I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
Although I generally enjoy Yoshinaga's works, I dragged my feet over getting this one. I didn't think a restaurant guide/slice-of-life manga featuring restaurants I'd never be able to visit would work very well for me. I ended up buying this during a moment of weakness and a nice Right Stuf sale.
The manga starts with a disclaimer: “This story is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons is purely coincidental. But all of the restaurants in this book are real.” It felt a bit odd, considering that the volume's main character is a foodie named F-mi Y-naga, “who makes her living by drawing men engaging in anal sex" (7). Which sounds awfully similar to Fumi Yoshinaga, if you focus primarily on a certain portion of her work.
Anyway, Y-naga spends most of her time working and likes to unwind by eating delicious foods. Her newest assignment involves introducing restaurants to readers, which gives her an excuse to eat out even more. Along the way, we meet various people she knows. Her current roommate is S-hara, a guy who ended up becoming her assistant because he couldn't get any other work. M-waki is a sweets fanatic who was Y-naga's roommate before S-hara. F-yama is Y-naga's foodie friend, and also her secret (sort of) crush. T-i is a guy who loves eating meat. The list goes on – there are a bunch more people who make brief appearances.
The structure of the volume is pretty simple: two or more people (usually Y-naga and someone else) have a reason to go out to eat, and so they do. Everybody talks about how good the food is and tries to describe what it is that makes it so good. Each chapter focuses on a single restaurant and ends with a page of information about that restaurant: its address, phone number, hours, directions, and parking availability. Yoshinaga also notes how much you should budget for and includes a few other comments about things she didn't have a chance to mention in the manga.
While this was a nice enough volume, I vastly prefer Yoshinaga's What Did You Eat Yesterday? and Antique Bakery. Both of these series include wonderful meals and desserts, as well as characters with complex and interesting relationships. In Not Love But Delicious Foods (etc.), the focus was more on the food than on anything else. Some people showed up for a single chapter and then were never seen or spoken of again. Also, by the end of the volume, everybody was basically in the same place they were when the volume started. Pretty much the only thing that changed was Y-naga and S-hara's living arrangements, which somehow managed to have no effect on anything else. I'm still wondering how S-hara could ever afford to eat out.
It wasn't uncommon for the various meals to make me feel hungry, even when I had no clue what they might possibly taste like. My favorite restaurant out of the bunch was probably Chinese Chakan Restaurant #2 – the illustrations and descriptions made my mouth water. That said, I do think the food and restaurant aspects of this manga could have been better. Chapter 4, which focused on the restaurant Sushi Tanaka, was probably the worst. The illustrations were so small and dark that I sometimes had trouble figuring out what I was looking at. Just in general, I'd have liked more full- or even half-page food illustrations. Also, while I understand that Yoshinaga was trying to highlight good restaurants, it became a little repetitive after a while. Every single restaurant was wonderful and unique. I started to wonder if Y-naga had ever been to a restaurant she didn't like. It sure didn't seem like it.
I would only recommend this to Yoshinaga completists, or those in Japan who are either able to go places on their own (meaning “I don't think this would be a good guide for Westerners with little-to-no knowledge of Japanese”) or who have a guide willing to take them wherever they want to go. Actually, considering that it was originally published in 2005, I'm a little doubtful it could still function as a restaurant guide for anyone.
In Chapter 4, Y-naga went out to eat with A-dou, a friend of hers who she only recently learned was gay. It had some odd moments. For example, at one point A-dou said he was bi in high school but decided to be exclusively gay as an adult. I'm assuming he was talking more about dating/sex than sexual preference, but I'm not sure. I did like the end of the chapter, when Y-naga apologized for making her living "by drawing manga with gay themes, but none of them are real gay themes" (44).
I debated whether to give this 2.5 stars or 3. I settled on 3 because I didn't actually dislike it - it was just underwhelming. It helped that I knew going in that it was more a restaurant guide than a story.
(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)