After serving his Giba burgers to the Ruu clan, and giving Granny Jiba a new lease on life, Asuta now has to try and convince the head of the family, Donda, that food has more value than just pure sustenance! Now, presented with the challenge of serving the perfect meal and with the many members of the Ruu family divided on taste, Asuta truly has to embrace the responsibilities of serving food for other people.
EDA’s Cooking with Wild Game is an ongoing light novel featuring illustrations by Kochimo. The series is available digitally from J-Novel with translation by Matthew Warner, and this second volume was released in its entirety on digital platforms April 2019.
With the end of the previous book, we see our protagonist feeding the powerful Ruu clan his unusual foreign foods, far beyond the normal type of meals the clan has endured until this point. The start of this book picks up quite literally where the previous ended, with the various members of the Ruu family sharing their thoughts on the meal. For those who liked it, they gift Asuta their blessings of giba horns—a sign of true gratitude and respect. He ends up collecting seven sets of horns in all, with a majority of the family having loved the juicy, tender meal of giba-mince burgers.
Not everyone is as enamored though, and the head of the family, Donda, despises the soft meal; calling it poison for a hunter’s soul. His two oldest sons have a similar distaste, as well as middle sister Lala. The negative feedback upsets Asuta, and he’s eager to make his critics eat their words—formulating a plan to satisfy their contrarian tastes. Thus starts his plans and experimentation, before offering to cook the Ruu family a meal again—this time sure to satisfy everyone. Not one to back down from a challenge, or to be shown up, Donda Ruu gives Asuta one last chance to make a meal; this time for a wedding party of a neighboring family. It’s a real trial by fire, and the Japanese teen has to make sure to not only win over his previous critics, but another stubbornly traditional family head as well!
There’s not a huge amount to summarize in this novel because it really is incredibly straightforward. We see Asuta trying varied cooking techniques with the limited tools he has, and his own realization that being a chef means cooking for others—not just himself. I mentioned in my review of the previous novel that although the premise of Wild Game isn’t wholly original, and that there were a lot of problems I had with the gratuitous descriptions of the female form, there was also potential. The themes of family and challenging gender roles within a strictly gendered society are both things I personally believe this premise and setting could tackle, but unfortunately there’s even less of it in this novel compared to the previous. It’s explained that within the timeline of the books it has only been a 16 day period from Asuta’s arrival in this ‘other world’, but it feels like much, much longer—thanks in part to the plot dragging to a snail’s pace on a constant basis. The overtly gratuitous descriptions of the female characters has only gotten worse, and if I have to read one more description of Vina’s sexy coquettish behavior this decade, it’ll be too soon. Oddly, it isn’t just the beautiful young Ruu daughters (or Ai Fa) of a similar age to our protagonist that get this treatment—even their mother, a woman well into middle-age, is repeatedly physically described whenever she appears. This may be a relic of the online publishing format of the web novel, but it’s something I feel like a more critical editor could have prevented from reaching the published books. (On the Japanese side—I don’t blame the English translation for this.) Repetition is boring, and it feels like a weak attempt to pad the narrative to reach the needed page count.
This is exacerbated by the fact that there is an early scene where Asuta unknowingly enters the bathing area looking for Ai Fa whilst she and all the Fuu sisters are washing. It’s a scheme by the sisters’ youngest brother to get Asuta married into the family, as tradition dictates that any man who sees an unwed girl naked must take responsibility and get married to protect her virtue. It’s a plot device to introduce unnecessary tension between the girls and Asuta, and his emphasis that he ‘only’ saw Ai Fa naked doesn’t really make the situation any less contrived. At least the strange infatuation with Ai Fa’s smell was absent here. (Although who knows for the future!)
The last quarter-ish of the book is dedicated to a prologue short story, set two years prior to Asuta’s arrival. We see Ai Fa having to become self-sufficient after her father’s death, as well as her rejection of the Suun family heir and that aftermath. It expands on the backstory her character was given in the previous book, but I’m not sure it worked in making Ai Fa an interesting or empathetic character overall. It is refreshing to see her unwavering belief in her choices and actions—not willing to accept the idea that she was somehow responsible for nearly being assaulted, which others are trying to push in an attempt to keep the peace. But for all that is good, it’s hard to believe that she so easily transitions to her new life without a father. Sure, there’s the acceptance that all hunters will die in the forest, but we’re supposed to believe it’s only been two days since her father’s death and she’s past mourning it? At fifteen and all alone in the world? Ai Fa’s an incredibly independent and capable young woman, but her internal dialogue doesn’t feel genuine to such a life-changing event. It’s also incredibly annoying reading her endless emphasis that ‘she’s not even pretty’ which, from my experience, will always feel like fishing for reassurance.
The second book in this series unfortunately dropped many of the potentially interesting themes presented in the first in exchange for excruciatingly mediocre fish-out-of-water humor and nudity jokes. The main plot line of convincing the stubborn authorities set in their ways was solved exactly as expected, and with an ease that immediately removes any tension. Even the short story addition to Ai Fa’s past doesn’t give us much more likable insight to her character, even when she’s claiming her independence. I’m clearly not the target audience for this book, but even the small bit of goodwill from the previous volume was squandered pretty immediately here.
Gee’s Rating: Not recommended, unless you’re really desperate to read about a mother’s greying hair and strong figure five times.
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