Review: Hatsukoi Lunch Box

Again with the cooking manga, is it? Well, this is something I picked up randomly, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and read it twice. Weird, huh.

Here’s a look at a manga that’s half shoujo story and half cooking show, Hatsukoi Lunch Box!

Hatsukoi Lunch Box by Kodaka Nao

Summary (MangaFox): Despite the fact her mother’s a model famous for being on the magazine Charisma Housewife, Sae’s usually left home alone, and although she has what classmates call a ‘sub-space stomach’, Sae can’t cook.
In an attempt to help a friend with her love, Sae becomes closer with a classmate named Yuuki, who works at a cafe.
Will Sae actually learn to cook? Will this closeness develop into a one or two-sided love?


That summary made the manga sound a bit…boring, didn’t it. And Hatsukoi Lunch Box IS really fluffy, I’m not gonna lie. But it’s still fun!

The characters in this DO fit into a bunch of established shoujo molds – Sae is the outgoing girl who eats a lot, Yuuki is that kind of generic shoujo hero, Yuuki’s sister is the typical onee-san type, and so on. The people Yuuki and Sae end up helping also fit into those similar kinds of roles as well. It’s not necessarily BAD, but it’s not exactly riveting storytelling either. Basically, no character in this manga is appallingly bad, but no one is particularly memorable either.

After the first chapter, the manga kind of takes on this “monster of the week” kind of setup, where in each chapter, there’s a girl (except for the one guy) who needs help with a relationship, so Sae and Yuuki help them make a unique bento, which when given to the object of affection creates a MAGICAL LOVING COUPLE MOMENT. Fluffy for sure, but it’s all in good fun.

Also, let me just note that the way the author resolved the relationship between Yuuki and his father seemed completely manufactured and artificial. NO BENTO WILL FIX THAT. I’M SORRY. The fact that the dad did a complete 180 is unbelievable and unrealistic.

Let me also say that the bentos in this DO look delicious as well as true to life. There are also detailed recipes at the end of every chapter, so it’s clear that the author did her research here. There also aren’t a lot of kyaraben in this manga, which was what I was expecting when I was reading this, so not seeing an abundance of overly cute Japanese bentos was a good thing.

The art was passably good. The bentos were drawn well, as I said above. The character art was executed well, but wasn’t particularly eye popping either.

Overall, this is a piece of fluff that’s decently enjoyable if you like shoujo. If you’re into variety with more flair, you might want to steer clear of this one.

Score: 6.5/10