Yakitate!! Japan anime

12 03 2010

Greetings from Laserwolf! And my sincerest apologies.  The site has not been updated for a long time.  I would like to say that will change but I cannot guarantee that I will be able to post more frequently in the near future, nor can I vouch for my counterparts.  Let’s just say we’ll do our best.

I am here to tell you about an anime which captured my heart and made me laugh more than any other series.  Not only that, it made me very hungry.

Yakitate!! Japan (やきたて!!ジャぱん)

Author/artist: Takashi Hashiguchi

Genre: comedy, parody, culinary, shonen

Number of episodes: 69 (finished)

Summary:

Kazuma Azuma became interested in bread as a young boy whose family was in the rice farming business.  His rice-obsessed grandpa didn’t want to stop eating rice for breakfast and switch to toast, but Kazuma and his big sister convinced him when Azuma made delicious bread with the help of a nearby baker.  The baker saw potential in Kazuma’s extremely warm hands – the Solar Hands – which cause yeast to ferment more quickly and creates especially good bread.  Although the baker closed shop and left town shortly afterward, he left a lasting influence on Kazuma’s life – the vision to create true Japanese bread: Ja-pan.  (The title “Yakitate!! Japan” is a Japanese joke.  Pan means bread in Japanese, so the title means “Freshly baked Japan” or “Freshly baked Ja-bread”.)  Kazuma’s vision for Ja-pan is to create bread as delicious as rice.
Kazuma finishes his basic schooling and decides to bet his whole future on getting into Pantasia, the most influential bakery chain in Tokyo.  He meets new friends at the tryout tournament and battles his way through with his Ja-pan.
Throughout the series, Kazuma’s skills as a baker improve as he continues to perfect Ja-pan.

My honest opinion:

I am quite sad I am finished watching it.  I would have liked to watch this one endlessly.  Not only is it about food, which is something I love, it is about the most ridiculous anime I have ever seen (pretty much equal to Excel Saga).  The wonderful thing about this show is that it takes the tournament/fighting theme so prevalent in other shonen (such as Naruto, Bleach, and even Pokeman), and turns it into a food battle.  If you like Iron Chef, you will probably love Yakitate.
Another thing you can enjoy is the occasional parody.  Parodies of Naruto, Dragonball, Detective Conan (Case Closed), and lots more pop up in this anime.
And quite possibly my very favorite thing is the fact that just about every episode features a bizarre “reaction” due to eating something delicious.  Usually they are just hallucinations, but there are also breads that have caused people to go to heaven, go to outer space, grow gills to breathe underwater, or travel back in time to change the past.  Just the smell of one of Kazuma’s bread transforms a man into a panda!
I did find it educational, though.  Included in a couple of episodes were recipes to make certain kinds of bread.  You can also learn about different ingredients and baking methods by watching the show, if you can distinguish the truth from the crazy stuff.

My rating: 5/5

Why should you watch it?  (Besides the fact that it’s about delicious bread)

It’s seriously one of the most entertaining things I have seen.  Not only the reactions people have to bread (and other foods) but all of it.  And while each episode clearly has its own bread battle, there is also a larger story taking place that comes full-circle.  And in spite of the silliness, it has an overall good message.

My favorite characters in the series are Kawachi, Kid, and Shachihoko.  Kawachi is Azuma’s first rival and friend in the bread world, who as time passes, changes his hairstyle many times.  I don’t remember ever seeing an anime before where one of the main characters changed their hair so many times.  Kawachi tries to improve his bread by going to a church where he is forced to get an afro.  He is informed by the nun that he is just a sidekick.  As time goes on it becomes apparent that Kawachi is not a bread-making genius like Kazuma, and he is mostly treated like a blockhead, but he does have a lot of bread-making knowledge.  I tend to feel a little sorry for him because Azuma was blessed from birth with creating ideas by himself (not to mention the Solar Hands) whereas Kawachi tries hard and has more knowledge but will never have the same talent.

Kid, on the other hand, is not necessarily even a sidekick.  His character does not have a real role in the story.  Kid is a caucasion-looking man who randomly appears in stories and flashbacks throughout the series.  He always has the same face but his job, clothes, nationality, etc, are always changing.  Occasionally Kid is a spy or a government official.  He usually gives thumbs up and says “yay”.  Generally he is a “generic non-Japanese person” type.  My personal favorite appearance of Kid was during the urban legend story of the woman who microwaved her cat without knowing it would kill him, and Kid was the lawyer that convinced her to sue to get compensation from the microwave maker for not having warning labels.

Shachihoko is another foreigner.  He’s supposed to be American, and insists he lives in “Nagoya Prefecture” (Nagoya is a city, not a prefecture).  He is a master at making yakisoba.  Shachihoko is a friendly rival throughout the series and appears several times.  The thing that amuses me about Shachihoko especially is the way he pronounces things in Japanese.

Which brings me to something dear to my heart, life as a foreign person living in Japan.  It’s something I know a lot about because I have been living here for almost three years.  I don’t pronounce Japanese like Shachihoko (I’ve been told mine is pretty natural sounding).  And of course I don’t like being stereotyped.  Maybe it’s odd that anime which is so blatantly full of stereotypes comes off good-natured, but it is laughing indiscriminately at everyone.  And even though Shachihoko’s Japanese sounds funny, his culinary skills are top-notch.  Plus, I must admit, there are many Japanese and foreign person romances in Yakitate.  If anything, it is advocating international love and equality between different people groups.  That’s really the thing I enjoy most about Yakitate.  The fact that it is about love being more important than winning.  Kazuma’s love comes through in his bread, and he defeats many skilled bakers because he was focused on making the best bread rather than worrying about how strong his opponents were.  Even in the times he lost, he took things as a learning experience and never got discouraged for long.  I think a lot of people could learn from his attitude.

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