takes the first steps of telling her family and apprenticing at Hayato’s place.  There’s lots of drama involved with the former point, considering her father wants her to take over the family business, but you know how dreams are in shoujo manga… they always come through in the end.

Strangely, romance doesn’t actually come up until the end of the volume, and then it randomly hits Hanayu that she really does like Hayato.  We get no hints as to whether the feeling’s mutual yet, but there’s the general direction for that.  The moment where Hanayu realizes her feelings is very cute, I must admit.  I also did like the minor plot point about her best friend being angry with her for ditching her as moral support in favor of Hayato.  It’s rarely mentioned in shoujo manga when best friends are ditched in favor of boys, so it’s nice to see functioning friendships like this one.

Lamely, Hayato pushed so hard for Hanayu to tell her family, and then made absolutely no progress when it came to telling his own father about wanting to become a pastry chef.  Unfortunately, I know exactly where all this is going (the two will wind up working in their respective shops and married, carrying on the businesses of their choice), and the characters and situations aren’t quite interesting enough at this point to make the story compelling.  I’ve got one more volume though, so I’ll give the series another chance to see if perhaps there will be a bit more drama when Hayato’s time to break away from his family comes.

This series is also only the second manga I’ve read that’s invoked durian fruit (the first being Iron Wok Jan).  Hilariously, durian candy is used as a prank and given to unsuspecting recipients as a gift in the author’s notes.  That’s about the best joke I’ve ever heard.  I note this only because I hate the fruit with such passion that my stomach tightens a bit just thinking about the smell. Alas, it was the strongest reaction I had while reading the volume.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Mixed Vegetables 2

July 2, 2009

I’ve got a few volumes of this in my pile, so I’m embarking on a bit of a marathon over the next couple days.  Hopefully this won’t wind up being like my I”s marathon, where I remember to read a volume once every couple weeks, but there are far less volumes of Mixed Vegetables than there are I”s.

I was initially quite surprised by the dark mood of this series.  I didn’t pick up the first volume, but the plot explanation lets you know the premise, that Hanayu is a baker’s daughter that wants to be a sushi chef and Hayato is a sushi chef’s son that wants to be a baker, both go to a kind of specialty cooking high school.  The two begin going out, hoping for the mutual benefit, but hiding the facts from one another.  Apparently Hanayu felt bad and admitted that she was only dating Hayato in hopes of getting in on his family’s sushi restaurant, and even though Hayato’s motives were the same (he just wanted in on her family’s bakery), he coldly rejected her, and things are pretty awkward and hostile between the two for the first quarter volume.  It’s not at all what you’d expect in a shoujo manga like this.

It mellows out after a little while, and it turns out Hayato’s horrible attitude was (apparently) to spare Hanayu’s feelings.  Even more surprising, although there is very generous subtext, the two are also not an item, and not even really close to being a couple as of the end of volume two.  I’m sure that will change in the very near future, but again, usually shoujo manga are a little more flirtatious than this.  In fact, Hayato and Hanayu are downright abusive to one another in the friendly, comedic kind of way.

Otherwise, most of the other shoujo manga plot devices are in effect.  There’s a best friend that stands up for Hanayu, a cute little brother, lots of parental expectations pinned on both Hayato and Hanayu, lots of awkward misunderstandings, and lots of sparkly friendship moments, mostly involving cooking, which is kind of the theme to this series.  Surprisingly, given the title, not many vegetables are used.  Honestly, not all that much sushi is prepared in this volume either, given Hanayu’s dream of becoming a sushi chef, but there is lots of baking taking place.

It’s pretty cute, and has enough twists going on to be interesting, but one volume wasn’t quite enough for me to get a feel for it.  I should have more on it tomorrow.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.