Vol 1: Japanese Cuisine, illustrated by Akira Hanasaki
Tōzai News has decided to commission a special news story - The Ultimate Menu. Yamaoka and Yūko are seeking some of the best of Japanese cuisine. Yamaoka is estranged from his father, who runs a Gourmet Club and especially loves Japanese cuisine, and the two often bump into each other to disastrous effect. In their pursuits, Yamaoka and Yūko delve into many parts of Japanese cuisine: how to use Dashi correctly and subtlety, knife skills and how it changes the flavor of food, how chefs cannot smoke because the tobacco transfers onto the flesh of fish, Japanese tea ceremonies, the artistry of sashimi, and so much more.
Despite this being an effective primer on Japanese cuisine, there is also a compelling storyline woven throughout the chapters. I started looking for ways Yamaoka and his father, Kaibara, were going to be pushed together, and there were several instances that ended up incorporating many comedy-of-errors elements. Yamaoka often gets "tricked" into cooking for Kaibara, and this is used to share proper cooking techniques as Kaibara berates Yamaoka for doing something wrong. I also learned a lot about cooking technique and have a greater appreciation for my sushi roles. The main takeaway I have from this book is that much of Japanese cuisine is delicate, and there is a greater focus on the best quality ingredients, especially treating them respectfully and with proper skill.
Hanasaki uses a lot of cartooning elements in designing the characters. Kaibara has an overly thick nose; Yamaoka is drawn simply with very few facial features. The backgrounds are all superbly detailed, contrasting with the caricature style of the humans placed in front of it. The food all looks delectable and is also drawn with very high precision. As the main focus of this book is on Japanese culture, I didn't mind the cartoony people very much.
This book would be great for high schoolers who are looking for more detailed information about Japanese culture. The vocabulary is a little elevated, so a studious middle schooler would probably also enjoy it.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 8-12
Publisher: VIZ Media
Publication Date: January 20, 2009
ISBN: 9781421521398 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga, Culinary, Family, VIZ Media
I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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