Iron Wok Jan Vol. #14 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

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: 206
  • ISBN: 1-59796-03202
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #14

By Eduardo M. Chavez     December 28, 2005
Release Date: November 01, 2005

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#14
© DrMaster

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Saijyo Shinji
Translated by:Michiko Nakayama
Adapted by:

What They Say
The kid gloves are off and Otani is back. Organizing another cooking battle, Otani hopes to squash Jan' s culinary career before it even begins. Yet this battle will be like none other!! But first, can Jan handle Karin's gourmet grace? Will Karin succeed in defeating Jan for a second time with her hemathermal cooking device...!? Get ready for another exciting volume of Iron Wok Jan - where cooking has never been this much fun!

The Review
The series is printed right to left in a B6. This cover features Jan digging into a big bowl of roast beef udon (for some reason it looks a lot like phô but with thick udon like noodles). For the first time in the series, Jan actually takes up most of the cover with the food only taking up a corner at the bottom. 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 Kiriko wearing a tight china dress (showing off a lot of leg and thigh).

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 chili-pickled radish, spiced chicken roast, banana fritters and seasoned steam rice with two kinds of mushrooms. DrMaster also provided a page with Japanese fan art, as well.

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...

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 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)
You know that after Jan tasted defeat he was not going to take things lightly. You knew that once he faced someone once or twice, he would figure out a way to exploit his or her weaknesses. You possibly knew that Jan would quite likely go beyond the realms of traditional cooking to completely blow his opponents. But you possibly did not expect Jan to finally resort to violence and against a woman!

Jan’s battle against Karii has basically exploited how he can get in above his head when it comes to his ego. After a series of easy victories, Jan must have expected to have another cakewalk with someone who admittedly states she is not a chef. He must have wanted to completely humiliate Suguru and finally force him into retirement before he even became a chef. He did not expect science and math to out-cook him and repeatedly outshine him in front of his peers at Gobancho.

The only way to turn the tide is to literally become something that can destroy a machine. And all the years of training and the years of beatings from his father has given Jan the ability to cook like a monster. Many chefs will say cooking is as much about using your senses, as it is technique. Sometimes you have to rely on instinct to really figure out if something is just right or not. Instinct is one thing machines do not have and Jan’s training has physically burned the timing, the smell, the look, the texture, the taste and feel of the perfect Akiyama dishes into his body. He is a cooking monster and he will quietly unleash his talents to a room full of cooks that in this situation cannot see cooking genius until they can taste it.

In the previous volume, Jan tried to show cooking wunderkind Suguru the differences between experienced chefs and amateurs. Jan accomplished this with ease and flair literally opening up the gap between the two with every new round. The difference was evident and even with the ability to procure the best ingredients and the best knives money can buy, Suguru was not able to best someone with a lifetime of experience. But when Jan's ego got the best of him and he began to call out people to challenge, the kid ran into a trap. He walked into a situation no one could have foreseen, and he ended up looking the fool. And what without any prior knowledge of certain ways of cooking Jan and his colleagues almost ended up appearing somewhat expendable in a very crowded world of culinary arts.

What Saijyo attempts to present in this volume though is something people can debate in many aspects of life nowadays how science has influenced cooking. So, in this world maybe the difference between amateurs and pros might not depend on talent, but possibly on the technology – namely utensils and cooking elements. I don't know where Saijyo is getting some of the ideas for his crazy cooking tools, but he puts out an interesting idea - can modern technology ever create food as good as what old ovens and old ingredients have been making over centuries? Imagine a microwave oven that does not partially cook meats? What if that oven could crisp skin on the outside and cook well into a roast while retaining the juices and ultimately all the flavor? Imagine making a dish that is that could only be made by sensitive timing and precision, but could now be done through the right use of ingredients and science.

As one would expect, man could not be defeated by machine yet but there was a certain level of respect there for the advances of science. To illustrate the differences we get to back to Jan's youth to see how cooking is about using the senses - taste, sight, smell and touch. Sometimes there are just phenomena that cannot be explained any other way outside of a feeling and we really get to see that in this volume.

That even goes for the chapters where Otani has to figure out what the Gobancho youth are cooking. He can see the ingredients and see the process systematically, but sometimes you do not know until it is done (and sometimes until you eat it).

After so much excitement in the previous volume, this one ended up being much more somber in tone. Going back to the trails Jan went through as a child and seeing Jan in a pensive mode focusing his recipes was a unique experience. At the same time I would much rather see Jan at his craziest. Iron Wok Jan is special because it takes a simple concept like cooking and turns it into a something of a sci-fi action title filled with hack'em up knife swinging panels, tests of fire and strange probing tools that still somehow make sense in a kitchen setting. It does not play by the rules, but as we have seen repeatedly, neither does Chinese cooking.


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