March 31, 2022

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This Looks Cool: English Release for The Solitary Gourmet


After many years of waiting for The Solitary Gourmet to be published in English, I gave up and ordered it in German. Armed with two years of high school German language classes and my yellow Langenscheidt pocket dictionary, I attempted to follow the protagonist Gorō Inogashira as he travelled around Japan. 

I understood more than I expected, but it was slow going. Lucky for me, and all other fans of Kusumi & Taniguchi’s work, Fanfare/Ponent Mon announced the English release of The Solitary Gourmet not long after I bought the German edition.

Written by Masayuki Kusumi and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi, The Solitary Gourmet is an ode to Japanese cuisine in the vein of Oshinbo or What Did You Eat Yesterday? The context of the story sounds rather mundane. Man travels, gets hungry and eats. Despite this, the manga is super popular in Japan and abroad. It has been translated into 8 languages and in 2012 it was adapted into a drama, which is still airing in Japan.

So what is behind its popularity? I mean, 300 plus pages of inner dialogue about food probably doesn’t sound that interesting to most people. Perhaps it’s popularity lies in how Kusumi and Taniguchi manage to capture a time and place in The Solitary Gourmet. It is not just a story about food, it's a story about neighbourhoods and the people who inhabit them. The book reminds me a lot of the Netflix series City of Ghosts. On the surface, City of Ghosts looks like it’s just a kids’ show, but when you drill down, it’s a love letter to the eclectic neighbourhoods of L.A.

Like City of Ghosts, The Solitary Gourmet offers readers a visual tour of distinct neighbourhoods in Japan. But, The Solitary Gourmet is more than a travelogue. It is also the story of a man. As much as we travel through areas of Japan, we also travel through Inogashira’s memories. The food and surroundings are the gateway to memories of his childhood, his grandfather, and his wife. I am really excited to finally be able to read this in English.

The Solitary Gourmet is slated to be released in late April, and publisher Fanfare/Ponent Mon is going all out with this one. Expect a large sized, hardcover format, with Smyth sewn binding. You usually don’t see this kind of treatment for manga. The only other manga I own that has sewn binding is A Zoo in Winter and A Journal of My Father (also published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon) and Viz Media’s box set of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

The Solitary Gourmet
Art: Jiro Taniguchi
Story: Masayuki Kusumi
Translation: Kumar Sivasubramanian
Published by Fanfare/ PonentMon
Release Date: April 2022