Iron Wok Jan Vol. #17 -

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: 1-59796-035-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Iron Wok Jan Vol. #17

By Eduardo M. Chavez     April 12, 2006
Release Date: March 15, 2006

Iron Wok Jan Vol.#17
© DrMaster

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

What They Say
32 contestants remain for the first round of the cooking battle - Battle Tofu. To everyone's stock, Jan only scores an extremely low 15 points for his parrot bass and tofu in a soy milk-based soup boiled with heated. Will Jan make it to the second round? And don't miss the never-seen flashback of young Mutsujyu and Kaiichiro battling head-to-head with the king of the Chinese cooking empire in Asia, Bai Lan Wang! It's an all-out culinary battle between Japan and China as the Veterans fight for culinary dominance over Japan in Battle Pot Stickers!

The Review
Printed right to left in a B6 this latest volume suffers from a few problems. The obvious problem is the bubbling effect on the cover. This might be just my copy, but the laminate is bubbling off the card stock cover giving the cover a cheap looking finish. On the cover DrMaster once again uses Japanese cover art, this time featuring Jan eating gyoza by the handful. While the opposite cover simply has a profile of Jan 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, DrMaster includes two character intro pages in now only in English. I am glad to see the change back to this format. At the same time, I am sad to see the Japanese on the original volume header and chapter headers now gone. This volume has recipes for Fried Gyoza, Beijin Style Water Gyoza, Gyoza Stuffed with Chinese Chives, Four Colored Pot Stickers and finally Marinated Cucumber with Octopus. DrMaster also provided a page with Japanese fan art and an honorifics decoder.

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 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)
Ah Jan, he started off so well, but could his hubris have cost him in the first round? The odds were definitely against him from the start off this competition. This whole contest was created to embarrass him in front of the whole nation. Each round was has been created to challenge his cooking style and his temperament. To complete the web of entrapment, even the guest judges hired were individually selected to dissect the weaknesses in his cooking. Nothing has been overlooked. As if he has been the target of a character assassination, everything around him is quickly closing in on him. And he has no way out but using his wits... I mean using his magic!

One could even say that what has transpired is the result of a year of karma built up against him. Wicked dead after wicked dead he pulled to prove his ideals might have finally caught up with him. Maybe cooking is not about winning (maybe it is not about heart, either), but you will have a hard time winning if the all the umpires are against you. You see, the Jan magic does not work if his victims do not taste his completed dish, so all of his scheming has been for naught because of his temperament and near-sightedness.

Or so we thought! Apparently, Jan has learned a few new tricks along the way. All of those battles have been wasted, because Jan knows that if Otani does not want to taste his dish, he now knows how to make him need his dish. Maybe if things go well enough as he takes out a few dozen with his antics, he might once again prove how big a fool Otani is instead. Looks like two wrongs might make a right in the cooking world.

While Jan is having fun with those he knows are out to get him, there are still a few dozen others competitors that want to take the spotlight off him. Some have not gotten over Jan's attitude from last year's contest and then there is this mysterious underground cooking group that wants to put Gobancho's into what they consider is their place - second best for Chinese in Japan.

Every body is an enemy Jan; forget that and you have really fallen into Otani's trap.

Honestly speaking I have to say Iron Wok Jan! is a little long for my taste; there is only so much an artist can do with a tournament style manga. However, what makes IWJ! work even after 17 volumes is how completely insane Saijyo's scenes are. I am not sure if he did this, or if it was the work of his editor, but the timing is just perfect. The previous volume ended on a cliffhanger. For a while, I almost thought we had seen the downfall of Akiyama Jan. In many ways it think I would have found it worthwhile to finally see Jan get what was coming to him, but Saijyo-sensei had his own ideas.

Saijyo is so twisted; he brings Jan from the depths to kick as only a pompous jerk like Jan can. More impressive is how Saijyo does all of this within the realm of cooking. Using the direction he gets from cooking supervisor Oyama Keiko, he is able to mix cooking technique to the existing action to keep up the suspense from all sides. Setting up the idea with smell instead of taste brings in an element people forget about cooking and reminds readers that cooking is about more than one or two senses. That concept of the senses behind cooking is further explained with the special judges that specialize in sight, smell and taste. Then bringing in a nutrition freak as well, rounds out how important cooking is to people's lives.

Then there is the history of cooking. There already was a rivalry between Gobancho and Akiyama that goes back a couple generations. Apparently, there is another rivalry out there one that crosses the seas and is going to take center stage in this series for the next few volumes. The history of Chinese cooking has seriously been ignored for a while in this title. Ever since the earliest volumes, Saijyo-sensei has avoided a few thousand years of Chinese food history, but it is coming back with interesting results. He mainly re-introduces the concept through technique. Saijyo illustrates a few efficient ways to make simple dishes, but with fantastic results. It is hard to believe anything in this manga, but the ideas are plausible if done with care. The important thing about this is how Saijyo tries to not only inform about the past but also give inspiration for innovation. And if IWJ! does anything it is inspire.

While it frustrates me to see IWJ! continue to endlessly repeat the same constructs in this series, I have to say Saijyo does know how to mix things up a bit. Over the last few volumes, he has really shown some depth in regards to the broad nature of cooking. Not long ago he was showing a scientific element to cooking and now he is working the physiological relationship we have with food. Most of that will go over most reader's heads when they see the cooking action - exploding stoves, cackling cooks and knives slicing through everything edible. But if you look a little closer and check out really is cooking in Iron Wok Jan! you might realize there is a new flavor for every old dish Saijyo and Jan plate up each volume.

Fun stuff.


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