11 July 2010


One of the greatest misconceptions others have of me as a comic book fan is they automatically think I read manga, or Japanese comics, as well. For the record, while I do enjoy some Japanese anime, I am neither a fan or collector of the Japanese comics nor animation on the whole.

Notwithstanding this, I'm a huge fan of Japanese cuisine and was compelled somehow to pick up a couple of volumes of "Oishinbo: A La Carte" by Tetsu Kariya (w) and Akira Hanasaki (a), published by Viz Media during the recent Kinokuniya sale. These are "best of" compilations of the long-running manga and anime series, translated for the American market since 2009. I counted seven volumes published so far on the shelves and selected the two themes which appealed to me (and my stomach) most - "Japanese Cuisine" and "Fish, Sushi and Sashimi".

The stories feature a journalist, Shiro Yamaoka, and his colleagues in the search for the Ultimate Menu - a project commissioned by the publishers of the Tozai News as part of the celebrations for its 100th anniversary. Yamaoka's enclopedic knowledge of food and refined palate were the result of his training under his father, Kaibara Yuzan, a gourmet, artist and ceramicist who is the President of the Gourmet Club. The strained father-son relationship sparks a rivalry and conflict that drives the narrative of most of the the stories.

The reader is taken on a fantastical journey into the world of Japanese cuisine - ingredients, preparation, cooking, presentation and the "love" and "gratitude" that goes into each meal. Written and drawn with an eye for detail, the stories are funny, poignant and informative in one bite-sized package. These Viz Media volumes are well annotated with explanations and translations of the key text and concepts presented. They also feature recipes of some of the dishes featured in the stories of the same volume, if you're game enough to try them. I'm certainly looking forward to picking up the other five volumes during the next Kinokuniya sale.

Oishinbo: A La Carte - Japanese Cuisine and Fish, Sushi and Sashimi volumes

Interior art of Japanese Cuisine

Recipes for Seabream Kamishio style and Seabream Pine-skin style

Interior art of Fish, Sushi and Sashimi

Recipe for Grilled Salmon Skin

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