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Review: Mister Ajikko

Daisuke Terasawa is generally known for the manga “Shota no Sushi”, but I think “Mister Ajikko” is his best work.  It is one of the first mangas I have ever read back in the early 90’s.  I have a hardcopy of the series and still reads it from time to time, so the details are still fresh to me.  It is a classic cooking manga that was quite popular, although I don’t know to what extent.  It’s hard to tell what is popular before the age of the Internet.  However, it even has an anime-adaptation (which I never seen before), so it definitely had its audience.  Although they are nowhere are popular as generic shonen mangas, cooking mangas have always had a niche in the market.  That’s why there are series that can survive for years.  The last cooking manga I really enjoyed is Yakitate! Japan, which is one of the best cooking mangas I’ve read, but I’ll save that for another day.  It’s a bummer that no one has attempted to scanlate “Mister Ajikko” yet.  Maybe I’ll make that my next project once I finish Bartender.

General Info: Mister Ajikko – Wikipedia

Read at: No where! Someone scanlate this please

Review:

“Mister Ajikko” was completed more than 20 years ago back in 1989.  It is a textbook cooking manga that did not limit itself to a specific area.  The mangas that came after usually concentrate on one type of food (e.g. sushi, curry, bread, etc).  This should be enough of an indication that Mister Ajikko is a manga that set the tone for others to come.  The manga covers everything from ramen to ice cream to steaks, and even dumplings (technically gioza).  However, this manga is by no means a cook book. It is very brief on procedure, and generally only gives details on how it tastes.  This doesn’t bother me, since I’m too lazy to try and reproduce what is shown.  I think it’s safe to say that this manga was a success, simply because it made me want to eat.

The story follows Ajiyoshi Yoichi, a culinary prodigy who runs a small restaurant with his mom.  The restaurant is very successful thanks to Yoichi’s cooking talents, but his life takes a turn when he meets Murata Genjiro, the Aji-oh (Taste King).  Genjiro is very satisfied with the katsu that Yoichi prepared, and invited him to meet at the Aji-oh Building.  From then on, Yoichi crosses paths with other chefs, and often challenges (or be challenged) to cooking contests.  The story seems typical enough, and it is.  There’s nothing wrong with a simple, ordinary story, but the lack of plot twists makes the manga seem dull at times.  However, I must say that I prefer this dull story over a crazy one like “Chūka Ichiban”, where bad guys try to rule the world with food (wtf??).  The ending is also very typical, without much surprises.  But again, sometimes being plain and simple can be a good thing.
Although there are a lot of characters in “Mister Ajikko”, most are not very developed.  Characters are generally one-dimensional, and doesn’t bring much to the table.  This extends from the simple story, but there are still ways to better define the characters.  It would be great to see characters that specialize in one field or another; for example, a character could be really good with knives, or loves to fry things, etc.  There are a few characters which have some sort of specialization, but for the most part, everyone is an all-rounder.  Most characters are Yoichi’s opponents, and most only make a single appearance.  The reoccurring characters are generally Yoichi’s true rivals who all happen to be the same age as Yoichi. Also, there is another cooking society that is in direct competition with Aji-oh.  They are supposed to use any means possible to spread their influence.  I think they would’ve made the story more interesting, but they rarely showed up.  There was a lot of potential to expand the story with the given cast members, but it’s unfortunate the author didn’t make good use of it.

The manga’s biggest strength lies with the innovative culinary ideas that the author comes up with.  There are many dishes that I would like to try because the author has a way of making the food looks very delicious.  Although some of the ideas are too far-fetched to be possible, most dishes remain in the realm of reality.  I think it’s fine when culinary ideas might not actually work, but it bugs me when the author makes logical mistakes.  For example, in one competition, Yoichi needed to make sushi, and was taught to do so in a few days.  However, after reading “Shota no Sushi” (ironically by the same author), it seems impossible for Yoichi to learn sushi-making that quickly and be able to compete with chefs who are far more experienced.  Also, there are times when Yoichi makes something that isn’t technically qualified as the specified dish.  In one instance, he fried a “pizza” that had two crusts and ingredients in the middle (similar to hot pocket).

The drawing in the manga is mediocre.  On one hand, I have no qualms with how characters are drawn, but on the other, the food is sometimes not depicted very well.  For the most part, the food looks very delicious, and there are novel ways to express how much a person enjoys the food.  There are also instances where I had a hard time figuring out what the author is trying to draw.  I think the lack of colors is a problem, but nevertheless, it still reduces the overall enjoyment I get from reading it.  I think the drawing in “Shota no Sushi” is better in that regard, but I dislike his new drawing style (too much angles on faces, looks weird to me).

This is one of the few mangas that I wished would’ve continued a bit longer.  Reason being that characters are much more developed in the second half the series, but the story ended before the author could conjure something truly exciting.  Another reason is that there are less cooking compeitions, but more cooking ideas.  For example, in one of the later chapters, Yoichi was invited to go on a marathon with his classmates, and he had to prepare three meals along the way.  Since it was a marathon, they need to make due with as little equipment as possible.  I would love to read stories involving those scenarios other than competitions.

Overall, this manga is a good read, and it is enjoyable even for the people of this generation.  That’s the good thing about cooking mangas; the ideas in the manga seems new even 20 years after it was first written.  I think the best way to describe Mister Ajikko is a solid, typical manga that won’t bring surprises to the table, yet remains enjoyable to read.  There are many mangas that are just far too weird now, and I would really like to more mangas with a simple story.

Audience:

For people who have an interest in culinary arts or just likes food in general.  It’s captivating to people of all ages and genders, and the proof is that my mom and sister both likes this manga as well.  It’s a light read, so kids can easily enjoy it as well.

Rate:

6 / 10 Story

6/ 10 Drawing

8 / 10 Presentation

8 / 10 Enjoyment

7 / 10 Overall

Categories: Reviews
  1. Bakunetsu
    December 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    hahaha yeah mr. ajikko was a good one. do you happen to have any scan of it? too bad no one translated past episode 3 though. lol

    • December 10, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      No. I found raws, but no scanlations. I hope a group picks it up though.

  2. Hiro
    December 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I saw this one when I was still a kid and I really liked it. Never had the chance to finish it though, I hope someone (you :D) will do this series 🙂

  3. Ditzuka
    July 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I stumbled upon this page through desperate searching of the manga’s scanlation. It’s really a shame no one’s been working on it. The manga was in fact very popular, it arguably started the cooking manga trend, it’s even said to have inspired the tv show Iron Chef!

    By the way, the story continues with Mr Ajikko Second Generation (in my country it’s published as Born to Cook 2nd Generation). It documents the journey of his son, after 20 years, the mangaka’s drawing has improved and matured, look out for it 😀

    • July 17, 2012 at 9:02 am

      I’m glad someone else appreciates old mangas 🙂
      I’ve read some of Mr. Ajikko Second Generation, but I actually prefer his old drawing style. There’s just something about the way he draw characters now that really bugs me. There is more story in this second installment, but can’t really comment on how well it’s written, since I’ve only read some of volume 1.

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