Iron Wok Jan Vol. #12 -

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: DrMaster
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 207
  • ISBN: 1-58899-303-5
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #12

By Eduardo M. Chavez     September 12, 2005
Release Date: July 01, 2005

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#12
© DrMaster

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Saijyo Shinji (Advisor: Oyama Keiko)
Translated by:Sahe Kawahara
Adapted by:

What They Say
With the Great Cookoff between Heaven and Hell behind them, Jan heads back to the peace found at the Gobancho Restaurant. However, the frying pans never stop sizzling as a new face reveals itself. This person holds the skills and the audacity to rival Jan's sadistic cooking style! Competition reigns again! Bring out the rare ingredients, unique dishes, and more watering fun!

The Review
The series is printed right to left in a B6. This cover features Jan stir-frying a plate of broccoli beef. The fire must be real hot for there are ashes everywhere! DrMaster has dropped the frame ComicsOne used in favor of the china pattern printed on the top right of the book. The back cover features Jan, Celine, Okonogi and Kiriko cosplying Saiyuki beneath the volume description.

Logo Check!! (2003 Megs)... the original logo is simple and while the DrMaster 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. The volume number is on a tomato, as well.

Inside the cover, DrMaster includes two character intro pages in Japanese and English. It’s a little too much for my taste. However, Japanese on the original volume header and chapter headers look great. This volume has recipes for Plum Wine Jello with Fruit and Ginger Fried Rice.

Saijyo's art is plain crazy... but effective crazy. He uses action techniques in a cooking manga and for the most part, it really works. Last volume, I was a little confused about the overuse of some intense manpu 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. I mean cooking with a chainsaw can only be drawn in a certain way and Saijyo is possibly the only person who can pull it off. Good stuff. Background designs are great as well. Readers can get the feeling that they are present on this outdoor version of "Iron Chef".

Character designs are plain fun. Jan eyes are pretty freaky, and facial expressions in general are extreme. Characters have been adjusted recently, as proportion has been fixed for legs and torsos creating a clean and look. At the same time, I have a hard time arguing with another AoD poster who says: "Saijyo makes some of the best BIG breasted women in manga." Take that as you wish... (Oh, and we get to see Kiriko in her unmentionables this volume.)

DrMaster continues C1's tradition of being one of the best in the business in regards to SFX. For this title, 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, DrMaster translates three of them as "drip"s.

The translation has been much more fluid as of late. More importantly I did not notice any major grammar errors or typos, which were more frequent in the early volumes. 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. 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: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A chef like Akiyama Jan has no time to rest. He went to battle with Gojyo a few days ago. The battle was a one-day outdoor cooking marathon with a person who specialized in medicine and was not a chef at all. This was a fight about what best makes a Chinese chef. The two challenged the fundamentals of Chinese cooking before a studio audience, before personalities ultimately decided the results.

Jan could not get a day off before going back to the kitchen at Gobancho. A tough battle, no war, and it's back to working at one of busiest most popular restaurants in Japan; working the line non-stop up to six days a week.

Now that Jan has received his 15 seconds of glory, the competition is lining up at his door to knock him down a peg or 100. Jan has made himself a target of every chef in Japan. Moreover with his boastful nature, there are those who cannot resist to bring him down to Earth. Whether they are capable of accomplishing something only a handful could do is uncertain, but no one will ever know unless they try.

The first challenger (previously defeated) arrives at Jan's door trying to prove his seriousness as a chef and to expose the lack of vision Jan has as a chef. True genius does not come from old thinking and it does not come from fundamentalism according to Suguru. The best ingredients, the finest tools and newest recipes cannot be beaten with the right chef. Mimicking the best chefs in Japan Suguru has defeated numerous proven chefs. He is the best at everything and he will not rest until he takes on defeats Iron Wok Jan.

But Jan knows better. He knows what being a proven chef means. He might not admit it, but its practice. Practice has made Jan unbeatable even against the "best".

As fun as Jan is when he is his meanest. Jan is twice as entertaining when he is being defensive. What Saijyo-sensei does in these moments is completely change the tone from Jan the sociopath magician to Jan the culinary genius. The change is significant because it illustrates how complex Jan’s personality is. He is not just a resentful cleaver carrying madman, but he actually shows some respect and takes plenty of pleasure at what he does. He seems to almost enjoy researching and studying food, but once he gets the right flavors down for his latest dish the gloves come right off.

Experiencing the creative and almost playful side of Jan’s personality after so many tense battles was a hoot. Jan will always be an over-the-top freak and Saijyo understands that side of Jan’s personality is a draw. However, by presenting these contradictions, readers get tricked into doubt. I remember when Jan tried to be inventive with soup gyoza. Poor boy failed but he went down with a bang (of scolding hot soup going down people’s throats). He is his best when he is using the fundamentals of Chinese cooking, but when he needs to adapt he does and Saijyo always seems to have fun in these moments. And readers have fun with it too for they don’t know what Saijyo will have Jan pull off.

Suguru as a rival is not on par with the likes of Gojyo or Dan. Basically, he is boring. All he has going for him is his money. The skill has been done over and over again, so I was looking for another extreme personality to add to this crazy cast. Instead, we get a rich brat that is completely lost when against the seasoned cooking battle pros. Without Jan’s strong performance in this volume and Saijyo setting up a great cliff-hanger with French and Chinese judges making the final decision, I would have been really disappointed with this volume.

Jan is still one of the stronger titles out there, but after the roller coaster ride that was the outdoor cooking battle with the Taoist Gojyo this volume feels like a letdown. I also wonder how many North American readers will appreciate liver dishes. Personally, I love the stuff, rich and pungent, but I don’t know how that strong but subtle flavor will be received by those used to bland American cooking. (Wow that is almost a metaphor for this volume as a whole)


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