Reviewby Christopher Farris,
Crazy Food Truck
Gordon Goliath's food truck gets about as many customers as you could expect for one driving around a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but he's not about to deny charity to a mysterious girl he finds sleeping in the middle of the road. Unfortunately for him, that girl, named Arisa, is wanted by the military asserting their reign over this world, and they're immediately on Gordon's tail to catch her. Unfortunately for the military, Gordon has his own past that makes him someone they probably shouldn't have messed with. Gordon and Arisa make their way across the landscape, trying to outwit and out-fight their pursuers, and possibly turn a little profit from slinging burgers along the way in their Crazy Food Truck.
Crazy Food Truck is translated by Amanda Haley with editing by Jennifer LeBlanc. Lettering is by E. K. Weaver, James Gaubatz, Jeannie Lee, and Sara Linsley.
I have a healthy respect for works where the creator makes what they specifically would want from something. To hear Rokurou Ōgaki tell it in the notes included at the end of this first volume, Crazy Food Truck was pointedly put together by cramming in all his favorite things. So you end up with something comprised of a bunch of distinct ingredients, including a badass ex-military food-truck driver ferrying around a plucky, mysterious girl as they both bust bad guys' heads and detail the preparation of post-apocalyptic meals. It definitely feels like it's supposed to be this chaotic riot of components that should be enjoyed on its wild moment-to-moment action and paired with whatever heavy metal soundtrack you can supply it with, the sort of series where a mook straight-up screams out "That food truck is crazy!!!" just so you know what you're reading. However, this truck drive barely feels like it's getting started by the end of this initial volume, not yet truly cutting loose to become the breed of one-of-a-kind insanity it seems to be striving for.
Part of that's just down to the quantity of what's here. The first volume of Crazy Food Truck is a scant four chapters long. While those chapters themselves are long enough that the book still ends up your standard manga volume size, they still focus on a single subject at a time, be it showing how Gordon and Arisa go hunting for squid or end up liberating a beer-brewing town from bandits. The length of these chapters affords them plenty of breathing room, meaning the stories themselves never feel too rushed, but all that time spent on atmospheric shots of scenery and moment-to-moment action once the combat kicks in means this winds up being an extremely brisk read overall. It's another factor that contributes to the volume's feeling of being over before you know it, ending without us having seen or learned much about this world that they're trying to draw us into.
Granted, if Crazy Food Truck still managed to draw me in enough that my primary gripe is that there isn't more of it, I can hardly call it unsuccessful. A quick, simple book with a bunch of cool shit in it still, pointedly, has a bunch of cool shit to derive enjoyment from. And the single-chapter focus of each quarter of the volume helps them stand out for their distinctive, differentiated styles. The opener shows us how Gordon and Arisa meet and establishes the general tone of the piece. The second and third chapters show us details on the world as those characters engage with the wildlife and human components, respectively, of this seemingly apocalyptic setting. The last chapter breezes by particularly fast because it's the one where we get the most semblance of backstory-based seeding for plot twists and character turns we could see built upon moving forward. It all feels purposeful and foundational underneath the goofy conceptual dressing.
It's also all effectively in service of delivering all those aforementioned elements that Ogaki is cramming in. The book opens with several loving shots of Gordon joyously singing the recipe for some delicious-looking BLTs, all before we're introduced to the cute heroine who just cannot keep her clothes on, or get to behold any of the viscerally violent action. Priorities. Food is the one constant that threads through the chapters' different focuses: for example, the squid-hunting chapter finishes by showing all the different dishes that can be prepared with the duo's huge haul, and the sale of the resultant calamari burgers becomes the driving motivation of liberating the town in the third chapter. Ogaki definitely knows what he's about when he gets going with this subject as well—that section will absolutely leave you craving some fried squid perfectly paired with beer. Though many of the ingredients used throughout are technically fantastical, the book still provides recipes for several of them at the end, including some tongue-in-cheek notation and presented as such that the enterprisingly entree-curious ought to be able to sub in real-world equivalents to try out for themselves.
The rest of the presentation is fun enough, but hasn't quite burst forth on the same level as those post-disaster delicacies. Arisa's effective as a fanservice vehicle, as mentioned, and the series isn't above Gordon exposing his own excellent ex-military biceps at key points (as well as being the one to get tangled up in tentacles, in one delightfully knowing moment). But a lot of the panel-to-panel character rendering feels a little looser than the detailed food drawings; characters' facial features misalign at times, and the screen-tone depicting Arisa's tan comes and goes oddly across the fourth chapter. As well, the action's an exciting enough mix of martial arts and gunplay courtesy of our two leads, but nothing yet has broken out to the titular level of 'crazy' apart from the nominal food truck's first-chapter deployment of a giant cannon. The most amusing flourish is the occasional, characteristic changes to the text on the vehicle's light-up sign.
All in all, Crazy Food Truck is perfectly enjoyable, but to use an expectedly tortured culinary metaphor, feels like more of an appetizer than a full meal. Ogaki is definitely having fun, and that comes through on the page, but there just hasn't been enough doled out yet to let the action explode into outrageous excess, or to define the characters enough to let us latch onto them beyond wondering what the full deal with their mysterious pasts are. There is plenty of potential on display, and as a quick hit of goofy action adrenaline, it works. It just feels like we'll have to wait until another volume or two before we get to see what a series like this is truly capable of.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Fun-first action series that immediately makes you want more, Culinary component is a unique and effectively-illustrated inclusion
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