+ Humorous series
+ Loveable characters
+ Very nice artwork
4.5 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Yakitate!! Japan Manga Review
Written by: Karthon
Azuma Kazuma is a 16 year-old who leaves his home to become a baker in Tokyo. 10 years ago, he met a man who baked amazing bread and since then he has become infatuated with making different types of breads,
which he calls Japans (one of many puns throughout the series, as the word "pan" in Japanese means bread). His goal is to create the ultimate Japanese bread, one that can be named after the country, much like there's French bread and German Bread. Azuma has also been blessed with the legendary "solar hands", which are hands that are warmer than normal people's hands, allowing for the yeast to rise faster when making bread, and hence making tastier bread.
Upon arriving in Tokyo, he finds himself making bread Pantasia, a famous chain of bakeries throughout the country. There, he meets many friends and faces off in "bread-duels" against many opponents. But as he works his way up, it soon becomes clear that his raw talent will not suffice. To progress he has to learn about new cooking techniques and various different ingredients. Even with the support of his friends and their knowledge, it always ends up falling to Azuma's creativity to save the day. But as the opponents get stronger and stronger (Azuma is eventually invited to an international bread-making competition), will his skills and ingenuity allow him to survive? Or will he fall by the wayside along with his dream of creating Japan.
Although the summary makes this sound like a heavily cooking based manga, it's not. Rather, it uses the cooking battles as a stage to set up many puns and comedic antics. The title itself is a play on words (Yakitate means freshly baked, Japan means Japan but also has the emphasis on pan, which as mentioned before means bread). Furthermore, almost every chapter has several puns worked in, often as part of "reactions." Reactions are the side-effect of people eating delicious bread, and range from remembering the past, to temporarily dying and going to heaven. Every bread battle has the judges suffering some peculiar yet hilarious and unique reaction.
The art for this series is very nice, with detailed backgrounds and consistent yet highly expressive characters. I'm also impressed by the sheer breadth (no pun intended) of different locales and types of bread the author has managed to conjure up and draw. There is also much homage to various other series (such as Detective Conan and Konjiki No Gash) and it's entertaining to see those characters drawn in the author's style.
The characters are loveable although outside of Azuma, everyone else seems interchangeable (and besides Kawachi Kyousuke, all the other characters are changed from one story arc to another). Nonetheless, the way that they interact with Azuma is always humorous and each side-character brings a small nuance to the table. The micro-level plot for Yakitate! Japan gets a little redundant in that it consists of one tournament followed by another, but this is balanced out by the macro-level plot, in which Azuma slowly moves closer and closer towards his ultimate goal.
I rapidly grew to love the silly jokes the author puts in every chapter. Though almost all the antics are over-the-top, they aren't over-done; they fit perfectly into the story being told, without detracting from it. I definitely recommend you read at least the first couple chapters of this title and try it out.
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