Yakitate!! Japan Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0719-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Yakitate!! Japan Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     August 24, 2006
Release Date: September 12, 2006

Yakitate!! Japan Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Takashi Hashiguchi
Translated by:Noritaka Minami
Adapted by:Drew Williams

What They Say
The stakes are high and the competition is fierce, but Kazuma won't let anything prevent him from achieving his nation-changing, freshly baked goal. Relocating to Tokyo, Kazuma seeks to further his studies at Pantasia, a famous bakery chain. But will he rise to the challenge and pass the entrance examination, or will his best intentions fall flat?

The Review
Starting with a very basic goal-oriented shounen premise and mixing in the best of battle adventures, sports, and cooking manga, Hashiguchi cooks up a title that smells all too familiar but has a taste that is refreshing.

VIZ keeps the original cover image of Kazuma, which looks really sharp here, but for some odd reason they removed all the loaves of bread in the background; leaving a plain country kitchen style design with Japan police tape haphazardly strewn across in a manner that overall is just lacking. Why remove one of the selling points of this title? Its about bread making . . . to the extreme!!

Print reproduction is decent, although I did notice some moiri issues and at times the tones can get a little muddy. Extras include a spy-cam mini manga following Tsukino in the dressing room (huh??) and an educational piece that is one page talking about French Bread.

With a title like Yakitate, the art really has to match the youthful energy of its characters and situations and thankfully Hashiguchi accomplishes this quite well. The characters are quite vibrant and have a good range of appeal for a mass audience. Backgrounds feature some nice detail, along with all the cooking and bread making going on.

Best of all, Hashiguchi knows how to have fun. There are plenty of sight gags and full page spreads that are orgasmic and utterly surreal payoffs for Kazumas bread tasting victims. And when Kazuma pumps his fist in the air with speed lines firing about him, its all done with a sense of humor that any reader of shounen material will appreciated.

SFX are translated with overlays, most of which are done quite well but a few do have some pretty thick boxing going on.

Probably the biggest question on the minds of the current fans of Yakitate was, How did Viz handle the translation of all those puns!? The answer is quite serviceably. Unfortunately, there is always going to be something lost in the translation, especially with a title like Yakitate. The English script writers do their best to match the jokes, although some cultural notes ala Del Rey would probably have served this title quite well. I mean, how many people will get the Kurowa-san/Rashomon joke? There are however quite a few notes in the margin explaining baking techniques and terminology. I also find Hands of the Sun to read a tad awkward, as opposed to something like Solar Hands. There really is no 100% answer. Again, this is just one of the quirks with translations.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
For those who arent aware, cooking manga in Japan is a very successful and popular sub-genre of manga. Pick up almost any serial magazine and the chances of there being at least one cooking title included are quite high. However, here in the US there are currently only two cooking manga titles available: DrMasters Iron Wok Jan and DMPs Antique Bakery. Fans who are hungry for more will be happy to know that in the upcoming months we will see a 100% growth and more variety of dishes to be found. In Jan 2007, Del Rey will launch the shoujo title Kitchen Princess, but beating them to the punch is VIZs release of the popular shounen title Yakitate!! Japan.

I can imagine manga-ka Takashi Hashiguchi sitting around one day enjoying a sandwich or piece of naan with his favorite curry while reading some favorite shounen battle adventure or sports manga, and all of a sudden having the light bulb turn on. How could I combine these two great traditions: bread and shounen manga? he would say out loud during my insignificant little day dream inside of my head. The answer is Yakitate. Starting with a very basic goal-oriented shounen premise and mixing in the best of battle adventures, sports, and cooking manga, Hashiguchi cooks up a title that smells all too familiar but has a taste that is refreshing.

As I stated above, the premise is quite simple and formulaic. Our main protagonist is Kazuma Azuma (say that five times fast), a country bumpkin and grandson of a rice farmer. One day his sister introduces him to a baker who bakes wonderful bread that even his proud rice-farming grandfather can enjoy in place of rice at his breakfast. What the baker finds out, unbeknownst to Kazuma, is that Kazuma has the Hands of the Sun--a condition where his hand temperature is higher than his bodys, causing bread to ferment at a much higher rate. After convincing his old fashioned grandfather, Kazuma begins his mission to create a type of bread that one day will be the national bread of Japan, just like France, Germany, and England; a bread that will be called Ja-pan (pan being a pun on the word for bread).

Hashiguchi makes a great decision by starting off the book with a long introduction chapter to the back story of Kazuma. The reader really connects and understands Kazumas motivations from the beginning, as simple as they might be. Kazuma himself also fits the very basic shounen archetype for lead characters: wide-eyed, naove, and a big ol heart of gold. Its the simplicity though that works, with no long, overly-complicated flashback arcs to force any sort of emotional impact on the reader. This streamlined technique carries through the entire first book and creates a very focused and engaging reading experience.

After the introduction, Kazuma begins his bread-making adventures when he travels to Tokyo to take the employment qualification test at the famed Pantasia bakery chain. Now is when Hashiguchi adds in the best elements from shounen battle tournament and sports manga--competitions involving the best bread makers in all of Japan! New characters are introduced, some who will inevitably become Kazmuas rival or friend, all whom have their own vibrant personalities and skills. Who cares about blowing through a stadium with a burst of light coming out of your finger!? Its all about opening up a can of croissant-baking whoop ass!

There is a lot of great energy and humor--a good amount of it puns that will test your Pun Humor Mileage for sure (Thorough-bread, Mare-volous, Kurowa-san)--but the real selling points are the bread battles and the exaggerated, over-the-top, orgasmic reactions Kazumas cohorts experience when they taste his creations. You never know just what Kazuma is up to. His bread history and knowledge is nil, referring to his creations as though they were lab experiments (i.e., Ja-pan #16 is Naan, Ja-pan #43 is a croissant). Due to his naiveti about bread making, Kazuma always puts some kind of twist on his creations, like the Mt. Fuji inspired Ja-pan #16. The surprise of the final product makes for some very enjoyable reading.

I cant help but think that Yakitate has the potential to really hit it big here in the States. The humor and vibrant characters, along with the engaging and refreshing take on a shounen formula, makes this a title with quite a wide audience appeal. Possibly a bit corny and whacky at times, but its understood from the beginning that Hashiguchi is presenting this title with a firm tongue in his cheek and big grin on his face. Hes having fun with each and every page, and that feeling really pours over into the reader.

Yakitate is pure, 100%, unfiltered enjoyment; and reading this volume was akin to sampling one Kazumas famed Ja-pan breads. Very highly recommended.


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