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OISHINBO A la Carte – Fish, Sushi & Sashimi by Tetsu Kariya and Akihara Hanasaki (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

August 12, 2009 by  



“The award winning manga that has captured the attention of Japanese readers since 1983 and is still ongoing today.  ‘OISHINBO A la Carte – Fish, Sushi & Sashimi’ is another enjoyable volume.  For those who are passionate about Japanese cuisine and are looking for a manga series that is well-written, witty but also careful on the details of Japanese cuisine, this manga series is just what you are looking for.   ‘Oishinbo A la Carte’ is a magnificent manga series.  Highly recommended!”

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Image courtesy of © Tetsu KARIYA and Akira HANASAKI.  All Rights Reserved.

MANGA TITLE: OISHINBO A la Carte – Fish, Sushi & Sashimi

STORY AND ART BY: Story by Tetsu Kariya, Art by Akihara Hanasaki

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shogakukan, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC

PAGES: 278

RATED: T for Teen

As part of the celebrations for its 100th anniversary, the publishers of the Tozai News have commissioned the creation of the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  This all-important task has been entrusted to journalist Yamaoka Shiro, an inveterate cynic who possesses zero initiative – but also an incredibly refined palate and an encyclopedic knowledge of food.

Each volume of Oishinbo follows Yamaoka and his colleagues through another adventure of their quest for the Ultimate Menu.  Now, the highlights from the hundred-plus volume series have been selected and compiled into A la Carte Editions: bite-sized chunks of story arranged by subject that add up to a full-course manga meal!

Yamaoka and his father, Kaibara Yuzan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship.  In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food – which they inevitably do-the sparks really fly.  In this volume of Oishinbo the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi.  Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Match”, which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges.  Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara?  Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?

The long running manga “Oishinbo” (which means “The Gourmet”) is a popular best-selling manga series published by Shogakukan which has been ongoing since 1983.  The series have sold 1.2 million copies per volume annually and have sold more than 100 million volumes as of Jan. 2009.

Written by Tetsu Kariya and art by Akira Hanasaki, the series has won multiple awards and has had a successful anime TV series run from 1988 through 1992.  And now the series is being released in the United States from Viz Media through their Viz Signature.   Because there have been so many volumes, Viz has selected chapters from the popular manga and will separate each volume release by cuisine topic.  The first volume in the US which  was well-done and captured the heart of Japanese cuisine, the last (third) volume focused on ramen and gyoza and now the latest version of “Oishinbo A la Carte” focuses on fish, sushi and sashimi.

“Oishinbo” revolves around the employees of the newspaper Tozai News with its employees commissioned to create the “Ultimate Menu”, a model meal that embodies the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  Both Shiro Yamaoka and Yuko Kurita are in charge of the project and throughout each chapter, the series is broken down to several types of dishes or food related items and how each dish is created.  Meanwhile, his father, who Shiro has had an estranged relationship for years after his mother’s death, the world renown founder and director of prestigious Gourmet Club and Japanese pottery creator, Kaibara Yuzan heads the “Supreme Menu” for a rival newspaper. So, both Shiro and his father are known to butt heads many times.  With Kaibara looking at his son as a person with a lacking knowledge of cuisine but Shiro, never to stand down against his father, proving that he knows more than his father thinks.

The characters featured in “OISHINBO” are:

Shiro Yamaoka – A journalist for Tozai News who knows his food and how things are created but he is estranged from his father, a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  He despises his father because of the death of his mother.  Yamaoka was trained from a young age by his father, Kaibara.

Kaibara Yuzan – The father of Shiro Yamaoka is a prominent artist and founder and director of the Gourmet Club.  Because of his prominent stature, all restaurants fear him and thus feel the need to create perfect food for him.  Estranged from his son Shiro and despises him for destroying all of his paintings and pottery worth tens or hundreds of million yen.  A man widely revered for his sense of taste and feared for his ferocious temper.    He heads the “Supreme Menu” project for Teito Times, rival paper to the Tozai News that his son works for.

