My elementary school daughters have recently discovered the manga section at the library and due to their interest in cooking shows they brought home Kitchen Princess: Volume 1. It is a classic shoujo manga. Shoujo stories are aimed primarily at young females and are heavily focused on personal and romantic relationships this is no exception.
The heart of the story is Najika Kazami an orphan (because of course she is) with the ability to remember everything she has ever tasted and can recreate a dish perfectly from just tasting it. She loves food and cooking, preparing dishes for the joy of seeing the smile of the person eating it. Not long after her parents died Najika had a chance encounter with a boy who brought her sunshine and flan at a very dark time. In a reverse Cinderella, he leaves behind a silver spoon, the only clue to his identity. She vows to find him and make him the best dessert in the world to repay his kindness.
Najika leaves her orphanage to join a prestigious boarding school in Tokyo, at the start of seventh grade, because it has the same crest as on the spoon of her long ago “flan prince”. She is placed in a class made of extraordinary students with different talents such as winning a violin competition, awards for oil painting, ballet, etc. Najika doesn’t see her cooking as a talent on par with the other students and neither do they. She is looked down on by many of the other girls.
Najika’s first day on campus has her meeting the Kitazawa brothers, younger and antagonistic Daichi and his older more responsible brother Sora, who are both gorgeous (of course). Having no family of her own, she doesn’t understand how the brothers can have such a difficult relationship and Najika works to repair their bond. Her budding friendship with the pair, especially Daichi, is a sore spot with Akane Kishida, who’s special talent is that she is a successful model. Akane wants Najika gone and pulls dirty tricks to try and make it happen.
Najika has a sweet personality, frequently happy she bounces back quickly from misfortune. She truly just wants to make people happy through food. Each chapter title is a recipe which will play a part in the events of the chapter. All the recipes are included in the back of manga which is a cute touch. The recommended age is 13+ but I feel that it’s fine for younger readers. Or at least this volume is, I can’t speak for where the series is headed. There is one moment when Najiki is climbing a tree, unaware Daichi is under her, and you almost get a panty shot but her underwear is not shown. That is the only content that could be found objectionable, in my opinion.
This is a pretty typical shoujo story and is enjoyable for it’s cuteness, but not exactly ground breaking in the genre as tropes abound. It’s a pleasant story with romance, and finding one’s purpose and sense of self. Would recommend if you have a manga fan in your life who enjoys shoujo.