Unagi (eel) is the subject of U, a manga series currenly running in the weekly manga magazine Morning. I first came across it last Saturday and it has invaded my week. The hero of U, Shotaro, is obsessed with eel. His life revolves around it. When asked by his fiancée to choose between their wedding and eel, he can`t; he tells her: “They are two different things altogether. Weddings are weddings. Eel is eel.” A point well-made.
Shotaro is eccentric and independent – and he`s an inspiration. He knows what he wants – eel – and he gets it when he wants it – every episode. Perhaps manga is the only real home for true heroes.
His relentless enthusiasm is infectious. Drawings of skewered eel resting on the grill are enough to kickstart my cravings. Yodare ga deru (the mouth waters). Right now I am researching unagiya around my Nishiogi guesthouse.
Shotaro is a fanatic: he even carries around maisansho (his own canister of the Japanese pepper commonly used with eel) for those rare occasions when the restaurant`s pepper “tastes like sawdust”. As if carrying around maihashi (your own pair of chopsticks) isn`t extreme enough. I doubt maisansho would get through airport security.
In a recent episode, the 88th, Shotaro attends a hoji, a Buddhist ceremony commemorating the 13th year of his mum`s uncle`s death. He goes not out of respect for his deceased relative, who he`d only met once, but because the post-ceremony dinner is at an unagi restaurant. The man has no shame – good on him.
88 episodes and the series is still going strong. “The world of eel-eating is okufukai (deep), ” declared one of Shotaro`s chums.
Of course, all the plots are shallow – but that`s the attraction.