There’s something truly special about food that brings people together. Whether it’s enjoying a warm meal together with friends and family, or having a quick snack while out on your travels, enjoying food can really help define our experiences, making a good day better or bad day into something far more manageable.
Full disclosure: I absolutely ADORE anime and manga that use food as their focus or make food into a narrative instrument to help navigate difficult themes. I can’t explain what it is, but the sense of comfort and warmth they bring to the reader or viewer is unrivalled and helps undercut their often comedic or melancholic plots. I challenge you to watch Sweetness and Lightning or Restaurant to Another World and not feel an innate sense of calm wash over you from their one-of-a-kind experiences!
So, then, today on our trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that we’ll be visiting a manga that uses a very particular food type to help craft its unique brand of calming comedy – that being the manga Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles. Now then, without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
The story begins with us meeting one of our main recurring characters for the volume, high school student Yu Osawa who, when on her way home from school, runs into the new transfer student and titular protagonist of this manga, Ms. Koizumi, outside a very popular ramen restaurant.
Excited at the chance to become closer with the beautiful Koizumi and to hopefully become friends (read: Galpals), Yu gets a little carried away and, much to Koizumi’s annoyance, the pair enter the restaurant.
What follows is comedic gold.
The demure, stoic and silent beauty that is Ms. Koizumi proceeds to order a huge bowl of ramen, a meal she polishes off with ease, all with a face showcasing her utter ecstasy, shattering any preconceptions we have for her character.
Thus begins our tale where, at the centre of every interaction, Ms. Koizumi is always in pursuit of new and exciting ramen dishes. While the comedy is often linked to a knowledge of ramen that a Western readership may not be all that familiar with, there are some truly hilarious moments that caught me off guard. The information about the different ramen is also very interesting and in more than one instance, made for an unintentionally hilarious moment that made me belly laugh!
In truth, one of the most endearing aspects of this manga is just how central the food is in helping build bonds between the cast and how well the meals are selected to help move the story along. Whether it’s bonding over a shared love of bizarre pineapple ramen, or allowing the all too real pain of a breakup finally surface thanks to a painfully spicy bowl of noodles, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles crafts a narrative experience that’s as engaging as it is amusing to read thanks to its expert blend of storytelling and design – a rare treat.
Speaking of design, while Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles isn’t the most visually impressive manga at first glance, stepping almost into the realm of mediocre, it’s the moments where characters hunger is at last satiated, however, that we can truly feel the passion that author and illustrator Naru Narumi has for ramen noodles.
Characters are rendered in an unassuming style that neither makes them wholly unique nor wholly forgettable. But it is thanks to this sweet, simple and unassuming style that the more exuberant moments create as big an impression as they do.
On multiple occasions throughout this first volume of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles, characters will dive headfirst into their ramen – and I mean that figuratively, of course, even if some of the dishes are big enough to feed a small continent! The act of eating is emphasised with one- or even two-page spreads, highlighting the dramatic, over-the-top linework more reminiscent of a shonen battle manga or the soothing warmth so often found in the pages of the most comfortable shojo romance.
While some of the characters suffer from “ahegao” (or for the uninitiated, what I like to call hentai face) when eating, it genuinely translates well to convey the characters’ enjoyment and the running joke thanks to Ms. Koizumi’s otherwise stony-faced exterior.
It’s these moments that help carve Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles identity as something entirely unique. This manga is a labour of love crafted by a ramen lover to help showcase what ramen can inspire, whether it’s a warm and homely environment or one of dramatic tension and intense concentration. And this love oozes from every single panel of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles.
As far as first volumes go, Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles has a lot of potential. The humour, when it lands, is rib-crackingly funny. Whether you should pick up this manga, however, is based entirely on how you enjoy its unique style of comedy, so it’s one that I recommend, but please know that it certainly won’t be for everyone. I have a lot of hope for where this series is going in future volumes, and I for one can’t wait to have another serving of Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles real soon!
With all that being said, thanks again for joining us on this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and we hope you’ve enjoyed your time here. If you did, that’s amazing, and please consider sharing. If you didn’t, then please get in touch and let us know why. We would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you all once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!