Iron Wok Jan Vol. #16 -

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: 208
  • ISBN: 1-59796-034-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #16

By Eduardo M. Chavez     March 29, 2006
Release Date: February 01, 2006

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#16
© DrMaster

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

What They Say
Jan is given an ultimatum from Mutsujyu, the owner of the Gobancho Restaurant, that if he doesn't win first place in the competition, he will be fired. In return, Jan made Mutsujyu promise to battle against him if he wins the competition. The last challenge of the preliminaries is fried rice. Jan and Celine must cook fried rice with old style rice, while Kiriko and Takao must use new crop rice. And regardless of what kind of rice they use, the contestants must cook fried rice that suits the taste of Japanese people. What will Jan do this time to piss ff the other contestants and pass the preliminaries with an awesome dish?

The Review
The series is printed right to left in a B6. This time the cover features Jan and a huge parrot bass, which he will be preparing in this volume. This piece is placed on a fiery background. Definitely is 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 at least once through the first 16 vols. 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 Jan acting out Romeo and Juliet??!!

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 just in English. I am really glad to see DrMaster switch back to their original format here. The descriptions in Japanese were too much, especially since their respective English translations covered up Saijyo's character art. Unfortunately, they also removed the Japanese from the original volume header and chapter headers. These looked great, and I will continue to applaud the publishers that continue to do this (Dark Horse is one). Throughout this volume, DrMaster provides a few recipes for fried rice (the major theme of this volume) along with a curry recipe and finally a simple mapo tofu hot pot that anyone should be able to make. DrMaster also provided a page with Japanese fan art to round off a good presentation. I say good, because in typical DrMaster form the print is a few grades too dark.

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. If there was a problem is how words wrap around in bubbles. DrMaster really does not handle these situations well. Instead of placing the break where they make sense, they tend to just let that last letter or two roll over. Very distracting

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It is time. You know you have been waiting for it. Finally, the cooking rounds of the All Japan New Chinese Cooking Competition. Last year's competition brought out the best of Japan's young Chinese specialty chefs, culminating with a war between Gobancho's best trainees. A year later culinary fans got to see the best on TV, as they should off their seasoned skills in front of a live studio audience. And now with the educational aspect of the competition done, the chefs of Gobancho are beginning a long tournament where taste is only a percentage of overall rating of their dishes. Dishes have to nutritious, visually appealing and aromatically appealing as well as tasty. This was done to force chefs to toss away their ideals and just cook. But the Gobancho crew is not going to change their style... Partially because they were not initially told.

To make it through this tournament, every chef has to consider every other chef a rival. There are no friends or alliances. So the more competitors you can take out at once, the better. Therefore, a bit of the Akiyama magic is actually a great advantage.

No one can put on a show like the Gobancho three. Their speed is lightning quick and extremely consistent. To believe cooking is about winning means being faster and more accurate; to the point where every single grain of rice will be cooked evenly. Their technique is visually stunning. If cooking is about heart making something pleasing to diners of all ages is critical. Food needs to be inviting and comforting. Their creativity is inspired. When cooking is about change then challenging the long traditions of 5000 years Chinese cooking is only a start. The world is shrinking everyday and Chinese food can be found all over the world in many new forms. Conversely international flavors are being used in China as well. Fruits and sauces from across the globe will make appearances this year. Then they have the knowledge that can only be found at the best Chinese restaurant in the land. Only the best ingredients are used with the best equipment by the best chefs. Even the lowest level trainees are pretty good there.

Nevertheless, when the grading is all done, only one will be on top. Moreover for the four from Gobancho, this event has very little to do with restaurant pride. This tournament is going to be personal. And that is not solely because of the rivalry within the restaurant, but also because the guy putting the show wants to see the end of Gobancho happen on his dime.

It is show time. After a few volumes where the battles were entertaining but not very exciting, Saijyo-sensei has come back full force with a pair of the most outrageous battles I have seen so far. Saijyo has taken the concept of "there can only be one" to an extreme. There are no friends or alliances and no one is safe from the Akiyama magic.

Anyone caught in the crossfire, or the eye of the storm, will have to make due with their own skills and not rely on the producers to help them out. Now, Saijyo did this to make sure that his lead would be able to do make his own rules along the way. This idea also opened the door for anyone else including the judges and the producers to work by their own individual ideals. Not only does this open up the door for chaos and sabotage, but this essentially opens up the possibility for Saijyo to literally play with his cast. Say a fire went off in the cooking dome, well any chefs that were not fast enough or smart enough to avoid it will go down. An idea like this could speed up the tournament and create some intense drama from many angles. Or what if a judge would not judge based on taste, a great tasting but boring looking dish (common in Chinese food) might tank.

With every volume Saijyo pushes the limits of how inconsiderate and selfish his cast can be. Jan was always a jerk. I don't think I would enjoy him any other way; however in this volume he takes that to a new level. His magic has always revolved around fooling the judges and playing mind games with his challengers. Now he is literally sabotaging the competition. He is setting up traps in every round. Ever since the Taoist Gojyo battle Jan has changed a bit. This is the culmination of that and he has never been more ruthless and never been more shocking!

Readers of IWJ might be getting a little tired of the same formula repeated over and over. Heck, this is the second All Japan Chinese Cook-off (each one taking up around 3 vols). But Saijyo continues to tweak Jan making him more cunning all along the way. If you are reading for the battles, they get better. If you are looking for plot, it is finally showing up. But if you are reading because of Jan; he has never, never been more over the top! Which means you definitely want to continue eating up IWJ!


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