How the Gorgeous Food Manga Mogusa-san Does Side Characters

I recently picked up Volumes 2 through 5 of one of my favorite manga in recent years, Mogusa-san. Featuring a girl who eats anything and everything and has developed seemingly superhuman skills in order to get as much food in herself as possible without anyone noticing, it’s basically a series made just for me. One question that arises from reading Mogusa-san is, how do you keep this premise going? What kinds of characters do you introduce as complements or foils to Mogusa herself? The answer is, a closet picky eater who has some of the qualities of a tsundere without necessarily falling squarely into that archetype.

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Taira Chigumi is the president of Mogusa’s class, and a seemingly strait-laced, no-nonsense individual. However, she harbors a deep, dark secret: she has the palate of a 10 year old. That means hamburg steaks and gummy candies are in, tomatoes and fish are out. Of course, she has an image to uphold, so she’s learned to basically keep gross foods in her mouth without swallowing them, and then force them down with a helping of coffee milk.

It makes sense in a way: opposite a girl who eats anything is a girl who eats almost nothing, and the added twist of giving her the taste buds of a child makes her rather endearing. When Koguchi (the male POV character) discovers her secret, she responds by violently attacking him. On the surface, this appears to be the stereotypical tsundere reaction, but it’s a little too active and conscious for that to be the case. Tsundere characters are usually based around having an almost involuntary reaction to embarrassment and having their true selves revealed (as parodied in the manga Mozuya-san Gyakujousuru, about a girl with tsundere as a form of clinical disease). Also, rather than having her priorities be love or the denial thereof, Chigumi simply wants to be friends with Mogusa because she sees how Mogusa just seems to love food more than anything else, and maybe, just maybe, if she spends enough time with her, that this quality will rub off on Chigumi as well.

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Chigumi isn’t the only character who adds to the world of Mogusa-san, as it also features a little sister who eats character-shaped foods as if she were a Titan from Attack on Titan, and even an eating rival. Suffice it to say, I recommend this series 110/10. No, that’s not a typo.

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Waku Waku +NYC Blog: Let Your Imagination Soar with Onigiri Rice Balls

I wrote a short post on onigiri over at the Waku Waku +NYC Blog. Why not take a look, and then think about what you’d like to put in a Japanese rice ball?

Waku Waku +NYC Blog – IPPUDO’s Ramen King on What It Takes to Run a Ramen Restaurant

I wrote a small post on the Waku Waku +NYC blog, translating a couple of choice quotes from the founder of the ramen restaurant chain IPPUDO.

IPPUDO is going to be at Waku Waku +NYC so if you want to enjoy anime, cosplay, and more while eating authentic Japanese ramen, tickets are on sale now.

Waku Waku +NYC: In Japan, Ketchup is Not a Crime

I’ve written a new post at the Waku Waku +NYC blog, about how ketchup is treated as a versatile ingredient in Japanese food in contrast to its reputation in the US as a one-note, non-exciting condiment.

What do you think of ketchup? Is it worthy of respect, or another example of people having no taste?

In Case You Forgot, I Love Both Anime and Food

I’ve written a blog post on Sailor Moon as my introduction to Japanese food over at the Waku Waku +NYC official blog. If you’re interested in me waxing nostalgic and rambling the way you expect out of Ogiue Maniax, take a look.

Sailor Moon Was My Gateway into Japanese Food

I’ll be a regular contributor to the Waku Waku +NYC blog from now on, so look forward to more posts from there in the future. As always, I will continue to devote myself to Ogiue Maniax as well.

If you’re curious, Waku Waku +NYC is an upcoming Japanese popular culture festival from August 29-30 in Brooklyn, NY. Unlike a lot of anime cons and Japanese events, this one looks to more thoroughly integrate food with Japanese anime, games, fashion, etc. If you’re even half as interested in eating and watching anime as I am, it might be worth your while.

In Memory of Donburiya and the Best Donburi in New York City

Over the years, I’ve written a couple of reviews on Ogiue Maniax for a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan called Donburiya. It served many types of Japanese foods, but as per its name, its claim to fame was its donburi: large bowls of rice with various toppings on them. I’m truly sad to inform everyone that Donburiya closed its doors at some point over the past few months, and I only found out upon arriving and seeing the entire place abandoned.

I haven’t been this upset about losing an excellent food joint in a long while. The last time this happened, it was The Pink Teacup, a soul food restaurant that literally, literally served the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten. In that case, the flavor penetrated the chicken all the way down to the bone, and in the case of Donburiya just about every dish I ever ordered there had a similar level of quality. Whether it was the Chirashidon (sashimi), Oyakodon (egg and chicken), Katsudon (pork cutlets), or Unatamadon (eel and egg), or even the curry, I will cherish my memories of that restaurant.

I know it might sound silly to some, but as people might have picked up from my writings, I’m a huge food enthusiast and food is a very emotional subject for me. To lose a place that has served me well, not only in terms of the quality of its dishes but also as a space to gather with friends and to celebrate, makes me wish I could’ve gone back just one last time.

By the way, if anyone knows any fantastic donburi places in New York City, I’m all ears. And mouth.

 

Nattodan: Nattou in the Netherlands

Out all Japanese foods there are two I feel particularly attached to. The first is curry rice, which is an extension of my general love of curry. The second is the more divisive fermented soybean product known as nattou. I ate it a lot when I lived in Japan, and it’s a food which I find fulfilling in a way few others are.

