High Carb Heaven
All you Atkins diet supporters better run for the hills 'cause it's Yakitate!! Japan!
Yakitate!! Japan, simply put, is a show about a boy who bakes bread, but once you look into it, youíll see a show about a boy who wants to bake not just any normal bread, but Japan bread.
As most people know, rice is the staple food in Japan, eaten with basically every meal. Its western counterpart would most likely be considered bread. In Japan, bread isnít eaten like it is here, but one brother and sister would like to change this. One day, Azumaís sister is trying to get her family to start eating bread for breakfast, but no one agrees, not even Azuma. Their family is a die-hard rice eating family. On her way to school, she brings Azuma to the local bakery to try some bread. After his first unwilling bite, he falls in love with it and all of its bready goodness. After his first experience in eating real, good quality bread, Azuma wants to learn how to make it, and the local baker happily teaches him. Not too long after, heís making excellent bread and has converted his whole family.
Azuma and the baker become very close, but one day the baker tells Azuma that he has to leave for Tokyo, because only there can he continue his dream, the dream that Azuma shares. Azuma wants to know if they will ever meet again, and the baker tells him that if he keeps making bread and striving to reach his dream, then their paths will cross. Whatís this dream? Well itís to make Japan. Other nations, such as France, England, and Germany, each have their own national bread, but Japan does not, so their goal is to one day create a bread good enough to be Japanís bread.
Azuma seems to have a natural talent for making bread, as well as a natural gift known as "solar hands." Azumaís hands are warmer than normal, thus helping in the fermentation of the bread and allowing him create masterpieces. In search of his goal, Azuma goes to the top bakery in Tokyo, Pantasia, to take the entrance exam, so that he can work on creating a bread for Japan, and this is where Yakitate!! Japan takes off. Azuma is picked to go and work at Pantasiaís Southern Tokyo branch, which is its least successful one. Here we meet the rest of the main cast: Ken, the manager; Kawachi, the other main employee at the store; and Tsukino, the granddaughter of the founder of Pantasia.
Now this may sound like a pretty silly plot for an anime, and a lot of people might be wondering what exactly is the appeal of Yakitate!! Japan. Thatís easy, itís one of the best pure comedies since Azumanga Daioh. Throughout any episode of the show, youíll find yourself bursting out with laughter. On top of this, you have a pretty interesting and very enjoyable story, as Azuma aspires to be the number one baker and make Japan.
The relationship between the staff of Pantasiaís Southern Tokyo branch becomes closer and closer as the series goes on. In the beginning, Azuma and Kawachi are enemies, and neither of them like the manager because he might not even let them in. The more of the show that you see, the more that you will fall in love with the cast.
Yakitate!! Japan also gives you Bread Battles! Despite tournaments becoming routine in anime, you actually find yourself getting into the competitions and rooting for the Pantasia Southern Tokyo branch employees to make the greatest tasting bread ever!
The great thing about the cooking competitions is that they donít take ten episodes to complete one battle. Try roughly one episode per battle, perhaps even two battles in one episode. The show cuts right to the best part, which is also the best part of the entire show: the characters' reactions. This is by far the funniest thing about this anime, and one of the single funniest things that youíll see in an anime. They are so completely over the top that itís impossible not to laugh, and you canít wait to see what the next one will be like. Some great examples of this are the turtle bread that caused the examiner Kuroyanagi (another classic character) to turn into Gamera. Some breads cause people to recite ancient poems, or even to die and go to heaven for a short time.
Yakitate!! Japan is filled to the brim with great characters. You have an extremely likable lead cast where each of them bringing something different to the table, as well as a supporting cast that is one of the funniest going in anime. As I mentioned before, the examiner Kuroyanagi will quickly become one of your favorite characters due to his inability to contain himself after trying Azumaís bread. General manager Kirisaki will cause you to laugh by just seeing him, and the first challenger that Azuma faces is funny enough to get a show when he calls Ken, Ken-chan, whom he hates (and this is a thousand times funnier when you see what both of them look like). There is also a villain who wears a koala mask over his head, and Dave. Well, youíll just have to see Dave, but in true Yakitate!! Japan fashion, heís funny. In a show like this, you need a strong cast, and Yakitate!! Japan certainly has that.
The show has good animation. It wonít blow anyone away, but itís certainly really nice and works well for the show. The nicest part of the animation has to be the character designs. Yakitate!! Japan may have good animation, but it has very good music. This is no surprise, considering Taku Iwasaki is the person behind it. With a resume including R.O.D. TV, Read or Die OVA, Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal, and Witch Hunter Robin, you can easily see why. Itís also very easy to pick out the best part of the music, the second ending, "To All Tha Dreamers" by SOUL'd OUT, perhaps the greatest closing theme that youíll see in an anime.
One thing that could throw some people off about Yakitate!! Japan is that it contains a lot of Japanese pop culture references, historical references, and word plays, so much so that you either have to live there or have someone who does to explain what they all mean. This could leave a lot of people in the dark, but since a good portion of them come in during the reactions, it doesnít matter, because even if you donít get them they are still hilarious. Additionally, the comedy might not be for everyone, although it has a wide appeal. Certain people who donít enjoy, wacky, zany, over the top comedy might be turned off.
One thing is certain, and that is you will walk away learning something. Yakitate!! Japan is almost like a mini encyclopedia, with little factoids thrown out to the audience periodically. Youíll certainly leave watching this show as a smarter person when it comes to the world of bread.
Yakitate!! Japan certainly is an example of the fresh and original anime revival in Japan. This is a very fresh and original story that when it comes down to it, is pure fun. Yakitate!! Japan is easily one of the most fun animes of the year. Itís currently a little over halfway done with its forty-seven episode run, and anime fans can only hope that a company will pick this show up fast.