This series was truely a delight to read! I've finished all of what I could read (it's on-going and the next vol won't be released til 2023). I read the first vol in person (I had bought the book awhile ago and never got around to reading it until today) and read the rest online. Holy, this manga is amazing! The art is beautiful and the characters designs are beautiful aswell. The characters have personality and there's quite a lot of characters, which I really liked! The only reason I rated the story 9/10 and not 10/10 is that I'd have liked to see a bit more development between the main character, Aoi, and her (possible) future husband. Either way, I definitely reccomend reading the manga. I don't know how the anime is but I saw how the anime had colored some of the characters and I don't even want to watch it... Oh, also, I liked that the main character was an adult and not a teenager like some other series.
Anyways, I def reccomend you read this!
Our protagonist is Aoi Tsubaki, a spiritually gifted human. Fe has been spirited away to Kakuriyo, the realm of the ayakashi (a broad term for spirits and yokai and stuff), and has the option of either working off feir recently deceased grandfather's debt or marrying the Odanna. Feir grandfather, Shiro, had been notorious among the ayakashi for being difficult to handle, free-spirited, and kind. People keep telling Aoi that fe reminds them of Shiro---which isn't entirely a complimentary thing to say. Most of the chapters involve Aoi cooking some sort of dish and serving it to someone, at times as a way to build bonds or alliances. I'm actually surprised that this series doesn't have the "Food and Beverage" tag, considering how prominent and central the cooking is. It's best seen as a cooking manga that happens to be set in the spirit realm. Eventually, Aoi opens up a restaurant in an isolated part of the Tenjin-Ya inn compound, and impressed feir customers with home-cooked meals and a cooking style that blends innovation with tradition.
There have been a few storylines so far, each involving some sort of drama or interpersonal tension that needs to get resolved. We see relationships being built and grown, secrets being shared, backstories being revealed. They've been pretty decent storylines. But long-term, the intrigue has mainly been sustained by a few different aspects. The first is obviously the inevitable romance between Aoi and the Odanna which we shoujo manga readers can see coming a mile away, but which hasn't even gotten close to blossoming yet. Then there's the mystery of the Noh-masked ayakashi from Aoi's childhood, whose identity has been hinted at but not confirmed as of yet. And there's some broader world-building aspects that have been brought up but not yet explored--like the various other realms or even just the other domains within the Kakuriyo realm--which creates a subtle hope/expectation that some of those areas will be visited at some point. There's also a magical hairpin which is slowly blossoming over the course of the series, and if I remember right, is acting as a countdown for when the debt needs to be paid off by.
The faraway shots make it clear that some of the buildings and items are pasted from pictures or some sort of 3D generator or something. The texturing on these shots looks grainy and pixellated, and the outlines are thin to nonexistent. The food items can have a similar problem.
[Reviewed at chapter 30]