The moment I saw Superman soaring to Japan at superspeed for his one-hour lunch break from The Daily Planet, I fell in love with Superman vs. Meshi. Superman racing to eat his favorite food and get back to work on time? He’s just like me for real! Okay, not exactly, but we do share a fondness for Japanese food as evidenced by his mealtime adventures in this one-of-a-kind book. Out of the way, super-villains. From now on, I just want to see Superman take on lunch. It’s as deliciously wholesome as it sounds.
Superman vs. Meshi is a slice-of-life manga by Satoshi Miyagawa and Kai Kitago that’s now getting published in English. (The title roughly translates to “Superman vs. Food.”) The delightful comic takes the Man of Steel to Japan to try out the local restaurant chains. He learns not just about traditional dishes and their flavors, but also how to order them.
A self-proclaimed addict of meals like yakitori—grilled chicken on a skewer—Superman gets so excited when he tries some particularly delicious new Japanese food that his powers spontaneously activate. He also chides himself for acting like an excitable Kansas farm boy, an adorable trait that I hope makes it into the mainstream DC Universe.
One of my favorite things about Superman vs. Meshi is how Kitago wonderfully captures the likenesses of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder for his Clark and Lois. I can’t stop imagining the iconic Superman of the 1980s closing his eyes with a contented sigh as he takes a bite of his lunch. The rest of the Justice League look more similar to their recent film counterparts, a memorable mix of past and present.
Superman vs. Meshi proves once again that not every superhero story needs high stakes to be an enjoyable read, and everyday trials and tribulations can still be a fascinating peek into a hero’s personality. Superman is just as timid as us non-superheroes when entering a new restaurant for the first time. The likes of Brainiac and Lex Luthor don’t faze Superman, but the very idea of interrupting a busy server does! As a result, Superman feels more human than ever. He’s thoughtful and introverted. The Man of Steel even gets hangry, although it only lasts for a minute or two.
In the first three chapters—now available on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE—Superman tries yakitori, a pork bowl and a tempura bowl. He takes a moment to appreciate every single bite of food. We get to hear his innermost thoughts like never before as he analyzes the combination of textures and flavors in each dish. (He addresses himself as Clark in these monologues, which is another one of my favorite things.)
Honestly, it’s all pretty remarkable and it begs a good question: When was the last time you slowed down and just enjoyed a quiet lunch by yourself, reveling in the simple pleasure of good food? We’re always “too busy” for stuff like that. And yet, if Superman—the world’s most beloved and important superhero—can take an hour each day to do it, surely we can too. Whatever our problems are, whether they’re stopping Doomsday’s latest attack or simply getting that report or project done in time, it can wait until we’ve taken a small break for ourselves. It’s such an important thing, and yet it’s far too rare. Superheroes are supposed to inspire us and lead by example. Miyagawa and Kitago are just making the case that they can do that in small, everyday ways as well.
This manga series isn’t like any other Superman comic I’ve read before…and that’s a great thing! Superman vs. Meshi shines a spotlight on Japanese food and culture through Superman’s eyes, and I enjoyed discovering them along with him. Because Superman is such a well-known character, these culinary adventures do a good job making Japan feel more accessible for us Westerners in the real world—or, at the least, just a little more familiar. Whether you pick up this series for the culture or for a new way to see your favorite superhero in action, you’ll walk away feeling just as satisfied as Superman when he polishes off a super-sized pork bowl.
Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for DC.com and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and pop culture.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Kelly Knox and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.