A manga that revolves around an old-fashioned all-night food stall, the various dishes that the stall owner prepares to suit the tastes of different customers, and the joys, griefs, trials and tribulations of his faithful patrons.
Shinya Shokudou isn't your typical run-of-the-mill gag-manga with weird drawings and even weirder characters. It's actually a metaphor for daily life, incorporating all it's hardships and joyful moments, packed tight with a bunch of characters who couldn't be more unique in their weird behaviour and tastes.
The story is told in an episodic style, meaning every chapter is basically a stand-alone story and can be understood without having read any prior chapters (though that may not necessarily be recommended). Typical chapters of this manga consist of an introduction, in which either a certain character or meal is being indroduced, followed by some kind of personal
problem or concern that usually revolves around the characters philosophy of life and lastly, the chapter ends with a revelation that leads to either a meal being given a new way of being served or cooked or a character adapting to a new way of life.
The drawings might appear a bit lackluster at first, but being honest, they are indeed decent at worst. The purpose of depicting emotions and creating atmospheres, that usually underlies manga drawings is definitely met by the art featured in Shinya Shokudou. By no means are those drawings in any way comparable to the art featured in works by Takehiko Inoue or Kentarou Miura, but exactly for that reason does Shinya Shokudou not feature any full-pages or double-spreads and has an average of more than 5 panel per page.
The characters are the real selling point of Shinya Shokudou. Seldom have I seen as diverse a cast as the one featured in this manga. Every new character introduced is a real treasure chest filled with weird eating habits, tastes and background stories as strange as they come. Ranging from Yakuza members to transgender couples, over Mahjong enthusiasts and japanese adult video actors and actresses, every character quickly becomes a part of the world and not rarely also finds a way into the readers heart. As we get an inside into every characters personality through some kind of story, the only story the reader doesn't get a look into, is the story behind the main character. The manga does a good job at letting the reader get a grasp of the protagonists personality only through his behaviour and his reactions.
Not a single time was I bored throughout the whole 29 chapters I read. More than one time did this manga make me laugh out loud and more than one time did I have to shed a tear. The balance between comedy and drama is superb and the dialogues never get boring, despite the huge amount of text sometimes displayed.
Now this might look a bit underwhelming, considering all the praise the manga got from me, but that is due to the fact that I've never rated anything a straight 10/10 and the most common rating manga receive from me range from 1/10 to 4/10. Clearly this manga is not the best, but still in the upper third when it comes down to quality. The awards it received are also very justified and I can only encourage everyone interested in a story that's maybe a tad bit more mature and different than your average battle-shounen to give Shinya Shokudou a try.
Shinya Shokudou is seriously hard to get into, mainly because of the "ugly" art style, but the story is one that you do not want to miss. If you absolutely cannot stand the art, I would direct you to the live action adaptation of Shinya Shokudou, where you will get the story without the bad art.
That being said, even the art is something that I get used to. It wasn't horrible art, it was just not the usual manga style that you are familiar with. However, the art still manage to tell the story visually: the characters are distinguishable, the food looks detailed, and the
emotions are well conveyed.
Shinya Shokudou is what you would call a slice-of-life, I guess, with each chapter telling a story of a customer, relating the food they order. You can really enjoy the story as a simple midnight gossip, or you can read into it and extract the meaning from each stories. What I love about Shinya Shokudou is how the stories are very soothing, easy to follow, and very relatable at times. It really is not trying to force anything upon the reader, or try to be something big. Besides, I love food, so I love any chances to read a food manga.
Overall, I'm quite surprised that this manga gets so little love, and I hope more people would read it.