Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shinya Shokudo - Food Manga Du Jour

Shinya Shokudo
Shinya Shokudo book 1, via official website
Sweeping the Asian food manga (comic) circles in the past year or so is Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂 or Shinya Shokudou, and seemingly called Midnight Dining in English), a Japanese comic about a late night diner in the notorious nightlife district of Kabukicho, Tokyo. I'm not a comic obsessive, but since Les Gouttes de Dieu, this is the second food or wine-related comic I've been stuck into. In fact, it's the second comics series I've gotten stuck into in at least 5 years, full stop.

Shinya Shokudo is about the eatery, or more specifically, the people that come into the eatery, which is like an izakaya, which only opens midnight to 7am. Like Haruki Murakami in his novel After Dark, the author of these comics, Abe Yaro, seems to have a fascination with things that happen in the night, in particular, in this part of town. Perhaps it's one of the only places in Tokyo that shatters so completely that neat, tidy mould that is Japanese public life.

The stories are fun and sometimes tear-jerkingly sweet, be it that a gangster son reunites with a father he's never met, or a group of middle-aged Japanese flower children become inspired to do their thang again on the streets of Shinjuku, or a gold-digger bumps into an old beau while trying to lure a new one. It seems pretty cliche to have a whole series that conveys things like, strippers are looking for love too, but let's be honest, a lot of us like those stories. What we don't like is having them presented in cliched ways. With Shinya Shokudo, the delivery is smooth and almost stylish. It's done mostly through the eyes of the diner's owner and chef, whose apparent indifference (or jadedness?) to it all makes him seem all the more intriguing. He has these funny rules, like no more than 3 drinks per customer, the offer to make any dish you want, as long as he knows how to and has the ingredients - these gently push the story along.

I've been reading the Chinese translation published in Taiwan, and I'm pretty sure it's been translated into Korean as well, as it's already been made into a TV series in Japan and there are plenty on Youtube with Korean subtitles. An English version doesn't seem to have come out yet, but it's probably a matter of time. If it's not in the works yet, some enterprising publisher had better do it soon!


  1. You'll love the TV series as well, more vivid than the comic book itself. The singer of the TV series theme song, 鈴木常吉, is coming to Taipei in early August, and I've bought tickets to his concert. :)

    1. I've watched some clips on Youtube - it seems kinda slow but has an aura about it, it's on my to-watch list! Enjoy the concert!!

  2. Thanks for the tip on this. I love food manga. The wine one and Oishinbo was my big fave too.

    Will go check out the videos since I no speak or read the Mandarin chinese.

    1. I hope an English translation is in the works, it really should be!!