Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oishinbo: A la Carte, vol. 1

Story by Tetsu Kariya and Art by Akira Hanasaki
Published in the US by Viz

Slugline: Cooking that reveals more about the characters than the ingredients.

Yamaoka is the son of a famous gourmet, but has rejected his father's life and works. Of course, he unfortunately has been been assigned by the newspaper to cover Japanese cuisine and create the ultimate menu, leading him to multiple confrontations with his father, some of which he walks away the winner others less so. But each chapter of the story talks a little bit more about aspects of Japanese cuisine in factual terms.

This is actually a compilation of the some of the best episodes of the series, which has over 100 collected volumes. Which explains for a rather esoteric topic that the stories here are rather interesting, since they had more than two decades of story to choose from. The interest in these episodes are not in the minutiae of the cooking suggestions and techniques, but in what they represent to the characters. The volume presents a view of a Japan that is far more traditional than what is normally seen in manga. The protagonist is allowed to lose and not know it all, to the primary antagonist, his estranged father. Which both reinforces the traditional values in cooking but violates traditional storytelling rules by having the protagonist being the most competent. Sure, sometimes the actual story itself is simplistic, but there is some interesting balancing between the story and characters, and traditions in storytelling and society.

Oishinbo: A la Carte, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


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