Nattou is often times considered one of those culture shock foods, the thing that’s served to scare foreigners away, and although it’s not on the same level as, say, durian or surstroeming (SPELL CHECK), nattou is indeed generally an acquired taste. The problem with that, of course, is that, even if people want to try it and potentially grow to aprpeciate nattou, there may not be many opportunities to do so. In the Netherlands there are Japanese communities such as the one in Amstelveen, but it may be inconvenient to travel there.

Amazingly, I’ve discovered a company which produces and delivers nattou in the Netherlands. Nattodan is a company interested in spreading nattou as a health food, and is actually capable of shipping nattou directly to your door step (provided you live in a Dutch town or city of course). I just recently received my first delivery, which costed me 32 euros for 900 grams’ worth. It’s fairly steep, especially compared to prices in Japan or even a larger city with a decent Japanese population like New York City or Los Angeles, but it does have that delivery convenience in its favor, and it does come with a freezable gel pack which I’ll probably keep for future use for other things.

In terms of taste it’s definitely nattou. I’ve been told that I’m a poor judge of whether an exotic food is safe for normal people to consume, but if I had to describe why I like nattou it’s because it has this combination of a savory and nutty flavor which mixes tremendously well with rice. It’s somewhat known for its smell, being a fermented product and all, but I know that Nattodan has taken efforts to make it less pungent compared to the nattou you’d normally be able to find in Japan. I enjoy the smell so it doesn’t bother me either way, but keep in mind that the scent isn’t entirely gone. The delivery also didn’t come with the bit of spicy mustard and soy sauce which usually accompany Japanese-made nattou packs. It’s not necessary, but it’s one of those things that can make eating nattou more pleasant for some.

If you’re living in the Netherlands and you’re just curious about nattou and its many mysteries, give it a shot. Due to delivery costs it’s not “worth” it to only buy one or two packs, but of course it’s not a food people are guaranteed to like. So, my advice is to hold a party or something, possibly themed around Japanese foods, and just order some so you and your friends can all try it out. Call it a dare, call it a culinary adventure, but see if nattou is right for you.

Dutch-Japanese Foods Part 3: My Own Experiment

Nattou, that Japanese food which divides families and shatters nations but which I love immensely, is hard to come by in the Netherlands, so when a friend said he knew a way to get some, I knew what had to be done. Upon receiving it, I had a strange epiphany, to combine it with another food which embodies cultural adaptation and assimilation: The McKroket.

The McKroket is a sandwich from McDonald’s available only in the Netherlands, taking the Dutch fondness for fried meaty goop and shaping it into a disc suitable for bunnery. Just as a word of advice, be careful when eating all krokets and kroket-like products, as the ragout can and will burn your tongue if you bite in too suddenly.

Anyway, I opened up my pack of nattou, added the soy sauce and mustard, and gave it a mighty stir before placing some on top of the kroket part of the sandwich. With the top bun back on my culinary Frankenstein monster was complete.

And you know what? It was fantastic. I know 99% of people reading won’t believe me, even the people who do like nattou, but I am completely serious when I say I would do this again if given the opportunity. It is a complex mix of savory flavors between the ragout and the strong nuttiness of the nattou, and the combination of the crunchiness of the fried crust and the chewiness of the fermented soy beans made each bite strangely satisfying, hough keep in mind that I find nattou itself to be a purveyor of contentment, so your mileage may vary.

I guess if you’re in Japan, you could just buy some nattou and put it on a croquet pan but it wouldn’t be quite the same. Maybe you should fly to Europe just to do this.

Stickers Can Go to Hell

I am very grateful to live in New York City, as there is a sizable Japanese (as well as every other ethnicity) population here, and it means I can eat all sorts of good foods both inexpensive and pricey. One of my favorite quick snacks is onigiri, the seaweed-covered rice ball you often see in anime, and the thing that was translated as “donuts” and then “popcorn balls” in Pokemon.

When the seaweed touches the rice, it eventually gets soggy, so manufacturers some years back devised a way to keep the seaweed separate from the rice until you open it. By having a series of pullable tabs, you can enjoy crispy seaweed with little hassle.

Image taken from empty streets

Or at least, you should be able to, except places all over New York City decide to place a sticker right where you’re supposed to pull the first tab, and it gets in the way and defeats the purpose of the specialized wrapper in the first place. Instead, you have to now struggle with the sticker, and what was once a pain-free activity has now become an exercise in tearing the whole thing apart and making a bit of a mess.

Why do you do this, Japanese convenience stores and shops? Why is that sticker always in the worst place possible?

Go Go Curry: Going Strong, Carrying On

Today, May 5th, is the anniversary of Japanese curry restaurant Go Go Curry, and to celebrate this auspicious occasion in Manhattan they’re making it so that ALL medium-sized curry dishes are $5. I think by now my feelings on Go Go Curry have been well-established, but just in case, if you’re in the area and have never tried it, I highly recommend you do so. It’s on 38th St between 7th and 8th Ave in Manhattan.

They’re also giving away FIVE free topping coupons on top of that. And I know that unless you really like the Go Go, five coupons is a bit much to use up in a month, but they’re great to hand off to your friends, especially those who have never tried it before (just keep in mind you can’t use them in the same day you order).

As for me, it doesn’t really matter what special they have for their anniversary, I’ll be there simply to celebrate its existence and to dine on the best Japanese curry around.