This is the first time I’ve done a post specifically for the Manga Moveable Feast. I’ve submitted entries in the past, but they were all reviews I’d done before; I just had them added to archives. Anyway, this month is Oishinbo/Foodie Manga, and is sponsored by Otaku Champloo. It was too much to pass up for this foodie. I may do other posts, but this post is for the main course, Oishinbo.
Oishinbo is a huge manga in Japan (Wikipedia has it listed as the 7th longest running manga series with 107 manga volumes and it’s still ongoing). If I go to Book Off (a Japanese used/new bookstore chain), they have whole cases devoted to this manga. Viz licensed this series for US release, but it was just too many to release all of them. Instead they did an “a la carte” edition, or a Best Of. Each of the seven volumes has a theme, and the stories are selected throughout the series by theme. The seven volumes are Japanese Cuisine; Sake; Ramen & Gyoza; Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi; Vegetables; The Joy of Rice; and Izakaya: Pub Food.
The basic premise: Yamaoka and Kurita both work for the food section of the same newspaper, and are in charge of creating The Ultimate Menu. However, they often get sidetracked, and it becomes more or less a bunch of stories of food adventures where food is used to teach a life lesson, to make people like something they previously didn’t, to educate on healthy farming habits, to settle conflicts, to teach someone to cook properly, or to compete against Yamaoka’s elitist domineering gourmet father in a number of one-up-manship contests.
Because of the selection by theme, the stories within each volume are in chronological order, but the volumes are not, so there is some skipping around. This can get confusing as sometimes Yamaoka and Kurita are single, sometimes they are dating, sometimes they are married, and sometimes they have kids. It’s all over the place. It’s a little sad you can’t really see their relationship develop over time, but instead are just given little glimpses.
The character designs are a little unappealing to me, sort of cartoonish. The people look stiff, and expressions are usually exaggerated. Proportions are sometimes off.
The food art though is pretty delectable. The art combined with the descriptions make me hungry and eager to hunt down the dish.
The only exception is when the story goes for taste over ethics, and will feature something like shark-fin soup, and I find the practice of shark finning abhorrent. However, the author seems to be very anti-pesticide and stresses the positives of organic foods, so it’s kind of weird mixed messages I’m getting.
What I liked most about this series was just the whole educational aspect of it. My favorite one is the volume on sake, just because I know absolutely nothing about sake, so if I want to try it, I’m completely lost (I’m the same way with wine, and Drops of God is helping me with that). The sake volume was very informative, although I’ll need to reread it several times, or take notes so I can try to remember all the terminology and different grades better during shopping (I’d give examples, but my copy is currently at a friend’s house in the hopes that he’ll read it… eventually).
I’m so sad that Viz is limiting their release to these seven volumes, because when I see an entire case-worth at Book Off, I want to read them ALL. Especially the one on cheese! I almost bought that one even though I can barely transliterate hiragana, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to translate even a page of it. But I’m dying to read it, because I love cheese and would love to hear Yamaoka’s take on it. Viz concentrated on publishing Japanese-food-related stories, but I would love to read ones featuring more Western foods, like cheese.
Each volume of Oishinbo includes a couple of recipes and color photos. I try out a few for the MMF in the next post.