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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
9th-Aug-2007 01:01 pm
Okay, on to 23 Skidoo. I swear, those girls are nothing but trouble. Mr. Gallant tends to come out looking older than I think he is, but maybe I'll just deal with that by making him older in the script. It'll be a while before we get to his whole backstory.


And of course you want to keep up on the ongoing Arctic adventures of William Bazillion!

Right, Overlooked Manga Festival time.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: cooking manga is awesome. I don't know why comics about cooking haven't caught on in other cultures. Who the hell doesn't like tasty food? Today's OMF selection has appeared in this blog once before, as a runner-up in the Great Manga Bake-Off, but I thought I'd buckle down and discuss it in a little more detail. Because it's hell of funny.

Yakitate! Japan is more than just a cooking manga: it's a comedy cooking manga. Except that, unlike 99% of comedy manga, it's actually funny. Occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, even. It's probably funnier if you're at least vaguely familiar with Shonen Jump-style tournament manga wherein purehearted tween heroes battle to become the best at something, all the while heralding the ethos of Friendship, Effort, and Victory...but even if you're not, you'll probably still laugh. It's got something for everyone, whether you enjoy women in dominatrix gear or in-depth discussions of modern yeast research.

The story is simple. Perpetually chipper Kazuma Azuma is really into bread, an odd passion in Japan, where bread is not a staple food. Conducting baking experiments on his own, Kazuma dreams of inventing "Ja-pan," the national bread of Japan, which will take its place aside great national breads like Italian bread and French bread. (Pan is Japanese for "bread," so this is an hilarious pun. The Japanese love puns, apparently just because it makes English translators cry.)

In pursuit of his dream, Kazuma wins a job at a small branch of the huge, elite bakery chain Pantasia. There, he and his fellow bakers compete with rival bakeries to produce the finest bread in Japan. That's right, it's a manga about baking bread. With thrilling bread-baking battles. If you think that's weird, you haven't read enough manga. Among the untranslated manga I've flipped through recently are a manga about the role of bacteria in the food service industry and a manga about the real-life adventures of a train otaku (that is, a guy who's a hardcore geek about trains, like the British trainspotters). They are both AWESOME.

Also, if it helps, Yakitate! Japan is fully aware that it's insane. Check out this dude's martial-arts bread training:

But the bread really is tasty-looking, and the battles are at least sort of plausibly based on the principles of real baking. There are even recipes you can try yourself!

And in time you can work your way up to THE GREATEST CROISSANT IN THE UNIVERSE.

Everything in Yakitate! Japan is decided in high-stakes competitions, which actually isn't entirely unlike the reality of Japanese professional cooking. Cooking is one of a handful of careers in Japan that still follows the traditional system of apprenticeship, so if you want to become a chef you have to start at the bottom and work your way up via tests of cookery against other apprentice chefs. This is part of the reason for the mystique surrounding chefs of all varieties in Japanese pop culture. Admittedly, in reality there's slightly less chance that one of your competitors will be an enormous man in a smiling koala mask, but them's the breaks.

The competitions keep getting crazier and the baking stakes just keep rising, and, by Volume 6 or so, people are literally dying from the tastiness of the breads.

It's all done with tongue firmly in cheek, and with a lot of fourth-wall-breaking humor in which the characters themselves comment on the absurdity of their situation and suggest plot developments.

The manga even provides its own American adaptation, the story of an American boy obsessed with cooking the ultimate rice.

Artist "Dave Hashiguchi" shows up later in Yakitate! as the famous creator of many popular cooking manga, but the years, I fear, have not been kind.

Yakitate! Japan isn't by any means the insanest cooking manga. That might just be the great Iron Wok Jan. Yakitate! is more self-aware, more deliberately parodying its source material and poking fun at itself. It's surprisingly smart, but also bright and cheerful. And the bread looks damn good. Cooking manga rules.

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators
Mariko Parade
Golgo 13
Ricca 'tte Kanji!?
Pure Trance
OMF Special Event: My Legacy
OMF Special Event: An All-Star Tribute to Carl Gustav Horn
Guest OMF by Jason Thompson: 888
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
Tekkon Kinkreet

9th-Aug-2007 09:11 pm (UTC)
"Tom Cruiso"?

9th-Aug-2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
that is so wrong.

I love it.
9th-Aug-2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
Y'know, if DC or Marvel were to publish a comic book all about cooking, I'd be so there!

Who wouldn't want recipes from Alfred and Jarvis? Or Ma Kent and Aunt May?
9th-Aug-2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
I've been trying to convince the relatively normal guys at work how awesome an anime about bread could be, but they just won't listen. -_-

That said, I've only seen the anime, but Man if that bonus material isn't tempting.
9th-Aug-2007 10:56 pm (UTC)
SPOILER, kinda.

Why does Kawachi want to win the prize money from the Pantasia newcomers tournament?

Because he kneads the dough.
9th-Aug-2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
10th-Aug-2007 06:11 am (UTC)

10th-Aug-2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
Dude, even a manga artist should know that yeasts are considered fungi.
16th-Jul-2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
Yeasts are fungi. WHAT IS NAKED Without clothes. NAKED WHAT IS NAPSTER Napster is a file sharing program for swapping MP3 music files.
10th-Aug-2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
Still and all, this looks like the best manga ever!
16th-Jul-2008 03:51 am (UTC)
An Arina Tanemura manga without fluff is like…a CLAMP manga without a OMGWTF twist. It doesn’t really happen.
9th-Oct-2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Haine still getting all flustered and blushy when she screws up and Taka-kun catches her. These two are just a great couple.
10th-Aug-2007 02:40 pm (UTC) - Amazon links?
It seems that every time you put up an Overlooked Manga feature, I'm scrambling to find the books on Amazon. Have you ever thought about putting up the links to the books through a referral account and making some money off of it?
12th-Aug-2007 10:40 am (UTC)
"You have a rare gift. Why must you waste time mastering the Path of Bread?!"
"Kai. Life itself... it is the reason."

Heh. Great stuff.

I haven't looked much at Smithson yet, but I guess I have to soon. I've missed almost all of your non-narbonic comics so far, but I'm hoping Narbonic withdrawal and handy links on this blog will bring me to the excellence I'm sure is there.
20th-Dec-2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
Great comic

31st-Dec-2009 09:06 am (UTC)
This panel pretty much sold me on the series, so I just HAD to make a livejournal icon:

made by diligentsesame
8th-Jun-2010 03:58 am (UTC)
You can buy Yakitate! Japan at manga comic

Andy Landers


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