Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sub.DVD - Part 3
Fresh off of their win in Monaco, the Pantasia gang returns to Japan and is hit with a terrible revelation: the owner of St. Pierre has bought out their store! In order to win it back from him, Kawachi, Kanmuri, and Azuma must compete (and pay for) a televised nine-part competition, the Yakitate 9, to be judged by their old friend Kuroyanagi. It's all or nothing as they travel across Japan and seek to make the finest breads highlighting local specialties. With their very store at stake, will they manage to rise to the occasion?
How long can a bread-baking competition go on before it starts to get old? Apparently the answer is “two seasons,” because in this third and final set of episodes, Yakitate! Japan stops being as innovative as it was in the first two and is reduced to a formulaic set of baking battles, each so predictable that you can tell who is going to win the day by which chef finishes first. If bread-baking can have a monster-of-the-week show, this is it. Luckily it does manage to throw in some good jokes and entertaining reactions, but overall this is much tougher to get through than its predecessors.
The story picks up almost immediately after Azuma and the rest return from Europe as the winners of the Monaco Cup. There's no time to rest on their laurels, however, as it is quickly revealed that Kirisaki, the owner of St. Pierre and their number one rival, has bought out Pantasia. If the gang wants their store back, they'll have to compete in a televised competition known as “Yakitate 9,” during which they will have bake-offs with St. Pierre-supplied chefs and strive to utilize the specialty foods of nine different regional Japanese towns to create superior loaves. As an added bonus, Pantasia is required to pay for the whole thing, since they have all that cash from winning in Monaco. Needless to say, no one is really pleased about this situation, but there's not much they can do, so Azuma, Kanmuri, and Kawachi (now sporting his own hair) are off to the competition. On the way, Kuroyanagi is convinced to give up his own baking to become a judge par excellence of bread in general and this contest in specific, the most notable result of which is his horrible new jacket. To his credit, he doesn't react in boring flashbacks like Pierrot, nor does he show favoritism – he judges solely on the food's merits.
The story thus established, Yakitate! Japan quickly lapses into a formula. Each competition takes two episodes, with the first getting them to their location and finding their ingredients. They begin baking, and then in the second episode they finish baking and are judged, with lengthy reactions and explanations. Then it's on to the next location. While seeing the towns and their various specialties – and how seasons come into play, which is one of the better done elements – is interesting, as are the variety of horrible inns Kanmuri makes the boys stay in to try and save money, this very set pattern grows dull very quickly. While there is effort made with Kuroyanagi's reactions and Azuma's techniques, it's not enough to keep this from dragging up until the final episode...which is rushed to the point where it's not entirely clear how we got from the previous battle to the last one. It frankly feels like they simply ran out of time and cobbled together a finale from what was on hand.
Amidst these issues, however, are some nice touches, like Naruto, One Piece, Dragonball Z, and Anpanman parodies in four of the episodes. Lines like “deliciousness that makes your hair shoot off” are also fun, and a slew of metafiction moments, such as when one opponent is so powerful that he actually changes the show's title. (A rice-based parody episode is also good.) There's also an extended Lord of the Rings spoof involving loquats and a merchant who looks rather like a Japanese Peter Lorre, so there is a real attempt at branching out the humor.
None of this is quite enough to save these episodes from mediocrity, sadly. The uninspired animation doesn't help, and while there is a real attempt at changing up the art as required by different scenes or reactions, the show's “Monet” is enough to make an art historian scream. While there are some strong vocal performances, specifically from Takehito Koyasu as Kuroyanagi, who turns in a particularly good loquat performance, it just enough to bring this beyond “okay.” It's decent...but not quite good enough.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : C+
+ Some very funny references and meta-moments, a variety of opponents and ingredients. Some good vocals, very complete printable PDF file of liner notes on the final disc...
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