Monday, October 18, 2010
I love cooking and eating. The majority of the food I cook is Asian-influenced. I particularly love Japanese food. I picked up Oishinbo simply to enjoy the depictions of food in the manga. Oishinbo is an adult manga (in that the characters are adults - it's thoroughly PG or PG-13). Yamaoka Shiro is a journalist tasked with creating the Ultimate Menu. He is helped by Kurita Yuku, his fiance, and thwarted by Kaibara Yuzan, his father. Shiro is passionate about food. He has a vast array of knowledge about Japanese cuisine and seeks to find perfectly prepared dishes and perfect ingredients. The book depicts a series of battles: battles to find the best dishes, battles between Shiro and his father, and Shiro's battles with his self-confidence.
Really, the plot is rather silly. The thing that made this book fun was the detailed descriptions of the food. Each volume of Oishinbo focuses on a different aspect of Japanese cuisine. This volume focuses on fish. It's amazing how much one can glean from a bite of fish. For example, one bite of sweetfish merits these comments, "The crisp bones, the soft and sweet meat and the rich bitterness of the guts!" and "Good sweetfish comes from wide and fast rivers, but the amount of water and the water quality differ slightly from year to year...The quality and amount of moss growing on the rocks in the river is the most important point. The flavor of the fish will change slightly depending on that." The book reminds me of episodes from the original Japanese Iron Chef television show. It astounded me how all the judges could wax poetically about every little aspect of a dish.
The drawing is distinct from the other manga I've read. It feels harsher, more grown up and blue collar. The lines are sharp and to-the-point. The artist spends the most detail on the food. Each piece of fish is drawn in great detail, with every scale emphasized.
I don't know that I would read any more of Oishinbo. The plot bored me, and one can only read so many food descriptions, but it was still a fun read.