Review

by Caitlin Moore,

Sachi's Monstrous Appetite

GN 1

Synopsis:
Sachi's Monstrous Appetite GN 1
Makie Funatsugi has a crush on his senpai, Sachi Mitsuhara, and likes to bring her food since she always seems to be hungry. He's also haunted by two things: the memory of his first bento from his mother that he never got to eat, and monsters that nobody else can see or hear that seem to want to eat him. It turns out that Sachi herself is one such monster, called a watari, but instead of turning her appetite toward Makie, she promises to consume the monsters who threaten him. Before Makie knows it, the two of them are living together! But can a human and a watari really live happily ever after together?
Review:

Much like a well-stuffed bento box, there's a lot to unpack in Chomoran's Sachi's Monstrous Appetite. It is at once a supernatural romcom, a monster girl story, a food series, and an atmospheric horror manga. It touches on loss and regret, the interconnectedness of love and food, and the struggles of people from two different worlds falling in love. All of that is here in the pretty cute first volume of the manga.

It also doesn't waste any time. The setup comes clear in the very first pages: Sachi and Makie are attracted to each other, but unfortunately, a whole bunch of monsters are also attracted to Makie, and not in the way that he likes. When one such monster corners Makie and draws him into its pocket dimension, Sachi shows up, transforms into a whale-like creature herself, and swallows the one that had been threatening him in one gulp. By the end of the second chapter, the two of them decide to move in together, since they both live alone. In the third chapter, they take on a job destroying a watari nest, and in the fourth, they go on a date.

If nothing else, Sachi's Monstrous Appetite knows how to keep its episodic stories varied in structure and topic. It's the kind of series where, if it had settled on only one plot element to focus on, it could easily have grown formulaic even by the end of the first volume. At the same time, it plays pretty well within the bounds of generic supernatural romance tropes. While Sachi – who wears a human form most of the time and is romantically attracted to Makie as well as attracted to his scent – seems safe, there's still the ever-present danger of her giving into her hunger and consuming him.

Her hunger and the danger it represents is the foundational element of the entire supernatural romance genre. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, Black Bird… I could go on all day. It's a staple for a reason, after all. In that way, however, there's one thing that sets this series apart from the pack: it duplicates that dynamic with a male protagonist and a female love interest. In fact, Sachi's Monstrous Appetite plays with gender expectations in a number of ways. Makie is short and slight in build; Sachi is tall, broad-shouldered, and busty. He's vulnerable; she's strong and protective. He cooks; she eats. He bathes; she walks in on him naked. There is a fetishistic element to it, especially when he ends up with his face mashed into her considerable chest, which edges on subversive with the level of role reversal going on.

That role reversal comes through quite strongly in the art. Even on the cover, you can see how much taller and broader Sachi is compared to the petite Makie, who is a full head shorter and could easily pass as a middle-schooler or even the later grades of elementary. She's holding his face in her hands, and he's blushing much harder. Within the pages, Chomoran's art is more cute than sexy or pretty, with spiky hair and kind-of-squished faces, giving it a sort of 90's feel. Sachi's watari form, which kind of looks like a big whale, isn't the least bit sexy (unless you're really kinky), which in a world where most monster girls are highly sexualized, comes as something of a relief.

I do wish that Sachi and Makie had stronger personalities, though! There's a lot to Sachi's Monstrous Appetite that I appreciate more in concept than actual execution. The two protagonists are sweet, but there isn't much chemistry or heat between them. Their relationship at present is somewhat shallow, founded more on gags and superficial attraction than depth of connection. It can get a bit hackneyed, with them oh-so-conveniently moving in together before they really get to know each other; Makie even comments that he's never seen Sachi in her street clothes before they go on their date.

There's an underlying plot at play here, though it doesn't get too much attention in the first volume. Sachi must protect the town from dangerous watari, and she has a manager who occasionally shows up to assign her jobs, who is often accompanied by a mysterious girl in a maid uniform with a sassy headband. They're vaguely threatening, dropping hints that if Sachi were to step out of line they'd have to do something, threatening Makie's future with her, but usually act as goofy comic relief.

The most interesting part of Makie's psychology stems not from his relationship with Sachi, but his obsession with bento lunches. Apparently, his first-ever bento was from his mom for an elementary school field trip, but he ended up losing it and never got the chance to try it. Considering he lives alone now, it seems safe to assume that something happened to his mother, which is now complicating his relationship with tasty lunchboxes. The motif regularly pops up as a symbol, in a way that's a bit endearing but not in the least bit subtle.

Sachi's Monstrous Appetite has a lot of concepts I like, but the execution as a character-driven romantic comedy left me feeling a bit deflated. Still, for those interested in gender role reversal, monster girls, and/or bigger girls with smaller boys (minus an actual age gap), all with a dash of body horror, it's easily worth at least a try.

Grade:
Overall : B-
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Gender reversal supernatural rom-com with a subversive streak; monsters are pretty creepy; sets up for more interesting story
a bit limp in execution; lack of chemistry between leads

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Chomoran

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