There aren’t many capable dads in fiction, which is a topic that frequently comes up in my classes’ discussions of children’s books. Thankfully, this is starting to change, and this is true across the board for international publishing, as evidenced by works like Y Toyota’s Papa and Daddy’s Home Cooking. In its first three volumes, Toyota’s story builds a family of two fathers and their children as the men adjust to single parenthood and come to the realization that regardless of what the rest of the world thinks, they’ll be just fine in the end.
The two men are Harumi, a mild-mannered manga editor, and Sengoku, a chiropractor who still has the face and mannerisms of the gangster he once was as a teenager. Both Sengoku and Harumi were unprepared to be single fathers and both approached the situation differently: Sengoku’s ex-girlfriend unexpectedly gave him his daughter, who was four years old, and requested him to take her in, while Harumi’s wife separated from him and gave him custody of their son, Seichiro, who was also a similar age. Harumi understood he was in over his head right away. He offered Sengoku and his daughter Airi to move into the apartment when he learned that Sengoku was in a similar situation. Both guys have abilities that the other does not, therefore the arrangement works out well for everyone.
Well, primarily advantageous. One recurring theme across these three volumes is how bizarre everything seems from the outside. This is a blended family that encounters social pressure they never anticipated, from the point in volume one when Airi discloses that the two families live together to one of Seichiro’s friends being denied permission to come over to play because his mom is suspicious (and presumably homophobic). The one who unintentionally conveys it in a terrible way is Harumi’s mother, who begs her son to give her custody of her grandson since the boy needs “a mother’s love.” This statement implies that, regardless of what Harumi does, he and Sengoku will never be able to raise their children well since they are men and, as a result, lack some unnamed quality that mothers by nature possess. Even bald eagles can see that this is garbage, yet it eats away at Harumi and Sengoku, who develops heightened social awareness. Even though Mrs. Harumi is the first to state it bluntly, it’s something they both frequently encounter in their day-to-day interactions. For example, when Sengoku, fed up with the kids’ pickiness, considers enrolling in a cooking class, he is met with prejudice because people assume he only wants to hit on the teacher, while Harumi is frequently approached by single mothers.
When the young boy who’s mother doesn’t want him to visit Seichiro’s house comes over to play, this subplot reaches its climax in the third volume. When Harumi’s mother visits Tokyo later, it presents special difficulties for both men, who respond differently but with the same intention: to demonstrate that having a dad-only home is not inherently bad. Sengoku promptly invites the homophobic mother in to enjoy the homemade pizza he and the children are going to consume in the case of the homophobic mother. Sengoku’s politeness and competence have already started the job, but when Harumi arrives as everyone is leaving, he appears so reassuring that it completes the task. Similar to this, when Harumi’s mother shows around, Sengoku subtly wins her over by expressing interest in her cooking and saying “thank you” for observing that Airi needs some new hair ties. In the meantime, Harumi addresses her directly and expresses his hurt. (And it surely helps that Airi hugs her and refers to her as her grandmother!) In both situations, the men must demonstrate to socially conditioned individuals that they are sufficient fathers. Even if they must go through with it, it’s rewarding to see how the plot develops in all three volumes.
As the book’s title suggests, cooking plays a significant role in this story, and each chapter centers on a particular recipe. (Each book’s endnotes include all of the recipes.) Even while it wouldn’t be accurate to state that the series is centered around food, Sengoku uses it as a simple way to show his affection, and the dinner table develops into a miniature version of their family life. It performs one of the greatest things I’ve seen of blending the gastronomy themes into the main plot, making its presentation feel remarkably organic. However, I’d hesitate to label this book purely a foodie manga. His divorce resulted from his wife believing he worked too much and sacrificed their family life; Harumi learning from Sengoku and cooking instructor Yukari Dan gives him an opportunity to feel more involved in his son’s life. Harumi learns from Sengoku that he needs to speak up more, which he also attempts to instill in his kid. In this series, food plays the job of the communication facilitator admirably.
Although homophobia is mentioned in the story, it is never identified as such, and the plot (at this time) does not involve romance. It is a family story, and Sengoku and Harumi’s relationships are depicted as such. They are co-parenting, but they are a family rather than a pair. The absence of a love subplot serves to underscore the absurdity of the scrutiny they are subjected to as well as the everyday struggles of family life, such as arguments between the kids or the issue of who is responsible for everyone’s baths. The narrative moves at the same leisurely pace that Cherry Magic, Toyota’s second English-language book, did. Can Being Virgin for 30 Years Transform You Into a Wizard? and it is equally effective here as it is in her BL title. The TV show Papa and Daddy’s Home Cooking is a kind, loving one. It genuinely cares about its characters, is committed to illustrating their problems and triumphs, and eventually resembles a huge, cuddly hug in manga form. Page 10 is missing in the first volume of the digital-only publication, and page 100 replaces it (at least in my copy), but it is well worth your time.