by Luke Carroll,

Yakitate!! Japan

Yakitate!! Japan
England. France. Germany. What common thread binds these three nations together? Answer: each is famous for producing unique, distinctive, delicious bread. But what of the island nation of Japan, home to rice and delicacies of the sea? Is there not a doughy, gastronomic delight they can claim as their own? The answer is no…until now! Kazuma Azuma, a 16-year-old boy blessed with otherworldly baking powers. Has taken it upon himself to create Ja-pan, the national bread of the land of the rising sun!

Yakitate!! Japan is about bread, pure and simple. It's hard to believe such a premise would even be considered interesting, let alone go on to spawn a 69 episode anime series and even a Nintendo DS Game. Winner of the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award, Yakitate!! Japan sets out to prove that there is a lot more to bread then meets the rye.

The initial chapter of Yakitate is mainly a large flashback on how our main hero, Kazuma Azuma, begins his journey to create Ja-pan, the national bread of Japan. From here, we jump forward to present day where Azuma believes that he has been accepted into employment at Pantasia, Japan's number one bakery. Azuma arrives to find out that he is actually part of of a large examination, and that only one person will be employed into Pantasia's main bakery. This examination takes up most of the story this volume, with the last chapter providing a twist and a new challenge for Azuma to succeed at.

Yakitate!! Japan is very comical in its approach (the title is even a pun itself). Due to Azuma's special solar hands, characters that eat Azuma's bread will experience a special reaction. The reaction is different depending on the bread. These reactions are quite unique and are a great gag. However, they are unfortunately limited to a few panels at best, making them a lot less humorous then they could have been (they are fleshed out in the anime).

Takashi Hashiguchi does a great job with the art. Light and heavily detailed panels transition well throughout the novel. The panels are also well arranged, which makes it a relaxing and easy to follow when reading. Not a lot of big action happens in Yakitate, but that definitely doesn't stop Hashiguchi from littering the panels with speed lines, which only serves to enhance the art. The artwork suits the story very well. Other than a few panels which were detailed more than they likely should have been, there is not much I can fault the art with.

Viz manages to pull off a reasonably well translation and package for Yakitate!! Japan. Although Viz has done their own cover, the pages all seem to remain intact from the Japanese release. Viz does a fairly good job with the translation here. As is standard with most of Viz's works, the sound effects are changed to a comical font for the translation. For the most part though, they seem to be a font size or two bigger than what was required, and they generally look a little out of place in the panels. The artwork tells the story enough that you can easily ignore the sound effects if you choose.

Volume 1 of Yakitate!! Japan is quite an interesting one. It sets out a neat plot for the whole story, introduces us to a lot of characters, and shows us that bread is a lot more interesting than we could have ever imagined. I can't help but feel though that the story will eventually bog itself down somewhere if it doesn't keep everything interesting. There's a lot to enjoy about Yaktiate so far if you're in for meaningless fun with a nice oddity to the story. Who knows, reading this may inspire you to become a baker and bake your own national bread for the world to enjoy.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B

+ Unique plot with a good chunk of funny moments.
Little is explained on the cast that you meet, sound effects

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Takashi Hashiguchi

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