By Leroy Douresseaux
May 20, 2007 - 17:09
In Yakitate!! Japan, the world of bread and bread makers take center stage as young apprentices battle seasoned culinary veterans in an attempt to invent the most delicious and unique bread creations. Yakitate!! Japan has as its hero 16-year old Kazuma Azuma, a country boy come to Tokyo where he works at the famous bakery chain, Pantasia. Kazuma constantly works to develop bread that will put Japan on the map with other famous bread-making countries like England, France, and Germany. Kazuma calls each bread creation in his line of baked goods, “Ja-pan,” a pun on the Japanese word for bread, “pan.”
Yakitate!! Japan, Vol. 2 opens with Kazuma and his fellow student, Kyosuke Kawachi, trying to make a bread that will appeal to both human and horse. That’s just the first of many surreal and weird incidents they’re going to experience with their boss, Ken Matsuhiro, the afro-wearing manager of Pantasia – South Tokyo Branch. When Kazuma finds himself in a bake-off with a rival bread maker, the teen will meet the strangest character of all in Japan’s baking weird world, the mask-wearing, caped-crusader, Meister Kirisaki.
While much of Yakitate!! Japan, Vol. 1 was about introducing this series’ characters and setting, creator Takashi Hashiguchi delves deeply into the heart of this ongoing narrative for the second volume. Each chapter is rich and heavy with the lore and culinary science behind bread making. The hilarious baking combat scenes are like Yu-Gi-Oh!, but with bread as the cards, creatures, and magic. While the bread knowledge and bakeoffs are the flavorings that give Yakitate!! Japan its offbeat accent, the characters are what truly makes this both a peculiar and enjoyable reading experience.
The relationships and even the encounters between bit players and main cast (such as when a burly and muscle-bound lifeguard “baby-sits” Kawachi) build the comedy and engage the reader. If Hashiguchi remains successful at making these oddballs play off one another in ways that both shape and move the narrative, then Yakitate!! Japan will be more than just another manga with bizarre concept.
Thanks to barnesandnoble.com for the images. The Comic Shop Locator phone number is 1-888-COMIC BOOK.