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Oishinbo A la Carte – Izakaya: Pub Food by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

March 19, 2010 by  



All things come to an end and the seventh and final volume of “Oishinbo A la Carte” has been released.  The final volume collecting stories that deal with Izakaya: Pub Food is another entertaining and enjoyable volume from the series.  If you have an interest in Japanese cuisine, every volume of “Oishinbo” has been quite delightful,  worth reading and definitely recommended!

(C) Image courtesy of Tetsu KARIYA and Akira HANASAKI. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: OISHINBO A la Carte – Izakaya: Pub Food

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

RATED: T for Teen

Released: January 2010

Izakaya occupy the same vital space in the Japanese culinary landscape as tapas bars in Spain or tavernas in Greece. Unpretentious, frequently boisterous, they’re places to meet with friends or business partners to unwind over drinks and small dishes that range from hearty standards to refined innovations.

In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and Kurita investigate classic izakaya foods such as edamame and yakitori, devise new dishes to add to the menu of an old shop, and discover how the concept of “play” is essential to the enjoyment of food.

Story by Tetsu Kariya and Art by Akira Hanasaki.

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.  This latest volume of “Oishinbo: A la Carte” is the final volume to be released in the US and what a delightful series this has become.

So, far the following manga been released:

  • Oishinbo A la Carte – The making of food, beverages and utensils
  • Oishinbo – Sake
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Ramen & Gyoza
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Fish, Sushi and Sashimi
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – Vegetables
  • Oishinbo A la Carte – The Joy of Rice

“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.

Readers can literally learn about Japanese cuisine but also a little history and even recipes on cooking the dishes.

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

For this latest volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte”, the stories are broken up in chapters that relate to Izakaya: Pub Food. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each chapter:

  1. Recipe: Fried Sardine Fish
  2. FIRST COURSE – Beer and Edamame – A chef is fired because he served black edamame.  Now, Shiro must show the owner of the restaurant of why black edamame is tasty and not spoiled.
  3. SECOND COURSE – The Spirit of the Sardine – An entrepreneur wants the Tozai news to run a restaurant and Shiro is selected to head the project.  But for the choice of menu, Shiro chooses sardines?
  4. THIRD COURSE – An Honest Taste – The Arakawas get into a heated argument after Mrs. Arakawa makes sashimi out of Chiba fish-monger instead of tsuboyaki.
  5. Audio Commentary: Oishinbo Day-by-Day – Tetsuya Kariya writes about the joys of izakaya.
  6. FOURTH COURSE – The Ultimate Wedding Outfit – Tozai News wants to do a spread on Shiro and Yuko’s wedding with Yuko sporting a dress by a world renown fashion designer.  But the wedding dress designer is depressed about his son’s attitude towards the business.  Because the dress is needed and they need to impress the designer, Shiro and Yuko try to help the young man out.
  7. FIFTH COURSE – A New Dish for the Izakaya?! (Part One) – Shiro and Yuko must come up with dishes for the Pink Hippo Izakaya business.
  8. FIFTH COURSE – A New Dish for the Izakaya?! (Part Two) – After angering the president of Pink Hippo, Shiro and Yuko must do their best to come up with better dishes for the Izakaya.
  9. SIXTH COURSE – Potato Hater!!– Shiro and Yuko visit their friend Nakamatsu-san.   Nakamatsu is depressed because of a bet where he and the other person must eat something they dislike and for Nakamatsu, he dislikes potatoes.  Can Shiro convince Nakamatsu that potatoes can be tasty?
  10. SEVENTH COURSE – Naming Problem?! (Part One) – Yuko gives birth to twins and both she and Shiro decide that she will name the boy and he will name the girl.  But what name should Shiro name her?
  11. SEVENTH COURSE – Naming Problem?! (Part Two) – A continuation of Shiro trying to come up with the name of his daughter.
  12. EIGHTH COURSE – A Surprising Taste of Japan! – The chairman of the American Media and Communication Association is coming to Japan and one of Shiro’s associates is being considered to run the main branch in Asia.  But the problem is the man introduced the chairman to yakitori under Shiro’s recommendation which angers the chairman.  Now Shiro must fix the problem.
  13. NINTH COURSE – A Delicious Face – A popular young actor is having problems with his sake scenes in a film.  With the director being fed up after four days of trying to shoot the scene, Shiro decides to help out his friend who is producing the film.

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.

With “OISHINBO A la Carte – Izakaya: Pub Food”, this latest volume is the final collected volume from Viz.  As much as I would I have loved to read the entire manga series of “Oishinbo”, the fact the series has been ongoing since 1983 makes it a bit difficult.  But I have to say I’m quite grateful to Viz for releasing such a wonderful and delightful manga series based on Japanese cuisine.

In this latest volume, it’s probably the first volume that doesn’t have one story featuring Shiro vs. his father, Kaibara.  If anything, the majority of the stories feature Shiro trying to assist those who are in trouble through pub food.  Also, this volume has stories that deal with Shiro and Yuko with Yuko giving birth to twins and the two getting married.  This is important because throughout the seven volumes, we have many stories of seeing these two characters grow with each other and although each story is focused on food, you kind of wish you can read more stories based on their relationship.  So, fortunately you do get several stories that deal with that for this volume.

Overall, each volume of “OISHINBO A la Carte” has been magnificent and just an enjoyable manga series to read.  Because it’s so different from any series that is released in the US and deals with more of a realistic storyline and Japanese cuisine, reading a manga series such as “Oishinbo” was quite refreshing.  I don’t think there have been one chapter in any of the volumes that I found boring or not worth reading.

I definitely recommend this final volume and you don’t need to purchase previous volumes to understand what’s going on.   But if you really want to enjoy this manga series, I recommend all seven volumes of “Oishinbo A la Carte”.  Definitely recommended!

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