Iron Wok Jan Vol. #15 -

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: 204
  • ISBN: 1-59796-033-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #15

By Eduardo M. Chavez     January 27, 2006
Release Date: December 17, 2005

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#15
© DrMaster

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

What They Say
Battle Goose comes to close as Celine presents goose galatine that's practically fat free and Kiriko surprises Otani with sweet and spicy goose meat in Kyoto grapes and plums. But what made Otani finish four servings of Nanban Goose made by Jan!

And yet again, Otani plans a sinister plot at the 2nd Rising Stars of Chinese Cooking Competition to eliminate Jan before the first round. Jan claims he can make a better tasting siu mai from frozen ones, but can he prove it? Let the Akiyama magic begin!

The Review
The series is printed right to left in a B6. This time the cover features Jan chomping on a niku-man (meat bun) as he presents his fans some steamy hot dim-sum. This piece is placed on a fiery background. Definitely good to see Jan take up more of the covers now, though I wish Saijyo could have placed Kiriko or Celine on there as well. 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 and Celine (in Heian period clothing) playing with a Jan doll.

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 regular and scallop eye shiu mai, potato porridge, daikon and leek porridge, and instant ramen chow mein. 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 chain-saw 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. I wonder if this is because of the recent translator change. 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)

Celine continues to create a new style of cuisine - nouvelle chinoise, by creating dishes with traditional Chinese ingredients and using them in French recipes. By using a variety of different dominant flavors, Celine was somehow able to give them one round taste that was light on grease but very rich. This is what Celine meant by cooking about abundance. A dish that contrasted French cuisine yet maintained the same presentation followed the same cooking technique.

Kiriko's dish is a completely new concept of cooking altogether. Fruit and meat are often cooked together and they tend to complement each other quite well. While meat does little than help stew the fruit, the flavor of the fruit often permeates the flesh while tenderizing. Her dish does very little of that. She has used both elements to mask the grease and the tartness and still retain powerful flavors added to these main ingredients that are not usually found in dishes similar to what she created. This is all done with exquisite presentation that completes the the package, giving an image that the dish is something completely contrary to what the dish was hiding. If cooking is about heart, this heart has grown dark and twisted!

Jan's dish takes the cake, though. He decided to simply show the nuance of cooking. A different ingredient here or maybe a little more time for cooking can change a dish dramatically. Saijyo has shown us what a few seconds plus or minus could mean to a dish before, but the human tongue will not realize that until it tastes the dish for the first time. It is not Akiyama magic, this is the fundamentals of Akiyama cooking. Cooking is about winning and seconds matter on the road to victory.

But who really knows food better, the finest chefs or the most respected critics? Maybe critics know what tastes best. Maybe they know the best combinations of flavors. They might even gain as much knowledge as the best chefs around. Yet, unless they have been behind the stove, feeling the heat, they don't have the experience to know how the best is made! Jan knows! Those scars on his back are proof of that.

After the let down of the previous volume, I knew this one was at least going to pick up the intensity with the return of Otani. Nothing beats Jan when he is up against the loud obnoxious food critique. Saijyo-sensei typically tends to go all out in these situations, often employing his infamous "Akiyama magic" to not just shock readers but to also tantalize cooking fans as well. There have been moments where Jan cooked with chain saws or used mild toxins to get a rise from his biggest rival. This time he sets up Otani, like a good fighter going for a rope-a-dope.

However, with this volume Saijyo goes about the magic with a twist. As this ends up being another transition volume, Saijyo is able to change the standard game plan by introducing some new conflicts to the plot. Instead of solely focusing on Jan for the final five chapters of the three little piggy mini-arc, he uses this chance to bring back the other chefs in this story. So what could have easily have been the Akiyama Jan hour, has become a Gobanho sweep as all three apprentices embarrass evil food critic Otani on his own TV show. This is the perfect time to get the rest of the cast re-acquainted to readers after Jan was in the spotlight for so long. It also gives a chance to work on the different styles of cooking the three young chefs are trained in. Readers get to see the french/chinese (Celine), the sweet family cooking (Kiriko) and the traditional but shocking style (Jan) again before the three styles dominate the story going into the National Cooking Contest.

The other point Saijyo makes is that cooking is not only about technique, there is also instinct. This is a concept that comes up occasionally in this series (the last time being Jan and how he steams fish). There are plenty of chefs that are technically sound. They cook by the book and cook the way they have been taught by their instructors and peers. The best chefs end up beginning their education that way and then develop their own technique. They look for better solutions to achieve the best results possible. These are the intangibles that are only known by great chefs; not even the best food critics can figure out those secrets.

As soon, as I thought IWJ was starting to lose steam, Saijyo throws in a curve-ball and changes the game. Yes, this is still a cooking battle manga and I don't think this manga would work well any other way. However, the agendas are now becoming clear. The motivations are back to the forefront and the antagonistic attitudes the main characters have toward each other has elevated the drama to a high level.

Once again IWJ takes shonen manga completely out of the bento box and gets me hungry for more.


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