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by Rebecca Silverman,

Papa and Daddy's Home Cooking

GN 1-3

Papa and Daddy's Home Cooking GN 1-3
Chiropractor Sengoku and manga editor Harumi are in the same boat: they're both unexpectedly single dads, trying to make family life work. To facilitate this, they decide to live together with their kids, something that the rest of the world looks on with deep suspicion. Everyone knows dads aren't as good as moms, so how can these two single fathers possibly make a stable home for their children? The same way as anyone else would: with love, patience, and good food.

It is a point that often comes up in my class discussions of children's literature: there's a dearth of competent dads in fiction. Fortunately, that's beginning to change, and that goes for all areas of international publishing, as stories like Yū Toyota's Papa and Daddy's Home Cooking can attest. In its first three volumes, Toyota's tale establishes a household made up of two dads and their kids as the fathers adjust to single parenthood and realize that even if they don't feel like adequate parents, they'll ultimately be just fine, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

The two men are Sengoku, a chiropractor with the face and mannerisms of the teenage thug he once was, and Harumi, a mild-mannered manga editor. Neither was expecting to be single fathers, and both came to it differently: an ex-girlfriend of Sengoku's suddenly presented him with his four-year-old daughter and asked him to take her in, while Harumi's wife left him and granted him custody of their similarly-aged son, Seichiro. Harumi quickly realized that he was in over his head. When he found out that Sengoku was in a similar position, he invited Sengoku and his daughter Airi to move into the apartment. Both men have skills the other lacks, which becomes a beneficial arrangement for everyone.

Well, mostly beneficial. One of the enduring themes of these three volumes is that, to the outside world, the entire situation looks very strange. From the moment in volume one when Airi announces that the two families live together to one of Seichiro's friends not being allowed to come over to play because his mom is suspicious (and probably homophobic), this is a blended family that faces social censure that they never anticipated. Harumi's mother is the one who spells it out in an unwittingly cruel way – she asks her son to give her custody of her grandson because the boy needs “a mother's love.” This statement immediately suggests that no matter what Harumi does, he and Sengoku will never be able to properly raise their children because they're men, and therefore lacking in some unspecified something that mothers naturally have. This is garbage (even bald eagles know it) but it eats at Harumi, and at Sengoku as well, who becomes hyperaware of how he's seen by others. And even though Mrs. Harumi is the first person to spell it out baldly, it's something they're both consistently made aware of in their day-to-day lives – when Sengoku, frustrated by the kids' pickiness, looks into taking a cooking course, he's immediately met with prejudice as people assume he's just there to hit on the teacher while Harumi gets hit on by single moms.

This plotline comes to a head in the third volume when the little boy, whose mom doesn't want him to go to Seichiro's house, comes over to play. Later, Harumi's mother goes to Tokyo for a visit, presenting unique challenges for both men, who react differently but with the same goal in mind: to prove that there's nothing wrong with being in a dad-only household. In the case of the homophobic mom, Sengoku immediately invites her in to share the homemade pizza he and the kids are about to eat. When Harumi shows up as everyone is leaving, he looks so reassuring that it finishes the job that Sengoku's kindness and competency have begun. Similarly, when Harumi's mom appears, Sengoku quietly endears himself to her by showing interest in her recipes and thanking her for noticing that Airi could use some new hair ties. Meanwhile, Harumi himself finally talks to her and expresses his hurt. (And the fact that Airi immediately embraces her as her grandmother certainly helps!) In both cases, the men are forced to prove to socially conditioned people that as fathers, they are enough. While it's painful that they have to do this, the progression of this plot thread is a rewarding element across all three volumes.

Cooking, as the title suggests, is a major factor here, and each chapter revolves around a specific recipe. (All of the recipes are provided at the end of each book.) While it wouldn't be fair to say that the series revolves around food, it's the easiest way for Sengoku to show his care, and the dinner table becomes a microcosm of their family life. I'd hesitate to call this solely a foodie manga, but it does do one of the best jobs I've seen of incorporating the foodie elements into the overarching plot, making its presentation feel remarkably organic. Harumi learning from Sengoku and cooking teacher Yukari Dan also provides a way for him to feel more involved in his son's life; his divorce came about because his wife felt he worked too much at the expense of their family life. As he learns from Sengoku, Harumi realizes that he needs to speak up more, something he tries to teach his son as well. Food is the facilitator of communication in this series, and it fills the role admirably.

Although there is homophobia present in the story, it's never specifically called out as such, and the story (at this point) doesn't have a romantic component. It is a family story, and the interactions between Sengoku and Harumi are shown in that light - they're co-parenting, but they're a family rather than a couple. This lack of a romantic subplot helps to underline the ridiculousness of the scrutiny they're under, and it also helps to highlight the simple realities of family life, such as the kids having an argument or the question of who's giving everyone their baths. The story has the same gentle pace readers might recognize from Toyota's other English-language release, Cherry Magic! Thirty Years of Virginity Can Make You a Wizard?!, and it works just as well here as it does in her BL title.

Papa and Daddy's Home Cooking is a warm, caring series. It loves its characters, is devoted to showing what they face and how they overcome the struggles in their lives, and ultimately feels like a big, cozy hug in manga form. The digital-only release has a couple of issues in the first volume – page 10 is missing, and page 100 replaces it, at least in my copy – but it is worth your time.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+

+ Warm, caring story that explores its topics gently. Recipes are easy to follow.
Some production issues with volume one, timeline can be a little confusing.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Yū Toyota
Licensed by: MediBang

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Papa and Daddy's Home Cooking (manga)

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