Iron Wok Jan Vol. #23 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Translated by:Carolyn Johnson
Adapted by:Ken Li
What They Say
Just when Ransei Kou thinks he's got the cooking competition semi-final in the palm of his hand - and ready to leave Jan behind in the dust - he finds out his score is... 95 points?! How can that be? And what is the competition going to do about the tie between Jan and Kou? A triple-play-off final?! And the theme... ostrich?! What's Otani got up his sleeve this time?
Iron Wok Jan! returns, after what was a thrilling but overdone shark battle, with a frustrating and misleading ostrich cook-off. Personally, I like my cooking manga to be overflowing with factual tidbits I can employ in my own cooking. With this latest arc, I the mangaka throws the book away to make a simple and increasingly popular ingredient more "exotic" than it already is. IWJ jumped the shark long before he cooked it, but with this latest battle the manga is not only a little stale, it might be rotten.
The scores are in and Jan has squeaked into the finals by the slimmest of margins. His placing in the finals could be considered a surprise but not as big a shock as the choice for the final ingredient. Ostrich is not only health conscious but taste conscious and because of the hearty nature of the bird potentially ecologically viable in a number of climates and terrains. However, as Jan and Kiriko find out actually getting edible meat from these giant birds may not be possible for the temperamental chefs from Gobancho.
There is no doubt that a cook's attitude can change the flavor of a dish. As Gobancho Kiriko has said throughout this series "cooking is about heart". Still, can a cook's temperament change the physical properties of individual ingredients? Kiriko and Jan can make good dishes with their choice cuts, but they somehow cannot make the meat itself edible. Could the butcher have made a mistake? It is possible that there is a type of meat that cannot be prepared in Chinese cuisine? Or is there something else to this? People swear ostrich is the meat of the next century. There must be a way to make it edible.
When reading IWJ I often wonder if Saijyo-sensei purposely features ingredients from every genus to fry, roast or poach in his manga. If a volume of nothing but shark dishes wasn't outrageous enough, now we have an ostrich cook-off! Furthermore, with ostrich being entirely foreign to the Japanese readership, the mangaka took liberties with how to make this ingredient even more improbable to the average shounen manga fan. Like a skilled chef, Saijyo has been able to make great unique dishes with one of the following: his own mad skill, the malleability of the food he focuses on and the lack of creativity within the genre he is working in. IWJ falling within the broad conventions of shounen manga is allowed the opportunity to be simple in structure and wild in its content. This volume uses those liberties to create conflicts based on false logic and misinformation to up the ante of frustration for his cast has to overcome. Nothing is sacred and nothing can be trusted, but that might be appealing to some. That sense of uncertainty motivates readers so they want to continue to experiment and it gives Saijyo and Jan the chance to change what we perceive cooking manga to be about.
IWJ 23 might be a slight improvement over previous installments. However, if you are looking for a volume that will educate as well as entertain, look elsewhere.
Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
Orientation: Right to Left