2017 felt like an eternity ago. COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, I was still in college, and my place of employment wasn’t bankrupt (yet). It was a year I don’t really look back on fondly, though it did offer a variety of eventful moments and new beginnings for me. Also during this year, I started a manga called Yakumo-san wa Ezuke ga Shitai. What can I say? Cute covers entice me.
Currently publishing (and gaining popularity) at the time, I had dedicated myself to it for the long haul. At least until its rather repetitive chapter format began to degrade my interest in it; I nearly dropped it a couple years later. Fortunately for the story, I instead kept it on-hold, waiting for the inspiration to catch up on its current chapters.
2021 had me randomly checking on manga I was reading that were still ongoing. Something strange caught my eye: Yakumo-san no longer had a “Publishing” tag next to its name. Indeed, the series had ended and I never even noticed. Thus, now in mid-2022, I sped through the remaining chapters and am now ready to put this series behind me.
“Having cooked too much rice one day, 28-year-old widow Shuuko Yakumo decides to share the surplus with her new neighbor, Shouhei Yamato. As an active member of his high school’s baseball club, Yamato works up an enormous appetite, and his penchant for eating a lot reminds Yakumo of her late husband. These fond memories reignite her passion for cooking.
Ever since their first meal together, Yakumo has been inviting Yamato over to her home to eat every day, slowly building their friendship through love of food and baseball.”
Let me say something right out of the gate: These two do not end up together romantically. I don’t know if that constitutes as a spoiler or not, but I felt it necessary to dispel any notion that this is borderline pedophilic. The vibe it tries for is generally wholesome and platonic.
With that out of the way, let me share how 80% of the chapters play out:
Yakumo and/or Yamato wakes up and prepares for [activity]. → The person not shown initially participates in their own [activity]. → Later in the evening, Yamato arrives at Yakumo’s for dinner. → Lots of food is shown in dazzling embellishment. → Yakumo comments on how Yamato eats like a bear about to hibernate. → Yamato departs. → Repeat.
Yes, this is a grounded slice-of-life manga mostly about bonding over food. Yes, these characters are not particularly exciting or charismatic. Even still, when you settle into a groove and begin to rely too often on that safe passage to execute each chapter, those not totally fond of it are going to grow weary. I certainly did.
Which is why I feel the need to specify (or “reiterate”) that I had this on-hold for years. I was on chapter fifty-something for quite a while—returning to it a few days ago, I had forgotten many details. “Ah, right, Yamato had a sister… Who is this blonde character to Yakumo again?” Granted, some of the reason for this was that it did not always have scanlated chapters available. Yet when I came back to it, eventually it grew into obligation rather than a desire to see the characters again.
Such is my harshest and most pointed criticism of Yakumo-san: too often does it rely on a formula that doesn’t really do much to entertain or adequately develop its cast, particularly outside the main two. By the end, I cheered for the continued communication of Yakumo and Yamato; everyone else was expendable.
Fortunately, there is a reason I kept going with this all those years ago. There’s something really sweet about the nature of push and pull between the two leads. They rely on one another in subtle ways, unbeknownst to one another. Yamato’s voracious appetite gives Yakumo a push in nurturing her cooking skills and to relive the joyful days of her late husband; Yakumo’s continued kindness and earnest nature inspires Yamato to push further with his own ambitions. While repetitive, it’s the smaller details of interaction during the whole that keep one invested.
Plus, while I limited it in scope to just “[activity],” these activities can provide some nice topics to discuss during the dinner sections. A consistent theme for Yamato is his blossoming baseball career. There are a lot of expectations placed on him due to how good he is, and his somewhat lackadaisical view of life puts some strain on his potential. As stated before, it’s grounded. Perfectly reasonable and tangible things for these characters to gnaw on as they sort through their daily lives.
This is going to sound somewhat strange, but I think the art style actually gets worse as it goes on. I say that, yet I have no tangible evidence of it. Perhaps I simply wasn’t all that taken with the style to begin with, or maybe there’s something to that.
To test this, when going back for screenshots for this blog post, I went to through some of the beginning chapters and compared them to later chapters. There was certainly minimal differences, though nothing I could concretely pinpoint. Still, the earlier chapters seemed more… expressive? Cute? Something along those lines. Near the end, I couldn’t help thinking that characters looked a little shaky in design or position. Thankfully not on a consistent basis, however; just enough to notice something amiss.
I suppose to acutely describe the whole of the manga, it’s one that harbors a strong passion for showcasing good food and sharing it with those you love, as well as its penchant for bringing people together. The only issue is that for a story with 80+ chapters, it sure doesn’t deviate very much from the mostly rigid formula it constructs near the beginning. While some subplots arise from time to time to keep these characters focused on something (or someone), a consistent air of complacency plagues an otherwise cute narrative.
And this is furthered evidenced by the fact that Yakumo-san ended in a fairly satisfactory way. Events of a more dramatic nature began to unfold that would drive the two leads apart—sold as more of an inevitability than random chance, which was appreciated. The final ten or so chapters, and the last volume in particular, was among the best the mangaka had to offer story-wise. To their credit, it likely wouldn’t have been as effective if the characters hadn’t spent so much time eating together.
Had I rated this about a year ago, it would have been around a 6/10. Time took its toll, and now I don’t have any particular fondness for Yakumo-san or its characters. Though I recall enjoying this at one point, I’m mostly glad it’s over and done with. (Fun fact: Outside of my re-read of Kashiwagi-san last year, this is my first completed manga since 2020.)
Mostly for those who want a slow, tranquil story with nice-looking food that they can read at a brisk pace. The characters are fine and the art is… also fine, even if both fluctuate depending on the situation at hand. I don’t regret picking it up, but I don’t regret putting it off, either.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
If you’d like to see more reviews like this, feel free to look at my full list of manga reviews!
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.