Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You Volume 1 Review

A salaryman’s life can be tough in Japan and Sasaki, having reached the age of forty-five, is feeling the pressure of working hard in an office environment with an unsympathetic boss.

But the one ray of sunshine in his life is going to the supermarket on his way home because the girl on the checkout register #2, Miss Yamada, is always cheerful and smiling as she scans his purchases. He’s aware, of course, that he’s dropping by every evening to get his ‘Miss Yamada-fix’ but can’t break the habit. But when one evening after an especially stressful day, Miss Yamada isn’t on the tills, his disappointment is so great that he absent-mindedly lights up outside the store in a No Smoking zone. Fleeing the disapproving glares, he’s surprised when a young woman beckons to him from behind the supermarket, saying, “Pray come and smoke with me, good sir.” Warily, he asks if she won’t get into trouble for letting a non-employee join her behind the store and she assures him it’s fine; it seems she needed a light and spotted him, so called him over. As they smoke side by side, she suddenly says bluntly, “So Yamada’s your favorite, then?” and he overreacts, to her evident amusement. Next time he visits the store, there’s Miss Yamada at the cash register and when she says, beaming, “Tayama told me everything. I was tickled pink… to hear you’re a fan of mine” he’s so embarrassed, he drops his points card. But now he knows the name of his mysterious companion… and only wonders for a moment how she knew his name the night before. The staff obviously discuss the customers, he assumes, before dismissing the thought.

Mr. Sasaki and Miss Tayama continue to meet to smoke together and he begins to tell her about his troubles at work; he’s especially bothered when he makes a new employee cry. Outgoing Miss Tayama with her piercings and leather jacket doesn’t hesitate to encourage him to smile more, demonstrating with a dazzling smile (a little like Miss Yamada’s, how strange!) and they continue to meet up to smoke and chat until one night Mr. Sasaki arrives (with a gift) to find an older, forbidding bespectacled woman vaping there. She threatens to call the cops and when he mentions Miss Tayama, she claims she has no idea who he’s talking about. He leaves the gift with her and hurries away. When we next see the older woman, she’s having words with Miss Yamada. We’ve guessed, of course, but now there’s no denying it as we witness the store manager telling her employee not to tease the customer by pretending to be someone else; the only one who hasn’t made the connection is Mr. Sasaki! Quite how long Miss Yamada can continue the charade before Mr. Sasaki guesses her true identity is anyone’s guess…

If you can put to one side your issues (if you have them) with a manga built around smoking – and there’s even a chapter in which Mr. Sasaki decides to give up smoking after a health scare (he’s forty-five, after all) – Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You is a rather charming, gentle slice-of-life comedy about a May-December friendship. Friendship, because even though Miss Tayama loves to tease Mr. Sasaki (and he’s always blushing) he’s very honourable in his interactions with her. And – as far as we can tell – he really still hasn’t realized that his refreshing Miss Yamada and the sassy Miss Tayama are one and the same person. It’s not until the end of the volume (Smoke 0) that we learn about a much earlier incident in which a man defended Miss Yamada when a serial complaining customer was telling her off (yet again) for no good reason while the queue built up behind him. She and the manager were both on the tills at the time. Could it be that her knight in shining armour was Mr. Sasaki?

This is the first of Jinushi’s manga to be published in English and it’s currently at four volumes and ongoing. Quite how the mangaka – who has a great gift for reaction faces and the timing of reveals which is essential for any kind of comedy manga – is going to spin out this tale of good-hearted teasing, I can’t predict but it will be fun finding out. It began life as a Twitter manga but went on to win the 2022 Next Manga Award for webcomics (Kaiju No. 8 won the preceding year).

Square Enix manga are publishing Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You in a mass market paperback edition, rather than their more familiar trade paperback format as used in A Man & His Cat. The translation, which suits the humour very well, is by Amanda Haley and the lettering which deftly supports the translation (especially some of the more extreme reactions) is by Kyla Aiko. Volume 2 is due out in May 2024. Each relatively short chapter is followed by a one-page extra entitled ‘After Smoke’ and there’s a colour page at the beginning.

The good-hearted, much put-upon, world-weary Mr. Sasaki comes across as rather endearing – whereas Manager Goto and Miss Yamada/Tayama are maybe a little too fond of teasing their loyal customer. This series will definitely appeal to those who enjoy a slice-of-life comedy with a will-he, won’t-he? vibe that finds plenty of involving human interest down at the local supermarket.

A free preview of the volume can be found on the publisher’s website here.

Our review copy from Square Enix Manga was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).

8 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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