My third manga for the Oishinbo/Foodie Manga Moveable Feast, is Kitchen Princess, where a girl is determined to find her Flan Prince and fulfill her promise to him: to make him the most delicious dessert in the whole world!
Najika Kazami was raised an orphan after both of her pastry chef parents died in a car accident. After a mysterious boy rescues her from drowning, he shares his dessert with her, and she vows to make him the best dessert ever in the future. She traces him to Seika Academy from the spoon he left behind, where she meets the two equally popular, yet quarreling brothers Sora and Daichi, and later, the gifted student chef, Seiya, all of whom could be her mysterious Flan Prince. Here at the academy, Najika must continue to hone her cooking skills while puzzling over her mystery guy, as well as fend off the jealous tricks of the clique-ish girls.
Okay, so Kitchen Princess sounds really cheesy, and it kind of is. It’s standard shojo. It’s got many of the shojo tropes: love triangle (actually more like a love pentacle; it’s a bit ridiculous), slow befriending of the bitchy girl, the main character has this one outstanding trait (absolute taste in this case–whatever Najika has tasted, she will always remember and can recreate), the conniving person in power, etc. It also crosses the line into “after school special” with a story arc on eating disorders, as one of the characters aspires to be a model. The story isn’t subtle at all and is fairly predictable, although one thing happened that I wasn’t expecting and I was kind of taken aback. It’s also fairly obvious who Najika is going to end up with, although it’s not as quite as obvious who her Flan Prince is.
But despite all the cliches, I still enjoyed it. The drawings are cute, the characters are likable, and it’s got so many delicious foods! Plus the author included a bunch of recipes at the end of each volume of foods that were featured in the stories (some of which I tried out in upcoming posts). I even liked the bitchy girl after a bit, probably because I have a thing for prickly characters that are secretly softies.
Food in this manga is powerful. It fixes problems and says “I care about you.” Eating disorders, once Najika finds the one food that can make a person want to eat. Family rifts. Apologies. Concern over another’s well-being. It comforts, bringing back pleasant memories. Or even simply, just says, “I love you.” Food is more than a tool or mere ingredients. Here it’s used to communicate and convey feelings. I can totally identify with this, because I frequently will use food with my friends this way. I take great joy in cooking something that I suspect they will like and I hope the food will give them warm fuzzies.
Kitchen Princess is an enjoyable light fluffy read if you’re not looking for anything deep. Really, I think the reason I liked this was because of the food. If it weren’t for the food, I might’ve gotten a bit tired of the melodrama and moved on to another series. As it is though, it’s manga comfort food, much like a nice bowl of spaghetti and jarred sauce. Maybe not the best read, but a familiar and pleasant dish.