Our Dining Table is another recent release from Seven Seas that has caught a lot of love on social media. Seven Seas has been publishing a lot of great BL and yuri titles in the last year or so, and when I saw this one pop up on Twitter, I felt like it would be right up my alley. Not only is it a sweet boys love story about two non-highschool men, but it involves a narrative about cooking and enjoying meals together. Both aspects are very appealing to me. Connecting over meals is one of the most quintessential human experiences that I think everyone can relate to. Mita Ori makes the experience about finding love and understanding for the first time, coming to find a place that accepts you, and overcoming grief.
The story follows 23-year-old Yutaka who has trouble eating around other people. That all begins to change when he meets a small boy and his much older brother in the park one day on his lunch break. The boy, Tane, scarfs down the onigiri that Yutaka offers him and loves it so much that he convinces Yutaka to come to their house and show them how to make his special onigiri. In the process, Yutaka winds up finding a place where he feels at home and can eat comfortably around other people. He and the other brother, Minoru, become closer over cooking for Tane, eventually developing feelings for one another.
Mita Ori’s art style is very light in comparison to a lot of other manga that focus on cooking. There’s not much attention paid to the finer details, with the line work staying fairly light throughout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think it creates a very light-hearted and “fluffy” feel to the pages while allowing more of the reader’s attention to be drawn to the characters and story rather than the art and backgrounds. The backgrounds themselves are fairly minimal and light as well, with more attention being paid towards the home of Tane and Minoru when it comes to adding details in the background. This gives the feeling of a lived-in home, with Tane’s toys being strewn about the floor.
The only issue is that if you were hoping for some food porn with this manga, I don’t think you’ll be satisfied. There’s really minimal emphasis placed on the food itself, and more about making and eating it together with other people. I think there’s really only two or three recipes throughout the manga, and the process of making them and the final product aren’t given the typical food manga detail that we might associate with say Sweetness and Lightning or Food Wars.
I think what I do love with Mita Ori’s art is the focus on expressions and how she calls them out with the panel format throughout her pages. The minimalism of her art style works here as the abundance of whit space in the background pulls the reader’s eye to the characters themselves, their movements, their expressions, and the specific make-up of the pages. Take pages 52 to 53. Ori spaces out her panels here to give the reader a sense of openness and breathability as Yutaka, Minoru, and Tane enjoy their first onigiri together. Page 52 shows two close up panels of Yutaka and Minoru as their eyes meet over an onigiri, Yutaka’s blush giving us the first hint of some feelings brimming under the surface. Page 53 pulls back to show the group enjoying their meal and then zooms in again on each of them, giving us a good look at how they both feel about the food and the company around them. It’s a nice contrast from group shot to a focus on the individual.
Food has a way of bringing people together. It’s when we are eating that we can sometimes feel at our most vulnerable. I think Mita Ori captures these moments really well throughout the manga, juxtaposing Yutaka’s feelings when he ate with his adoptive family when he was younger to now when he is eating with the two brothers. It also allows for some healing between the brother’s and their family after the death of their mother as Yutaka begins to teach them more about cooking and brings more enjoyment into their lives through his food and presence.
The story of Our Dining Table in a lot of ways is about grief, family, and finding a place where you feel you belong. We could even say it is another example of a “found family” narrative because Yutaka feels more at home in Minoru’s household than he does with his adoptive family that raised him. One family pushed him away and the other spread their arms wide to welcome him. Each of them provides healing for the others with just their presence and willingness to be there and listen to one another. It’s through the comfort they both derived from making food together that Yutaka felt like he could open up about the abuse from his adopted brother and Minoru felt like he could share how stressed he is about taking care of his little brother. Food is an equalizer, a comfort, and a way for people to relate to one another and show they care.
The manga is a romance story, and we see the budding feelings of Yutaka and Minoru grow throughout the chapters as they meet again and again to try out new recipes or have meals together. Tane seems to be the glue that holds them together as he is the one that pushed Minoru to invite Yutaka over again and again, becoming so excited to see him that he decides to wait outside in the cold until he shows up one morning. What I like about this romance is that it’s not super explicitly shoved at you that they’ll get together in the end. The growth of their relationship seems pretty natural as they both become more and more comfortable and open with one another. Their characters aren’t shouting at the reader that they’re gay either, it just so happens that these two men fell for one another.
Overall Our Dining Table is a really sweet and simple boys love manga that can be consumed in one sitting. I think any fan of romance, boys’ love, and stories surrounding food will find something to love about this series, and I hope you all give it a try. I know I will be checking out more of Mita Ori’s series in the future.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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