The premise of Shinya Shokudo (literally, "Midnight Eatery") is incredibly simple: Every day after midnight, different motley crews of characters enter a tiny eatery called Shinya Shokudo, where they share their life stories. Yet the takeaway message from each episode can be remarkably profound, leaving behind an indelible mark in the readers’ hearts.
Every story begins with one customer ordering his or her favorite dish. Before long, we get a glimpse into the customer's life as he or she regales the owner and other customers with anecdotes of his or her past and present.
Never mind that the characters are individually unique; their shared response over the themes of love, loss and hope ties them together. It’s safe to say that few manga artists are able to capture the moving complexities of human connection as beautifully and cleverly as Yaro Abe has with Shinya Shokudo.
Perhaps that’s what makes this manga series so popular among readers not only in Japan but across Asia. It’s also been made into a Japanese drama series, the fourth season of which is scheduled to debut on Netflix in October 2016.
We spoke to the artist behind these richly layered characters to find out more.
Interview with Yaro Abe
What inspired you to come up with the concept behind Shinya Shokudo?
When I debuted as a cartoonist/manga artist, I struggled a lot because editors often rejected my ideas. Then one day, an editor suggested that I draw cartoons related to food. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it initially. After much thought, however, I figured the story would work if it revolved around the concept of an izakaya, which is a type of Japanese restaurant that only opens late at night.
How do you decide on the dishes and themes featured in the series?
First, I look at the timing and seasonality to narrow down the types of dishes suitable for each episode. Once I’ve decided on the dish, I think of a character whose story would be most interesting and fitting with the dish. Then once the character and his story are fixed, it would more or less set the tone for the theme of the story.
Read the rest of the interview at Oishii below!