When it comes to characters in fiction, it’s fairly common for me to find characters that resonate with me. Much rarer, however, is to find a character that is more of a kindred spirit, someone who fundamentally connects with who I am. This is the experience I have when reading the manga Mogusa-san, the romantic story of a girl who loves to eat all the time.
One of my passions in life is food. When I travel, I mainly think in terms of things I can possibly eat. That is not to say that I am a “foodie,” as the term usually implies someone who is in constant pursuit of the next superbly executed dish. Rather, whereas a typical foodie would not touch Chef Boyardee after having freshly made authentic Italian pasta, I can eat both. I can switch freely between Époisses and Kraft American Singles and not feel that my culinary experience has been ruined. Nor do I consider myself someone with no sense of taste whatsoever, or someone who can’t appreciate finer qualities in food. Trying new dishes, revisiting old ones, complex flavors, simple tastes, approaching different cultures through their cuisine, I simply love the experiences that come with eating. So, when the titular heroine of Mogusa-san (whose name is based on mogumogu, the onomatopoeia for munching) shows a similar fondness for eating, I feel this sense of deep understanding with the character. Heck, I even made her my Twitter banner.
Food manga is a fairly ubiquitous genre, and is usually based around the intense experience of eating something so delicious that it can only be described in metaphor. Yakitate!! Japan, The Drops of God, Oishinbou, Gokudou Meshi, all of these series are about the pleasures of specific dishes and how they were made with love and care. Mogusa-san is a different experience, as it’s more about the feelings derived from the act of eating itself. It’s not just that Mogusa is always hungry or has a large appetite (common features in manga characters) which makes this manga a joy to read, but that the sheer bliss on her face—the wide-eyed sense of wonder, the small but genuine smile, the soft blush that fills the panels—is delightfully overpowering. It more or less describing how I feel whenever I eat, and on a certain level, I find this to be something missing from most food manga.
Mogusa-san feels no need for hyperbole, at least when it comes to describing taste. Instead, its sense of exaggeration lies is in how Mogusa manages to accomplish the task of eating nearly 24/7. While Mogusa is embarrassed about her love of food (because every girl around her is more about dieting), it certainly doesn’t stop her because Mogusa has mastered the art of stealth eating. She keeps packages of eel jerky in her wallet. She disguises an extra helping of rice as a French dictionary. In the image below, Mogusa is supposedly eating only one “Takenoko” chocolate snack, but is actually eating multiple ones, switching between them constantly with the skill of a wild west gunslinger to create the illusion that she’s only been eating one the whole time. In this way, the techniques used by other food manga to describe the taste of dishes transfers over to Mogusa’s consumption tactics.
I’ve been told that I make food look delicious when I eat, and this is also what I get from looking at Mogusa. As much as I love to eat, I also am fond of watching other people enjoy food as well and i n this respect, I also end up connecting to the boy who befriends Mogusa, Koguchi Torao. It’s rather satisfying to me to see someone’s face light up when they eat something that truly blows their mind. In fact, part of the experience of traveling for me is seeing others’ faces light up as they taste something new and exciting, or something familiar and comforting. The art does a good job of showing not only Mogusa’s sense of happiness while eating, but also the fact that Koguchi appears to fall in love with her every time she decides to chow down on something, which, again, is all the time.
Mogusa-san began on the web-only Shueisha platform Tonari no Young Jump, but has since begun serialization in the real Weekly Young Jump magazine due to its popularity. While the first volume has already been published, you can still read a few chapters online in Japanese, and while the language barrier is an issue I think this manga is one where that matters a little less. It’s a manga that I feel profoundly drawn to, and if you love eating the same way I do (or maybe just really like Sasha from Attack on Titan), there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way.