A while ago, I went on a manga aggregator website and decided to look up all the manga with the tag “food” for reasons that are still unclear to me. I was in the mood for stories about cooking and eating together. Maybe I was just hungry at the time
After which, I scanned through the first 100 or so titles and made a note of everything that stood out to me. The thing about the Aggregator sites is that unless you then go into each individual entry, you can’t really tell how important the tag is. Anything with a mild mention of food might get the tag even if it’s not a particularly important component of the story.
That’s probably why Hirayasumi ended up on my list. And I’m glad it did.
Why I Picked up Hirayasumi
It seemed to be really liked by readers and I was intrigued about how food fits into the story. You’ll see what I mean when you read the summary.
29-year-old freeter Ikuta Hiroto is a carefree young man without a love life, regular job and no real worries about the future. Thanks to his kind disposition, he inherits an old house from the neighbourhood granny, where his 18-year-old cousin, Natsumi moves in with him to study art in Tokyo. This is a story about Hiroto and the people around him who struggle with life.
My First Impression
That’s a pretty broad description, isn’t it? Did it pique your interest? Cause something about it spoke to me. Maybe it was the fact that we’re following a normal adult character. That’s always a nice change. Maybe it’s because I’ve read enough manga to know that a lot of my favourites can be described this way. Or maybe I was still wondering about the food. I think I’m hungry now as well…
My Thoughts on Hirayasumi so Far
Instead of just going point by point into elements I enjoyed, let me tell you my more general experience with Hirayasumi. It kept reminding me of March Comes in Like a Lion, except with no shoji and if Rei was an optimistic sociable good-hearted guy instead of clinically depressed.
That’s not to say that Hiroto doesn’t have his own hangups. He moved to Tokyo to become an actor and by all accounts, he had both talent and looks. It just didn’t work out and he sort of washed out or maybe even burned out. I have only gotten glimpses of his past so far.
So Hiroto is not quite as carefree as he seems. A lot of the story comes from the contrast his Joie de Vivre brings to the people around him. His niece is a ball of anxiety. She’s attending university and in a big city for the first time in her life. She feels out of place and outclassed everywhere. On top of that, she wants to become a manga artist and is convinced everyone will make fun of her for it. As a result, she takes it out on her uncle. But she can’t really because he’s too good-natured.
There’s the story of a real estate agent Hiroto accidentally runs into and thinks is very pretty. She’s slowly suffocating under the pressures of modern life and an extremely demanding job. But slowly, she’s getting moments where things aren’t so bad.
Hiroto’s best friend just had his first child with his wife. And he’s really happy about it but it’s also a lot of work. He has all this growing up and learning to do all at once now. It can be a little scary.
It’s these types of stories that come together and just sort of settle into Hiroto’s shabby but comfortable little kitchen where everyone can relax and enjoy time with friends for a little while.
It is very soothing and occasionally very touching. Personally, I got teary-eyed at reading about Hiroto’s relationship with Hanae, the old woman that left him her home in her will. It was a genuinely emotional experience.
Oh and, Hirayasumi does something I had not seen before in manga. It has a narrator that speaks directly to the reader. The narrator jokes with us, asks us questions, gently breaks the fourth wall on several occasions. That really has a big impact on the tone and pacing of the story. In a great way.
So far I have read 21 chapters of Hirayasumi and I get more invested with each one. At first, I thought that Natsumi was a bit too blunt compared to the rest of the cast and wasn’t enjoying her character as much but that made her arc better in the long run. As it is, I don’t have any complaints and am eagerly awaiting more.
It’s a soothing story with a soft emotional core. It’s nowhere near as dramatic as March Comes in Like a Lion or Natsume for that matter of fact, but it does give me that same sort of feeling. That hopeful exploration of everyday life and how everyone has their own stories.