When I went over the books I read in 2010, I realized I only read one manga volume all year (and not a very good one at that). So at the start of the year, I decided to get my manga fix early on — I finished reading nine volumes of Kitchen Princess in January!

I discovered Kitchen Princess (manga by Natsumi Ando, story by Miyuki Kobayashi) a couple of years ago after I got the first volume on Bookmooch. Initially I just wanted to try it out, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to read the rest of the series.

I couldn’t find the other volumes on BookMooch or the local bookstores, but well, an e-reader opens up a whole lot of possibilities.

Kitchen Princess is shoujo manga (manga for girls) about Najika, the new girl at the elite Seika Academy for gifted students. Najika is on a scholarship to pursue her culinary skills and become the world’s greatest pastry chef like her late parents. But she has one other goal — to find her Flan Prince. Many years ago, the newly-orphaned Najika meets a boy who saves her from falling into a river and comforts her in her sadness by giving her a bowl of flan. Her only clue to his identity is a silver spoon embossed with the Seika academy logo.

But Najika has more pressing problems to deal with. Rival brothers Sora and Daichi, the most popular boys in school, have been vying for her attention, causing conflict with her jealous classmates. Najika must find a way to fit in in her new school, fulfill her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef, and find the boy who has been her inspiration for the past ten years.

I enjoyed readingĀ Kitchen Princess because the story runs in just ten volumes (47 chapters), which is quite manageable to collect physically (and cost-wise), unlike other mangas that run to several dozen volumes.

Najika is also a very likeable character, whose love for cooking food stems from the pleasure it brings people who eat the food she makes. That, and her “absolute sense of taste” (an uncanny ability to detect even the slightest flavor) makes her a formidable force in the kitchen, as seen in the various cook-offs she triumphs in throughout the series.

The story is generally light and humorous, except for one chapter (and I won’t say what happens), in which a terrible thing happens and my mouth hung open in shock before I promptly burst into tears (waaaah). I did not see that coming, as I didn’t expect that sort of thing happens generally in a shoujo manga, but it did give some depth to the characters and propelled the story along nicely: Najika finds the confidence to prove her potential as a pastry chef, and she builds a friendship with her toughest school rivals. Najika’s search for the Flan Prince also packs some surprising twists (and lots of warm and fuzzy moments), building the suspense and the romance for the final revelation (squeee!).

Bonus: each chapter has an illustrated recipe section, where you can try to recreate the food that Najika makes in the story!

Kitchen Princess is the first manga series I ever finished (and it’s darn good shoujo manga!), and I was sad to see it end.

***

Kitchen Princess Volumes 2 to 10

series rating 4.5/5 stars

Books 3-11 for 2011

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