Original Novel: In Key-Young
Artist: Studio Weiib
Publisher: Kidari Studio Inc.
WHAT IS IT?
The Gourmet Gamer is a webtoon* about a chef who steps into the world of virtual reality gaming. A heartwarming sci-fi/fantasy with big action and sharp comedy.
Think Sword Art Online or .HACK//SIGN meets Leveling Up, by Only Eating! or Food Wars (without the adult-leaning themes).
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Rim is a talented, well-respected chef who is passionate about food. He has dedicated every waking moment to his craft, won several awards, and thinks of nothing but his next dish. After a car accident renders him without his sense of taste and smell, Rim finds himself sinking into depression. Just as all hope seems to vanish, he’s introduced to an MMORPG** called [Real] that promises the most immersive experience in all of gaming through a revolutionary technology that enhances the senses.
Desperate to experience taste one last time, he takes a leap of faith and steps inside the V.R. world. Overwhelmed by the resurfacing of his lost sense of taste and smell, Rim immediately starts to cook. The other players take notice and are blown away by his delicious cooking.
Under the username “Rice,” Rim becomes an overnight sensation in the world of [Real] and befriends several other players along his journey who help revitalize his spirit. The heartbroken chef realizes that his life may not be as tragic as he believed.
In Key-Young very clearly set out to make a story that gamers of any kind or skillset will appreciate. The comedic tone and language used feels right at home in a game lobby filled with energetic people. The characters (both main and background) were given bright personalities and you can tell that the story of redemption and hope is a key theme in the narrative.
Studio Weiib has taken care to differentiate between the real world and the game world through the artistic choices. Both have a classic anime aesthetic, but the use of color palettes, tones, and details used for reality and in-game stand out and really help sell the believability of two different worlds.
Rim’s story is touching. It’s one of loss and the need to fill the void that comes alongside it. Both his character and his struggle are portrayed in a way that feels human. His journey back to stability and a healthier mindset is a journey many will relate to.
Every aspect of the MMORPG is convincing and satisfying. The character customization, the skill upgrades, and inventory/in-game text screens all feel as though they could actually be utilized in a real computer game. It adds to the immersion and gamers who have a love for MMOs will appreciate the design choices.
The subtle pixelated effects on objects like fire and weapons enhance the game segments, it adds to the vibrancy of the setting and portrays movement to the scenes that feel authentic for an in-game world without beating you over the head with it.
The illustrations of food are simply mouthwatering, it's one of the highlights of the series.
Gamers who have spent countless hours in MMORPGs will get a kick out of the starting enemies being chickens. I legitimately laughed out loud when I saw this and was instantly brought back to the early days of Runescape (it’s the little things that make the world so authentic).
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Some mild language, fantasy violence and blood, conversations about depression, and use of alcohol (recommended for teens).
This webtoon recently got its official Western release on Lezhin. The real meat of the story (pun intended) has yet to reveal itself, so we still have a lot to learn about the world and its characters. If you are interested in a complete experience you will have to wait.
The "prologue" is set sometime after the main story has already begun and is not necessary. While it does give some exposition on the world of [Real] (almost like a game trailer), it drops you into a time when Rim's celebrity status is established as is his renewed sense of life. It detracts from the journey he goes on and is a bit of a jarring transition going into the first episode since there's such a drastic tonal shift.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Though the concept may seem a bit silly at first, there’s something captivating and heartwarming about The Gourmet Gamer. When Rim first steps into the world of [Real], you get a sense of empathetic joy at his chance to experience what had been taken from him, even though you barely know him as a character at that point. There’s a power to the art and narrative that draws you in from moment one and makes the reader root for Rim’s happiness as he pulls himself out of his rut. Anyone who has used video games as a healthy escapism from rough patches in life will understand and appreciate the story. It leaves you with a sense of hope and joy right out of the gate.
A recent release to Lezhin's collection, this comedic fantasy series will bring a smile to your face. The original Korean title is Sigsahago Gaseyo!, which translates to "Eat and Go!" Plus, the ongoing series currently has over forty episodes, so you can prepare for a hearty narrative. Filled with chicken cutlet air raids, a sparkly spider princess, and epic sessions of monster hunting, the world of [Real] and its players is quirky and immersive. The charming cast amplifies the heartwarming story and the underlying mystery of [Real] adds to the binge-ability of the series. Expansive fantasy settings, video game antics, and drool-worthy food illustrations galore, gamers and foodies alike will love The Gourmet Gamer.
In the immortal words of Rim himself, "Chicken is love, chicken is life!"
HOW DO I READ IT?
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*Webtoon - term for digital comics that originated in Korea, created specifically for scrolling on mobile devices
** MMORPG - massive multiplayer online role playing game