This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series A Stomachful of Secret Delights. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to possible statutory rape, implied molestation between minors, dubious consent, sexual assault, unsafe sexual practices, chronic medical problems, anxiety, codependency, manipulation, possessive relationships, mental illness, obsessive relationships, and grooming, as it appears in the manga.
This is the sequel to Saving My Favorite For Last.
Melo suffers from intense anxiety. His anxiety is so strong that he suffers from chronic hematuria, which puts his health on a major decline. The reason for his anxiety? It could be anything, but the main culprit is his lover Noris. They've been together for as long as Melo can remember, having been childhood friends because their families were close. From the moment Melo saw Noris eat his food with a smile on his face, Melo made it his mission to marry Noris.
So far, so good, until Melo catches Noris smiling at his new coworker. Melo has never had competition before, having thoroughly monopolized all of Noris's affection for himself. Melo's anxiety has reached a fever pitch with a few new suitors hanging around. Not even his meds can stave away the stress anymore, and with the increased pressure, so follows the steep decline of his health. Will Melo be able to keep his one love to himself, or will he die before he even gets the chance?
The art is identical to how it was in the first volume, which I am happy about. We've got beautiful cat men, but it's still in that sketchy style. I like it. It's very different from the usual clean manga that I'm used to. It's refreshing in that way. Unfortunately, we are starting to run into the issue with some multi-generational stories like this one where everyone is starting to look the same, and it's hard to keep up with family trees since the families are just getting bigger and bigger. Thankfully, there is a very helpful family tree at the very end, but it's not much help when you're in the midst of the stories.
As much as I loved the first one, this one was not nearly as romantic or satisfying. Almost every couple includes one of the kids from the original couples in the first volume, which isn't a problem. I love multi-generational storylines. However, most of the couplings are made up of one of the kids plus one of the parent's friends or coworkers (except for one couple, which we'll get into). I'm all for an age gap, but this feels pedophilic or grooming-ish because they met each other when the kids were babies, and the adults were… adults. It's just uncomfortable. They all appear to wait until the kids are adults to pursue anything, but it's still just weird to me. I get that this is a fantasy world with cat people and isn't all that serious, but it does make me uncomfortable, and I think it's important to talk about it for anyone else who may be bothered by this kind of content.
One of the other couples is between two of the kids, which is better age-wise, but there is this super weird moment where it implies that the elder of the two children molested the younger one when they were kids to groom him and tie him to him. So, as if the last thing wasn't problematic enough already, now we have kids molesting each other. Thankfully we don't see it playing out, but the fact that it is still implied is disturbing enough. What's worse is that it isn't presented seriously but as more of a joke or something we are supposed to perceive as cute. I don't care for this. I get it, it's fiction, but it's still disturbing to me, and I don't want to pretend that it's not just because they're not real.
For me, the most tolerable story was Kazuya and Luke's A Stomachful of Beloved Delights, which was between one of the kids from the main couple in the previous volume, Kazuya, and a coworker of Noah's, Luke. The main reason it seems like the most tolerable is that it doesn't seem like Luke had a hand in raising Kazuya, so it doesn't feel as much like grooming. This story also shows nice character growth. Luke suffers from separation anxiety disorder. I can't speak to how accurately it's depicted, but it was nice to see him trying to control his disorder and separate himself from Kazuya. Unfortunately, Kazuya doesn't like him doing that, and love bombs him to convince Luke that Luke can't live without him. So even the most tolerable story is a toxic cherry on a problematic cake.
Don't get me wrong. I am fine with fiction depicting problematic content. I just have particular types of content I don't care for, and this one just happened to have it in spades.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I loved the first volume of this series so, so much, and I was so looking forward to reading this one. But, in the end, this one was so uncomfortable and just too weird for me to enjoy to any extent. The adults were toxic, the kids ended up being toxic, and I just don't understand why when it could have easily been made into something sweet and innocent that developed into really nice relationships that brought the families together. So, if, like me, you are disturbed by this content, give this volume a skip. I have read the next one and will provide a review of that soon.
Have you read A Stomachful of Secret Delights? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!