Iron Wok Jan Vol. #07 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: DrMaster
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 206
  • ISBN: 1-58899-262-4
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #07

By Eduardo M. Chavez     March 12, 2005
Release Date: January 01, 2004

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#07
© DrMaster

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Saijyo Shinji
Translated by:Sahe Kawahara
Adapted by:

What They Say
The culinary fists continue to fly in Iron Wok Jan vol. 7. Mutsujo Gobancho challenges all the Gobancho trainees to come up with a new dish for their "Show-and-Tell day." The tastiest cuisine will be added to the famous Gobancho menu. Kiriko, Celine and Jan all try their hand at a brand new - original spring roll. Can they beat the old man at his own game?

The Review
This time around, ComicsOne uses a blue frame (not the orangish color frame found on the link I posted above) around the strange cover art. The front cover features Jan camouflaged by meat and produce. His chef's hat has potatoes, bell peppers and shallots, while his shirt has tomatoes and meat. Jan's face and cleaver loom large in the middle of the cover. Freaky! The back cover has close-up image of a cocky looking Jan with half of his face covered in darkness. Those eyes!!!

Logo Check!! (2003 Megs)... the original logo is pretty simple and while the ComicsOne logo is a little large it is pretty creative. The tomato and the bell pepper are cute and they look very nice on the spine of this GN.

At the end of the GN are short quick cooking tip dialogues with Jan and Takao, Jan and Kiriko, and finally Celine and Takao. There are also ads for ComicsOne titles: ParaPara and Junk Force.

Saijyo's art is still pretty interesting. He uses action techniques for a cooking manga and for the most part it really works. Last volume, I was a little confused about the overuse of some intense techniques and was weary going into this one, fortunately even with the action level in the plot going up, the layout was not quite as distracting as it has been. This really helped with the mood and took attention away from the art and into the drama in the kitchen. Good stuff.

Character designs were still fun. Jan and now Dan's eyes are pretty freaky but I have to agree with another AoD posters have often said Saijyo makes some of the best BIG breasted women in manga. Take that as you wish...

Background designs are great as well as one can get the feeling that this is staged on the Iron Chef set.

ComicsOne is still one of the best in the business. They have tastefully translated SFX close to the original SFX. What they do well here though is that they do not translate every single FX in every panel, especially if there is a bunch of the same. Therefore, say you have five “potsu”s but the panel is busy, ComicsOne translates three of them as “drip”.

The translation has been much more fluid as of late. Errors are less common than in the early volumes, as well. This series is pretty unique, as there are recipes with Chinese names, so there is almost another level of translation. Fortunately, that aspect has been handled quite well from the start and they have been very smart to add as many notes as possible to make things easy to understand.

One thing to take note is Celine Yang's accent. I cannot pin it down but she talks in a certain drawl. Her character is from Kobe so you would expect it. C1 handles this well, as it does not distract too much from the plot. (Though, I wonder how others react to it)

This volume does not have as many notes as most but they are there and they are easy to read and easy to access as they are typically in the gutters.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
With Dan now out of the way the focus at Gobancho has turned to their famous menu. Every year the restaurant has a show-and-tell competition to determine what new dishes will be added to the popular menu. Every year every chef must compete by creating a new dish on his or her own and presenting it to the owner of the restaurant, Gobancho Mutsujo the finest Chinese chef in Japan.

It is not easy to please the old guy so there have not been many additions recently, but this year there seems to be a buzz in the kitchen. Inspired by Mutsujo's recent trip to the kitchen everyone else is trying to follow his lead by making a simple but well-known dish, spring rolls. Spring rolls are very simple. Vegetables and meat sliced to the same width cooked and then wrapped in skins. They are then fried to the point where the skins are crisp and the insides are hot and juicy. Any one of many mistakes can make this popular appetizer go all wrong. In the end though there really is not much a chef can do to change the spring roll as at it's essence it is supposed to be simple quick and tasty for everyone to enjoy.

