- Latest Comments
Oishinbo: Sake & Oishinbo: Ramen and Gyoza
Artist: Akira Hanasaki
Story: Tetsu Kariya
Publisher: Viz Media
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you mixed “Top Chef”, “Iron Chef” and “House: M.D.”? No? Well, me neither, but if it did happen, you might end up with a manga like “Oishinbo”! Literally translated as “The Gourmet”, “Oishinbo” is a fairly recent manga to hit the shelves. It follows the stories of Shiro Yamaoka, a writer for the “Tozai News”, a Japanese newspaper that is currently working on an “Ultimate Menu”, a menu which Shiro, a “foodie”, is assigned to declare what recipes are worthy of the public’s attention. The thing is, Yamaoka is lazy as hell. Usually, you can find him at the office at his desk in one of two states: either asleep, or looking at the dope sheets for the horse races!
His long suffering co-worker, later girlfriend then wife, Yuko Kurita has to constantly keep him on task. The interesting thing is, in the course of gathering information for the Ultimate Menu, people constantly come up to him with a problem or challenge to solve. His solutions are usually brilliant, but unconventional. They’re unconventional because he draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of food that the average person would never think of. Often, people initially think his solutions or thoughts are ridiculous because of how society has been taught to think about food…and that’s when he proves them wrong. And he proves them wrong in the best and most fun way possible…he COOKS the solution!
Now comes some drama complications…there is a rival newspaper called the “Teito Times” that is also working on a menu project, (the SUPREME Menu!) and their “foodie” is a man named Kaibara Yuzan. Yuzan and Yamaoka are often pitted against each other in cooking contests to impress the wealthy foodie patrons of Japanese society. Both men hate each other for very personal reasons. The biggest complication: Yuzan is also Yamaoka’s father.
“Sake” and “Ramen and Gyoza” were the first two volumes I read, courtesy of my local library and I’ve been searching for the other volumes ever since. Akira Hanasaki’s art is astonishing. The main characters are drawn in the traditional, whimsical manga style, but the backgrounds and level of detail is reminiscent of Ryuichi Ikegami! For example, when Yamaoka is talking about a particular fish, the realistic illustration shows that exact breed of fish! In the “Sake” volume, there was a sequence of panels that took place in a liquor store. The level of detail was such that you could read the Kanji lettering on the bottles! Wow. In any case, Tetsu Kariya’s storytelling is well paced and easily transitions from the serious information about the food to the wacky antics of the characters. (I love it when Yamaoka, who is a bit arrogant, gets beaten up by someone for shooting off his mouth…usually by his co-workers or bosses! Strangely enough, he only seems to get beaten up for remarks that aren’t related to food…hmmm)
I highly recommend this series, especially since several volumes include the recipes that are prepared by the characters. It makes for a very subliminal experience, to eat the food that you’re reading about. And they’re delicious, too! Try it! A++