Book Review: Oishinbo

This week’s book review is of the graphic novel manga Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya.

Quick plot synopsis:  Oishinbo is a story that follows Yamaoka Shiro on his quest for discovering the “ultimate” menu. With his fellow co-worker, Kurita Yuko, he starts of on what ends up being a fascinatingly complex quest on how difficult it truly is to find worthy Japanese cuisine.

This is a manga that catalogs the delicacy and beauty of  Japanese culture and cuisine – which are very closely intertwined.

My thoughts: First off, as a warning to American readers, the US version was published “a la carte.” Apparently, the publishers thought it would be a better idea to take the narrative apart and then put it back together according to food category. Essentially, they selected the “best of” chapters from the serialized manga and compiled them in a thematic fashion. This means that the continuity of the original plot is lost, and you may get confused reading the American order. However, there are end notes that help fill in back story, and the main plot is straightforward enough, you won’t lose yourself in the mish-mashing.

This is a manga series aimed at adults. From the careful attention to high quality Japanese ‘washoku’ cooking, to the character dynamics, this is a manga remedy for adults who are tired of only having shōnen or shōjo mangas to read.

Because this is a manga, I have to address the artistic style. The art, overall, is not the most beautiful manga art I have seen, but the rendering of the food is so delicate, so detailed, you can almost taste it. This is culinary art at its finest.

If you enjoy Japanese culture, history, or you watch the Food Network religiously, this is a manga for you.

– E.B.

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