Yuko Kurita – Knowledgeable about food and partner of Shiro.  She learns a lot from him.

Daizo Ohara – Publisher of Tozai News

Hideo Tanimura – Director of Tozai News Art & Culture Department

Tomio Tomii – Deputy Director working under Tanimura

Tojin Toyama – A legendary ceramicist and gourmet

Mantaro Kyogoku – A wealthy businessman and gourmet

Seiiichi Okaboshi – Chef/owner of a sushi shop and Shiro’s local hangout

Tokuo Nakugawa – The head chef for Gourmet Club

“OISHINBO A la Carte” is broken up in chapters that related to fish, sushi and sashimi.  Here is what to expect from this volume (free from major spoilers and is a brief description of each chapter):

  1. FIRST COURSE – LIVE FISH – Both Shiro and Yuko are invited to the President of Dainichi Electron, Kuroda Morio’s home and a lesson of eating live fish.
  2. SECOND COURSE – THE RARE FISH – Kaibara Yuzan wants Shiro to prove his claim that chub mackerel sashimi is one of the best fish for sashimi.
  3. THIRD COURSE – HOME OF THE SWEETFISH –  Kyogoku-san is hospitalized and wishes for Shiro to make him sweetfish once he gets out of the hospital but in typical father son fashion, Kaibara and Shiro end up in another food battle of who can prepare the best sweetfish dish.
  4. FOURTH COURSE – AN INTERESTING KARAAGE – Shiro tries to find a way to save an orphanage from closure through his preparation of the head of a tiger blowfish.
  5. FIFTH COURSE – AN ILL-FLAVORED FISH – Shiro visits a restaurant that serves freshwater Goby Kanroni.
  6. SIXTH COURSE – RIGHT EYED FLOUNDER AND LEFT-EYED FLOUNDER – Shiro tries to teach a young boy a lesson about life through fish via the right and left-eyed flounder.
  7. SEVENTH COURSE – SALMON MATCH (PART ONE) – The Ultimate Menu vs. the Supreme Menu ala Shiro vs. his father Kaibara Yuzan in who can make the best salmon dish.
  8. SEVENTH COURSE – SALMON MATCH (PART TWO)– The food battle heats up between Shiro and his father Kaibara on who can make the best salmon dish.
  9. SEVENTH COURSE – SALMON MATCH (PART THREE) – Part three of the Salmon food battle between Shiro and his father Kaibara Yuzan.
  10. EIGHTH COURSE – PLAYING AROUND WITH FOOD (PART ONE) – Shiro has lost his will to continue with the “Ultimate Menu”.
  11. EIGHTH COURSE – PLAYING AROUND WITH FOOD (PART TWO) – With Shiro not wanting to do the “Ultimate Menu” anymore, Yuko goes to the most unlikely person for help.

Also, included at the end of the main chapters is a “Notes on the Text” which explains certain panels and meaning of certain Japanese words.

I absolutely love “OISHINBO A la Carte”.  Any fans of Japanese cuisine can also read this manga and just be amazed of how enjoyable, how witty, how smart each story is written.  Not only are the readers engrossed by the characters, especially the rivalry between Shiro and his father Kaibara Yuzan, you really learn about the Japanese perspective of cuisine and also preparation.

“OISHINBO A la Carte – Fish, Sushi & Sashimi” focuses on seafood this time around and there is no slowdown between the hostility between Shiro and his father.  In fact, in this latest series, Kaibara tries to go for the jugular during a competition.  But there are also dramatic chapters and most of all, relationship development between both Shiro and Yuko which fans of the manga series will definitely be happy about.

Also, included in this latest “OISHINBO A la Carte” is a author commentary by Tetsu Kariya and why he prefers friends catching the fish and him having nothing to do with it.  I’m quite sure what Kariya writes, many others have probably been in his situation.

But overall, each volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte” has been magnificent and just an enjoyable manga series.  I don’t think there have been one chapter in any of the volumes that I found boring or not worth reading.  And sure enough, this fourth release “OISHINBO A la Carte – Fish, Sushi & Sashimi” is highly recommended!

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