So how do you challenge something that is already perfect? Some chefs decided to change some of the ingredients. The popular choice has been with the wrapper as there are tons of choices each with different flavors, thickness and textures. Nevertheless, Jan, Celine and Kiriko know that they cannot get their dishes on the menu unless they change the concept of the spring roll. Fast, crispy, meat and veg stuffing and cheap - make it better!

Jan knows how great Mutusjo's rolls are; people come from across the country just to have them. At the same time there has to be a flaw in its simplicity. In Jan's eyes, anyone can come up with different ingredients. Cultures around the world make things similar to spring rolls and in essence, many of them are the same. However, to change the concept of spring rolls will take more than a few different ingredients; a completely new technique must be used. After researching restaurants of all sorts of cuisine and digging through the garbage of all the rest, Jan found his recipe: soup wrapped in skins! It definitely sounds crazy enough to be a Jan original but will it fly with Mutsujo? The response is not too well received from his peers but Mutsujo saw something else. This dish changes the concept of food, as people know it. There is piping hot soup inside a crisp skin. The soup should be swallowed immediately as it is soothing to the belly but very painful to the mouth. It is medicinal in its nature because of the soup, but can be eaten as an appetizer. Amazing but possibly not something that will sell at a top-flight restaurant like Gobancho.

On the other hand, Celine tries for something that is just as extreme. She goes for the spring aspect by making dessert rolls! These tasty little filo rolls are crispy, light and have the taste of spring and youth as they are filled with strawberries or red bean paste. It is a completely different concept from the appetizer and definitely something that Mutusjo had not thought of.

But even more extreme is Kiriko's. Hers do not even look like rolls. They are more like pot stickers that have nothing unique in them. But there is something really unique about them all right! First, the wrapper is made from meat pounded thin until it is as thick as a skin. The stuffing has shrimp and some vegetables. Extremely light, easy to eat, nicely presented (which is a Kiriko specialty) and versatile as shown when she presented three special (but simple) dipping sauces. This is the essence of the spring roll and yet something very different. Mutsujo called it flawless!

Now we know that there are at least three challengers, but who which recipe will be chosen? And what is this about Takao's dish? Everyone thought the competition was over!

Show-and-tell is a great cooking concept. It is one that can be found in a few cooking titles. What makes IWJ!’s version unique is the extreme ideas that its characters come up with. When this series started, readers get one notion pounded into them - "It is difficult to make something simple, unique and tasty." People can find all sorts of spring rolls but the best spring roll recipes are almost the same. What Jan and Celine do is change the concept of spring rolls entirely. They try to make spring rolls into something they are not. The shock value should get them recognition but will either of those ideas sell? Kiriko's attitude for food is always pretty refreshing but this time I think she took a page from Jan's book by using new bizarre techniques when he needs to keep things simple.

Food is a subject that can have an infinite number of stories to tell. Saijyo-sensei attempts to desensitize his readers "shock and awe" recipes. These tend to keep readers interested and they stretch the imagination about how food can be prepared. Whether it is wrappers made out of ingredients like chicken feet or pot stickers stuffed with sweets, something is bound to surprise the reader. Personally, I would love to get recipes for this dishes (as is done in some other cooking manga), for my culinary curiosity is usually peeked with every new dish. But, this story was not solely about the cooking. Jan and Takao hunting down ideas for cooking was a hoot. Jan can be mellow if he has too and that side of him tends to come out quite often with the eternal journeyman Takao. I really wished there were more of Celine's struggle to find her recipe, as there was a lot more to the troubles that Jan and Kiriko had wrecking their brains for an idea.

In my opinion, this is the strongest volume so far in this very good series. While the variety presented in the cooking contest was extensive, seeing them all try one simple dish made for both tense and funny moments. While I wish there was a little more background behind each of the recipes and how they came to be (i.e. Celine and a little more of Jan's) but the final (or are they?) results makes up for it. Seeing the expression on the faces of Jan, Celine and Kiriko (oh, did Kiriko look evil!) was definitely worth the wait. Cannot wait for more!

Highly recommended.


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