They Grow Up So Breakfast: Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite, Volumes 1 and 2

mogusashokuyoku-chicken

Mogusa Minori, the namesake character of the manga Mogusa-san, is my spirit animal. Her bottomless appetite, sheer love for food, and the ecstasy one her face when she does eat speaks to me on a level beyond personal. The series finished in 2016 at ten volumes, but while the conclusion of Mogusa-san would be a sad affair under normal circumstances, it was immediately announced that there would be a sequel of some kind. The result is a new series titled Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite (Mogusa-san Shokuyoku to Tatakau), and though it is clearly of the Mogusa-san lineage, it’s also a remarkably different manga in many ways.

Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite takes place two years after the events of Mogusa-san. Mogusa is now 18, has graduated high school, and is in a long distance relationship with Koguchi Torao, the boy who befriended her in the first series. Koguchi has moved to Kyoto to learn about becoming a professional chef, while Mogusa is headed to college in Tokyo. As a full-fledged adult, Mogusa has declared that she will no longer succumb to her cravings and will eat “only” three meals a day, partly to show that she’s matured and partly for the fact that food costs money. Unfortunately for Mogusa, Tokyo is a land of culinary temptation, and tasty devils beguile her at every turn.

The most significant change from the original Mogusa-san to the sequel is that the former is told from the perspective of Koguchi, while the newer series is from Mogusa’s. Rather than viewing Mogusa as this adorable yet eerily superhuman being, we’re seeing the world from Mogusa’s eyes, and understanding her hunger pangs in a more direct way. Because the series is about Mogusa-san trying her best to not use her many refined techniques for sneaking massive bites (instead of trying not to get caught), Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite feels somewhat closer to a traditional food manga.

This subdued approach goes hand in hand with the fact that Mogusa is older. In a certain sense, it’s like the jump from shounen to seinen manga. As a 16-year-old, Mogusa is defined more by innocence and over-the-top antics, but as an 18-year-old she has a somewhat greater air of maturity. In other words, when teenage Mogusa ate, it was like watching a Dragon Ball Z fight. When adult Mogusa eats, it’s like watching Spike take on some thugs in Cowboy Bebop. In this respect, I do miss the style of the first series to some extent, but I can appreciate the new world of possibilities this direction opens up.

Another element I miss from the previous series is the cast of characters, many of whom were either instantly endearing or grew to become as such. However, this doesn’t mean that the side characters in Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite are inferior, just that I long to see her old classmates. In Tokyo, Mogusa manages to meet a wide variety of interesting individuals, with a couple of characters in particular standing out:

mogusashokuyoku-mito

The first is a woman named Mito Shinobu, a beautiful fellow student at Mogusa’s college who’s actually a former delinquent trying to become more feminine. Mogusa and Mito bond over their mutual desire to become more mature, but Mito is unaware of the fact that Mogusa can eat her under the table five times over and instead views Mogusa as an example of girlishness to aspire to. She’s not a foil for Mogusa in the same manner as Tabe (the professional eater from the first series who sees Mogusa as her eternal rival) or Chigumi (the picky eater whose narrow range of taste lies opposite Mogusa’s ability to eat anything), but Mito’s interactions with her are consistently entertaining.

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The second notable character is a guy named Kamishita, the president of the Gourmet Club on campus. While I previously believed that Mogusa was the character that resembled me most in the world of anime and manga, Kamishita is even closer. Not only does he enjoy food, he’s constantly experimenting with unusual combinations, like nattou on dessert pizza (!). His willingness to try bizarre food mashups, but more importantly his appreciation for them, sends friends and lovers running for the hills—an experience I know all too well.

mogusashokuyoku-hamburg

One aspect of this sequel that is worth focusing on is the idea that Mogusa is eating less. After all, this is potentially disconcerting given the number of girls out there who starve themselves trying to get in shape or because they’re dissatisfied with their body images. Mogusa never really appears as if she gains or loses weight, so in that respect she’s a fairly unrealistic character given how much she typically ate in high school, but it’s worth pointing out that, even though she’s trying to control her diet, she’s not exactly munching on celery sticks. Mogusa is able to eat three to ten times as much as the average person, and even as she sticks to three meals instead of six or more, all of her portions are massive. She eats hamburg steaks so big that one could feed a family of four, and when she brings onigiri to school for lunch she takes five massive ones with her.

Mogusa-san Fights Against Appetite might very well be my favorite manga currently running. Like its predecessor, this manga speaks to the inner recesses of my soul in ways few others can. You might call it… today’s recommendation.

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