Title: Takasugi-san’s Obento (Takasugi-san Chi no Obentou)
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life
Artist: Nozomi Yanahara
Publisher: Media Factory (JP), Digital Manga (US)
Serialized In: Monthly Comic Flapper
Original Release Date: August 8, 2013
Takasugi-san’s Obento is a slice of life series focusing on the recently graduated but not quite employed Harumi who suddenly finds himself the guardian of his younger cousin Kururi. Harumi is unsure how to relate his decidedly quiet cousin and regularly turns to his research colleagues for advice on how to navigate raising a teenage girl. The two find a common bond in preparing meals and bentos for one another, and Harumi and Kururi slowly begin to open up to one another as a family.
The story starts out with Harumi fumbling with the decision to take in in his younger cousin Kururi. Having just finished graduate school and barely able to make ends meet with a string of part time jobs, Harumi sincerely wonders whether he’s cut out for the job. Harumi was fairly attached to Kururi’s late mother, and with warm memories of the bentos she prepared for him Harumi decides to take the plunge and raise her daughter. As the series progresses Harumi and Kururi relate to one another, slowly open up, and reminisce about Kururi’s late mother. Whether it be through the first burdock bento Kurumi makes or Harumi agonizing over his poorly planned lunch bentos for his cousin, Takasugi-san’s Obento has all the initial makings of a heart-warming and leisurely slice of life.
And while this first volume is heart-warming and leisurely, especially in the later chapters, this first volume just wasn’t particularly compelling from chapter to chapter. The initial chapters focused on Kuruki trying to find her place in Harumi’s home by trying to make him bentos and helping around the house. As her guardian Harumi worries about packing worthwhile bentos that won’t get Kururi picked on, while at the same time trying desperately to stumble his way into a research position and make use of his graduate education. Since the reader has yet to get attached to the characters in these initial chapters though, you’re left with a “well that was nice” type of impression at the end of each chapter, but no real impetus to dive through the next one. I’m reminded of a slightly less compelling version of Bunny Drop. Harumi even has the lady coworkers (similar to the aforementioned Bunny Drop) that are there to offer advice on teenage girls when Harumi’s anthropological approach to figuring out Kururi fails him. Thankfully the latter chapters pick up a bit, with some promising changes in Harumi’s career and Kurumi opening up to other classmates and developing more of a fondness for Harumi. Harumi becomes a bit more sure about his guardianship skills too.
At the end of this one I’m left feeling Takasugi-san’s Obento would have worked just fine as simple slice of life one shot though, and there’s a small hint of a relationship dynamic switch between Harumi and Kuruki at the end of the volume that may be a bit uncomfortable for some. Overall this is nice light slice of life read, but the slow pace and the initial detachment from the characters may prove not compelling enough for some.
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