Might have to go back to posting graphic novel reviews on Mondays. I’ve collected a ton of them this year. And yes, I am still collecting them. When you delve into this genre, it can be a bit overwhelming. But there are good resources out there to help you cut through the crap and get to the good stuff.
And I only read the good stuff, folks. Here we go.
Oishinbo: Japanese Cuisine (vol.1) story by Tetsu Kariya and art by Akira Hanasaki & published by Viz Media. Oishinbo grabbed my attention for two reasons: the back blurb that states that Oishinbo has […over 100 million copies sold worldwide…] and the subject matter revolves around Japan’s culinary culture.
While food is the primary focus, there’s an ongoing story arc that revolves around the rivalry between father and son. Yes, I love good drama. Kaibara Yuzan is a huge bear of a man who has a passion for food and a very short temper. He is a very demanding man. He’s the founder of the highly respected and hard to get into restaurant, The Gourmet Club. Kaibara doesn’t get along with his son, Yamaoka Shiro, who’s a journalist for the Tozai News.
Father and son relationship is very strained. Yamaoka blames his father for his mother’s early demise since she had to bear the brunt of his father’s wrath for cooking him mediocre meals + other things. Kaibara has a nasty habit of making people redo his meals until they get it right. He’s Japan’s equivalent of Gordon Ramsey. Partially joking on that last part.
Yamaoka believes that his father’s love for food was more important than his family. So he lashes out and as a result, he has been unwelcome in his father’s home ever since the “incident.” At work, Yamaoka has been given an important assignment: to research the Ultimate Menu alongside his co-workers at Tozai News for their 100th Anniversary. While Yamakoza doesn’t share his father’s deep love for art and food, he’s skilled in the kitchen. Most people tend to think he’s lazy but he shows them differently.
Aside from the father/son relationship, the stories are broken down by “ten courses” where each one expounds on what makes Japanese cuisine culturally significant. You have technique, ingredients, presentation, flavor + other things that must all come together to make for a memorable meal. But all of those things are meaningless if it doesn’t come from the heart.
I enjoyed this manga because it is very engaging and very informative! I’m not a big culinary fan outside of consumption but this is one manga that I read quickly and was smart enough to have on hand, the second to read for tonight until I get my hands on more. This is a character driven story but it’s the food and the techniques that make this manga a huge winner.
Viz Media seems to be reissuing Oishinbo under their signature line and are compiling them into groups with the same subject matter. The author also provides insight into his definition of Japanese cuisine and the novel has section for notes where you can find definitions and the like for panels that need additional explaining. Oishinbo was a great find and a great read. B+.
Note: This book reads from right to left and is rated T for Teens. Price is $12.99 USA.
Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (vol. 1,2) story & art by Motoro Mase. Published by VizMedia.
I don’t go out of my way to find depressive stories but find this one I did. I read a review of where Ikigami was favorably compared to another GN I read, Deathnote. In “Ikigami,” the story features a dystopian society where under government rule, people are being forced to “value life.” Let me explain.
The National Welfare Act is a law that “preserves the welfare of the people” where “obedience is the key to happiness.” For the past nine years, the government has been giving children immunization shots that fights off disease and contains a nanocapsule that travels and resides in the pulmonary artery. The capsule is timed to explode on a given day, time and year when they are between the ages of 18 and 24.
The system is overly complex to ensure secrecy and the chances of getting the nanocapsule is 1:1000 or 0.01% of the population. The system is also set up to provide families of the deceased with bereavement compensation and that’s only provided if the citizen doesn’t act out or cause havoc before their impending death.
Each child entering elementary school gets the shot and are told that some of them will not live past adulthood. Students are taught that their death is for the good of the country. The government thinks that the fear of death will instill values into a society that was once crime ridden and sedentary.
The Welfare Act claims success with these new laws, citing low crime rates and higher productivity. Dissenters of this program are either brainwashed to follow along or they are given the shot with the nanocapsule to silence their rhetoric.
The heavy burden of informing someone of their impending death is given to Fujimoto. He works at the Civil Registration Section of the ward office and has been on the job for a few months. As the messenger, he delivers the “Ikigami” aka “death papers” to the citizens whose death is imminent within 24 hours.
The stories in Ikigami closely examine these citizens in their last 24 hours. When notified, they are immediately given access to resources and are waived certain expenses, fees and such in their final hours. We watch them struggle to absorb the news and reflect on what they’ve done with their lives and seeing what decisions they make in their final hours.
The stories are captivating and you just never knew who would get the “ikigami” paper when each story began. While we follow everyday citizens who have been given these letters, it is Fugimoto’s struggle with the responsibilities of his job along with the emotional burden, as he puts it, in crushing people’s hopes and dreams, that is the focal point.
If you were given only 24 hours left to live, what would you do with your time? That’s essentially what this series addresses along with the usual themes of hope, living life to the fullest and living each day as if it was your last. I’ve read the first two volumes in this series thus far and so far, so good.
Artwork and panels are easy to follow and the manga reads from right to left and is again, published by Viz Media. They seem to be putting out some good stuff lately. Unsure if I want to continue to follow this series but I am curious to know if Fugimoto, who survives to adulthood unlike others, will continue to do this line of work or will he resign? What story or assignment will move him to rebel against the system? Grade for vol 1 & 2: B. The next issue is due out in November.
Note: This book is rated M for Mature audiences, price is $12.99 USA.