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Tasty Treats! 5 Amazing Adaptations of Food Manga | Koji's Odds & Ends

While the manga “Food Wars” (or “Shokugeki no Soma”) has amassed a large Western following over the past few years, few probably understand just how far the rabbit hole of food-based manga goes, or how noteworthy these series are within the long, colorful history of the medium.

In fact, out of all the genres, I’d say food-based fiction is the most Japanese of all. I can’t think of any other country that would devote so much of its storytelling toward exploring the art of cooking and, more importantly, the art of eating.

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, hopefully you will by the end of this list. Without further ado, here are 5 fantastic food manga adaptations that are sure to get your stomach rumbling (presented in no particular order).

Samurai Gourmet (live action drama series)

Samurai Gourmet is one of the best shows that Netflix has ever produced. Sadly, it’s also the most difficult to recommend. Most people probably check out as soon as they read the general premise of the show. This makes it a veritable hidden gem buried in Netflix’s sizeable library, only discovered by those open minded enough to click “play.”

Based on the manga by Masayuki Kusumi and Shigeru Tsuchiyama, the show is about a 60-year-old man named Takeshi who has very recently retired from his salaryman job. Now feeling somewhat purposeless, he decides to indulge himself in exploring the restaurants of Tokyo. This leads him to find new culinary treasures, as well as rediscover some from his past that he’d forgotten.

The name of the series is a reference to Takeshi's primary hobby, which is reading literature on feudal Japan. Whenever he runs into trouble, he imagines what a samurai would do in his situation (but rarely takes takes that particular course of action himself).

The show exudes a warmth that very few series ever accomplish, and viewers are sure to develop a fondness for Takeshi over the course of the 12 episodes, as the dishes he finds are used as springboards for the show to explore various facets of his life.

Not all of the food he tries is amazing, of course. In an early episode, he visits a ramen restaurant with absolutely atrocious noodles, establishing that disappointment is entirely possible.

As I said earlier, the show is a hard sell. However, I ask that you give the show just three episodes. I’m sure you’ll be hooked!

Koufuku Graffiti (anime series)

Who doesn’t love a good Shaft show, right?

Koufuku Graffiti, based on the manga series by Makoto Kawai, follows three high school girls throughout their daily lives, and focuses specifically on their culinary adventures. The unifying theme of the series is how cooking can bring people closer together and help relationships bloom into something beautiful.

Thanks to Shaft’s wonderful offbeat direction, the show has a certain quiet peacefulness to it that’s incredibly rare in the anime world. While it can feel slow at times, people who are willing to give the show a change will certainly be charmed by both the characters and the artistry that went into the production.

Also, shoutout to Kotringo as well for the series’ gorgeous soundtrack, which is still one of my absolute favorites to this day. It captures the strangeness and whimsy of the series perfectly.

Little Forest (live action film series)

Little Forest is hard to categorize. Technically, It’s two separate movies. However, each of these films is divided into two parts, meaning it’s also a 4-part series, with each section named after a different season (Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring).

Regardless of how you want to classify it, Little Forest is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and that’s not an exaggeration on my part. Seriously. Just look up any clip from the movies and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Like Samurai Gourmet, Little Forest uses food as a springboard to explore more of the protagonists life. The protagonist in this case is a young woman named Ichiko, who recently moved back to her rural hometown after her relationship with her boyfriend fell apart. She lives alone, operating a small farm on her family’s property, and in her free time indulges in cooking various dishes that she’d learned over the years.

The cooking segments are detailed to the point where you could potentially use them as a guide to cook the dishes yourself, and a lot of effort clearly went into filming them. The story as well, is surprisingly emotional, and might even bring a tear to your eye if you find yourself invested in it.

I’ve been recommending this series to as many people as I could since I watched it a few years ago. I love it so much, and I hope you’ll feel the same. I also highly recommend the original manga by Daisuke Igarashi, with it unique and charming art style.

Solitary Gourmet (live action series)

Solitary Gourmet, while having a lot in common with Samurai Gourmet, has been going on for a lot longer, and has a dedicated following in Japan. Based on the long-running manga series written by Masayuki Qusumi and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi, the series follows the adventures of Goro, an antique salesman, as he travels to different areas of Tokyo and samples the cuisine found therein.

While the series may have worked with a more normal protagonist, it makes sure to show off Goro’s various quirks. He’s fairly tall, and has a resting face that looks overly serious and slightly scary. He never drinks alcohol, and he’s often overtaken by sudden bouts of hunger after not eating for long periods of time. Personality-wise, Goro is caring and sentimental, in contrast to his sharp features.

While I think Samurai Gourmet edges out Solitary Gourmet in terms of production and story, Solitary Gourmet has bonus segments featuring the manga’s writer visiting the restaurants in which each episode is filmed. This lets us see what a real-life visit to these restaurants would be like, and Masayuki’s enthusiasm for the food he eats is very endearing.

Once you’ve finished Samurai Gourmet, you’ll feel right at home moving on to this series.

Sweetness and Lightning (anime series)

Based on Gido Amagakure’s manga of the same name, Sweetness and Lightning is one of the most moving and heartwarming anime series ever created, and leaving it off of a list like this would be almost criminal.

The story follows the newly-widowed Kouhei Inazuka as he struggles to raise his young daughter, Tsumugi. He has the most trouble with cooking, which his wife used to do for him. One of the students at the school Kouhei teaches at decides to help him learn how to cook, and each storyline being based around a different recipe.

I absolutely love the anime when it aired, and eventually picked up the manga, which I enjoyed even more. All of the stories feel more grounded in reality than most other shows, and you find yourself rooting for the wonderfully-written characters with each episode. While it shares a lot with other shows and comics in the “single-father” sub-genre, it manages to stand out with amazing art and truly heartfelt storytelling.

It’s an absolute delight seeing these characters grow together, and I highly recommend both the anime and manga to anyone looking for a good emotionally-charged or family-based drama.

From Little Forest


Thanks for reading, everyone! If I haven’t instilled in you an interest in food manga, I hope you found a series you’re interested in checking out. I love all of these stories, and hopefully you find something you love as well!

If you want more of my writing, you can check out my writing here. You can also follow me on Twitter (@KojiKojou) and Facebook!

Once again, thank you all very much!


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