Yakitate!! Japan Part 1 Review

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Yakitate!! Japan presents an oddly specific premise. It’s an anime about bread. Inuyasha director Yasunao Aoki teams up with Sunrise, the studio behind the legendary Cowboy Bepop, to bring mangaka Takashi Hashiguchi’s work to the screen. Absurdity aside, it’s an incredibly capable lineup. I’ll gladly take weird over another run-of-the-mill series. And, luckily, I’m a total bread nerd. I frequent the Fresh Loaf forum and peruse an assortment of food blogs on a daily basis. Peter Reinhart’s baking titles make up an integral part of my Kindle collection. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my weakness for food television. Pair that with the phenomenon where even the worst anime manages to produce stills of mouthwatering deliciousness, and it's a setup for success. Yakitate!! Japan is right up my alley. 

The protagonist, Azuma Kazuma, is blessed with solar hands, a rare phenomenon and coveted trait among the world’s finest bread artisans. His dermal extremities retain a specific warmth just above normal body temperature. In his magical hands, dough finds the ideal environment, making for ultra efficient kneading and uniform gluten development. This supercharges the rise, allowing speed and precision. His gift allows him to combine intuition with a mechanical efficiency, making Kazuma an unstoppable culinary force. Kazuma’s goals are loftier than perfecting his technical abilities. He wants to produce a bread, cleverly titled ja-pan, that becomes the national standard and a rival to rice. Every new recipe he creates is a type of “japan”, and he’s already at japan #55 at the start of the show. He leaves the family rice field for a chance to work at Pantasia, Japan’s most prestigious bakery chain.


"Inuyasha director Yasunao Aoki teams up with Sunrise, the studio behind the legendary Cowboy Bepop, to bring mangaka Takashi Hashiguchi’s work to the screen."

In construction, Yakitate is no different than any other chosen-one scenario. Kazuma’s introduced as an otherwise normal child who we later learn has an extraordinary gift. What starts as a challenge to get his rice-loving grandfather to accept bread at the breakfast table awakens an unknown passion. After moving to Tokyo to pursue his dream, he befriends other budding bakers with like-minded goals. Sweet and maternal Tsukino, the head of Pantasia’s granddaughter, sees the best in others. Sarcastic Kawachi is slightly stuck-up but a formidable sidekick. He’s also hilarious. Yakitate is Iron Chef meets Dragonball. Yes, it’s eccentric, but it’s self-aware and doesn’t skimp on the wordplay. The dialog and location names are dripping with puns. 

Notes illuminating these jabs pop-up on screen to keep the audience in the know. They manage to be more charming than a nuisance, particularly for English viewers with a nonexistent grasp of the idiosyncrasies of Japanese language. Think VH1’s Pop Up Video hour, flashing fun facts over curated songs. Nickelodeon employed a similar shtick with The Last Airbender, unfortunately only as an extra during parts of its broadcast. Yakitate’s factoids are thankfully baked in.


"What starts as a challenge to get his rice-loving grandfather to accept bread at the breakfast table awakens an unknown passion."

Kazuma practices completely unconventional methods. Despite the fact that his ideas may be implausible in real life, there’s a consistent logic that’s always thoroughly explained. Plus, the majority of trivia references solid kitchen science and global culture, making Yakitate a surprisingly educational program. As the story unfolds, his ingenuity surpasses his innate abilities. Kazuma’s ability to think abstractly gives him the greatest edge against his competition. It’s a smart move, because it allows his character greater credibility. Kazuma isn’t just lucky, he’s driven and analytical. The promise of success becomes accessible based on more than pure chance, building rapport with the audience. 

The epic reactions to food are perhaps the greatest part of the show. Characters break into violent convulsions, locked into lucid dream sequences after a single bite. Split-second panning, distorted perspective, flashing technicolor backgrounds and explosive sound effects seal the deal. The extravagant moments pay satirical homage to both traditional Hokkaido cooking style and Shonen melodrama. It doesn’t hurt that every iteration of Kazuma’s japan series is nothing short of groundbreaking. If the bread in question is a culinary staple, Kazuma concocted a crazy method to reinvent the classic. Watching him wield a baguette is just as satisfying as seeing a hero deliver their signature, skull-crushing move. 


"The epic reactions to food are perhaps the greatest part of the show. Characters break into violent convulsions, locked into lucid dream sequences after a single bite."

Kazuma avoids the pitfall of being completely perfect. While he’s confident in his skills and dedicated to his mission, Kazuma’s compassion often pushes him to put others first. He's sensitive to a fault, gushing tears at the mere mention of adversity. He harbors numerous quirks and is twice as naive as his peers. Despite his natural talent, Kazuma’s a country boy being thrust into an elite culture at Pantasia. His social skills are lacking, to say the least, and he has a penchant for getting stuck in awkward situations. He’s clumsy, forgetful and blissfully ignorant of common etiquette. 

His behavior is usually met with bewildered stares. Because he’s self-taught, he has a fair amount to learn from his colleagues in the way of formal training. And as capable as he is, he’s still working in the presence of remarkable skill. Kazuma’s newfound friends and adversaries are the best at what they do. He learns to accommodate for real-world limitations, like picky palates, weird bosses, restricted budgets, perishability and allergies. 


"Yakitate’s ridiculous world is frighteningly easy to get sucked into. Snappy storytelling and likable characters carry the show. You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the humor, but it doesn’t hurt."

Yakitate’s ridiculous world is frighteningly easy to get sucked into. Snappy storytelling and likable characters carry the show. You don’t have to be a foodie to appreciate the humor, but it doesn’t hurt.  A dorky amount of detail accompanies the introduction of every bread Kazuma conquers. The footnotes, diagrams, and asides establish an interactive viewing experience. Right Stuf just released Part 1 of this wacky, unforgettable series, and I’d recommend it hands down. While the 4x3 aspect ratio makes the series appear more dated than it actually is, the quality is great for a DVD release. 

The first set includes the first 27 episodes, and retails for a modest $29.99. It’s a  standard release, so the only extras included are clean openings/closings and digital liner notes. However, early purchases do come with an exclusive chipboard artbox to house the complete collection. It’s worth mentioning that even the box’s copywriting is heavy on the carb-motif. 

Review by: Ameenah Salamunic | Published by: Right Stuf | Review Format: DVD

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