I am a huge boys love fan, but looking back at some of the series I own, a lot of them aren’t exactly what you’d call “wholesome”. I’m not ashamed of this, I like smutty BL as much as the next fujoshi, but every so often I like to pick up something a bit more tame—so during one of my RightStuf hauls I snagged a few copies of Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday? I’d run across the series a few years ago in the dealers room at a Con and back then I wasn’t ready to invest in a longer series, especially when each volume is $12.95 a pop. But, when faced with extra time at home, I figured now was a good time to start adding to my manga library and I have not regretted my purchase! What Did You Eat Yesterday? is one of the most wholesome boys love manga I have read in a long time.
A hard-working middle-aged gay couple in Tokyo come to enjoy the finer moments of life through food. After long days at work, either in the law firm or the hair salon, Shiro and Kenji will always have down time together by the dinner table, where they can discuss their troubles, hash out their feelings and enjoy delicately prepared home cooked meals!
In most BL media and most “romance” series for that matter, the build up to the relationship is the main focus of the story—but in What Did You Eat Yesterday? the series focuses on an established couple, taking us through the everyday ups and downs of their relationship. From shopping to work to managing household expenses and everything in between and it’s honestly refreshing to see a boys love series that treats the relationship like an actual relationship. The first volume doesn’t even bring up the topic of sex, hell, they don’t even kiss—and that’s okay, because a relationship shouldn’t be defined by how much (or how little) physical intimacy there is between partners. It isn’t relevant to the story Yoshinaga is trying to tell, which in this case is a slice-of-life series that just happens to revolve around a gay couple.
At the start of the series, Shiro Kakei is a lawyer at a small firm, who loves to create culinary masterpieces for his live in salon stylist boyfriend, Kenji Yabuki. The pair have been together for quite some time, so there isn’t any of the awkwardness or drama you’d normally see in a boys love series. They’re both well established working adults who (for the most part) are secure in their sexuality and their relationship with one another, which makes for a much more enjoyable read. Don’t get me wrong, things aren’t completely smooth sailing—they have arguments and a few misunderstandings—but, those are less drama for the sake of drama and more natural road bumps anyone in a long-term relationship would face.
One of the biggest conflicts in the first volume is Shiro not wanting to reveal that he’s gay to his coworkers, a reservation that Kenji doesn’t have—he is openly gay and often confides in his clients about his relationship with Shiro. Unlike Kenji, Shiro is very sensitive about how others perceive him, so he isn’t forthcoming with the fact that he is gay for fear of negative repercussions—which does cause a bit of a strain in his relationship with Kenji… but not anything that leads to an over the top breakup scene. In fact, I like that Kenji and Shiro take the time to talk through their problems (usually over a delicious meal) and work through their issues as a couple, rather than keeping secrets from one another.
These are two guys in their 40’s not a pair of hormonal teens, so the way they go into their relationship reflects that and as someone pushing 30, I appreciate seeing a more realistic depiction of a relationship with out all the extra trimmings. Not every moment of a relationship is full of bold declarations or super lovey-dovey moments, sometimes it’s quietly sitting on opposite ends of the couch or going over monthly household expenses. What Did You Eat Yesterday? focuses on the small every day moments we all go through in our lives and in our relationships, without the rose-colored glasses.
While they do live together, the specifics of their cohabitation isn’t talked about much in this volume and we don’t really get many details about how the pair started dating in the first place. Most of the story focuses on their relationship in the present and it’s through their everyday interactions that we learn more about who they are as individuals and as a couple. Kenji is more laid back and upbeat—a people person—while Shiro is more straight-laced and reserved. Their relationship isn’t overly “romantic”, but they do have these genuinely intimate moments where they’re just enjoying each other’s company—especially during meal times.
I’d actually be more inclined to call What Did You Eat Yesterday? a cooking manga, since food is at the center of every major event in the story. Cooking is cathartic for Shiro, it’s his way of de-stresses from his work day and the meals he makes helps him connect with Kenji. Most (if not all) of their conversations happen during dinner and Shiro gains a sense of satisfaction from watching his boyfriend enjoying the food he prepared. And the food porn! From buying ingredients, to food prep, all the way to presentation… we see it all and I love that the manga includes cooking tips and recipe lists in between chapters. I’m not gonna lie, reading this manga made me HUNGRY!
Because this is a boys love series, the first volume of What Did You Eat Yesterday? does address how Japanese society views homosexuality, however, it keeps things pretty light. Kenji’s clients and coworkers at the salon are pretty accepting of his sexual orientation and are seen openly discussing Kenji’s home life with him during work hours. And while Shiro is largely tight lipped about his sexuality, he does confide in a woman that he meets in the street that he is gay and while it is an awkward moment for both of them, she is actually pretty accepting of the news (and they even become friends as a result). Shiro’s mother also makes an appearance in the series and while she is accepting of her son being gay, sometimes her comments can be just a smidge offensive. But, even then the series keeps things pretty positive.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? offers an honest (and often hilarious) look at the realities of a gay couple living in Japan, without all the overly trope-y gimmicks you see in most anime and manga. This is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for a chill LGBT positive read, full of good food and an even better story.
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