It’s Yakitate!! Japan 18
July 14, 2009
Takashi Hashiguchi – Viz – 2009 – 26 volumes
I’m just saying. That’s what the volume is called.
Anyway, I continue to be addicted to and mildly put off by the weirdness in this series. Again, I have to tip my hat to the “reactions” when people eat something they like, which somehow get better and better and have even spread to other characters in this volume. They’re easily the best part of this series, and go to such great lengths to come 100% out of left field. For instance, here the best reaction was a gigantic two-page spread of a crowd scene containing a number of Kosaku Shima with different titles. Other reactions drastically change the art, the names, and one was a gag I thoroughly loved where Kuroyanagi plunged his face into burning jam to make it swell up and look like Jam Ojisan from Anpanman (I have no idea how I remembered that Anpanman existed just now, but whatever).
On the other hand, the humor is heavily based on Japanese culture, and I always feel like I’m missing out on something with the jokes. The two examples above are great, because the jokes both hinge on really famous manga series that I’ve barely heard of. There’s an excellent joke with a turtle, but I suspect it’s parodying a Japanese cola ad. The opponent at the end of the volume is a Japanese celebrity… who passed away and whose likeness is still used for selling nori? He’s drawn in an exaggerated caricature, which is awesome, but again, a joke I’m sure I’m not getting the full impact of. A lot of the humor is based on puns, too, which… is just hard to pull off in translation. When they do work, they’re brilliant, but for the most part, you have to kind of scratch your head and wonder at a few of the jokes. Of course, there’s also the possibility that the jokes are just weird in Japanese, too. I didn’t make the Anpanman connection until I was writing this review, but even knowing what the characters were talking about, the joke still doesn’t make much sense aside from the weirdness/hilarity factor in Kuroyanagi’s face. And the weirdness/hilarity factor was high indeed with that joke.
Some of the humor isn’t based so much on culture. There’s a great gag about Matsushiro becoming a Yakuza boss, and that works fine because that’s just what he is, and it’s even better that nobody seems to care but him. The joke where the drawing style shifts at the end of the volume is good (though the reason/pun doesn’t make much sense), as is the gag that ties in to the changed title for this volume. The turtle joke is also good, if only because one character says something along the lines of “Why am I supposed to be surprised by this turtle walking by? Actually, now I’m more interested since he’s standing bipedally…” and then everyone strikes a pose for a full-page ad-looking illustration. For no real reason. Awesome, but weird.
There’s plenty to like, and I’m definitely going to keep reading. It’s funny, and the humor goes to greater lengths than any other manga series I’ve seen, even from my beloved Ai Morinaga. I respect it for that, and I love that these energies are being used in a manga about baking bread rather than anything normal. The weirdness factor is a little high, and like I said, I’m pretty sure the original has its share of unattributed weirdness, but I suspect that goes through the roof when the cultural contexts for the jokes are missing. It still works, but it’s just… really, really weird.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.