Author: Tetsu Kariya
Manga-ka: Akira Hanasaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: July 2009
Synopsis: “Yamaoka and his father, Kaibara Y zan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship. In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food–which they inevitably do–the sparks really fly. In this volume of Oishinbo the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi. Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Battle,” which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges. Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara? Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?”
Fish, Sushi & Sashimi: Some panels of this volume of Oishinbo had me hungry, while others, with the unskinned fish and their beady little eyes being nonchalantly consumed in whole, left me a little less than eager to indulge. I can imagine that sushi lovers would undoubtedly find the different meals more appealing overall, yet I still enjoyed learning about a variety of different sushis including several of which I will definitely be keeping a look out for.
The episodic nature of Oishinbo is reminiscent of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack, except the lead character, though a little brash and proud, acts out of more everyday necessity. Despite the content-focus, which may seem a little monotonous to some, they still manage to achieve a climax in every story, enthusiastically showcasing each and every sensation, contemplation and comparison of the characters as they consume dish after dish, each more apparently delicious than the last.
Sometimes the informative parts of the book, which makes up quite a bit of it, can be a little text heavy and get a little dull. The educational factor is great but reading about the seasonal migration pattern of a salmon affecting the taste of its flesh was, well, it could’ve been a little more stimulating. That said, I did learn a lot, and while truthfully it’s a little hard to take seriously that much consistent passion over something that at times seems rather mundane, I still enjoyed reading it for both the gusto of the characters and the knowledge they pooled. Besides, you never know when I may get asked if a fresh fish tastes better than an old one (and here I thought the answer would be obvious).
The artwork in Oishinbo isn’t too much to write home about but it gets the job done well. I was constantly weirded out by the main character who is actually too consistently drawn; every panel could’ve easily been a copy and paste of the last. At most, maybe mirrored. But you know? I really liked his design, super simple and more cartoon-ish than manga style, his laidback attitude is reflected well in his droopy face, one that poses a fairly sharp contrast to the more detailed, realistic features that most other characters possess. Watching the art evolve, however, is the most interesting visual part of the book. The chapters span over a decade and the designs of the characters are dramatically different when comparing the beginning and end. More over, while reading the book, I never even noticed the shift because it occurs so gradually, chapter by chapter.
Viz’s work on the series is top-notch, joining the assortment of their other new titles that are really showcasing Viz’s evolving class in releases. The cut size is larger than the bulk of their books, the faux-cover slip attractively designed on all counts (I love these fold-in covers, so slick!) and no notable complaint from me regarding the handling of the interior text. It’s a sleek and refined overall package on the graphic-design side, one that can go a long way in promoting it to readers outside Viz’s usual demographic. Its quality in also evident just in the holding it, a solid build that poses no problem turning pages or an inconvenient weight.
Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi & Sashimi is truly a book that can be enjoyed by any reader, sushi fan or not (yet), but in honesty some may find it a little boring. But, if you like your books educational, and even more so if you like your meals fishy and extra fresh, then you should certainly find yourself a copy of this high-quality release. I may’ve found the meals a little too oceanic for my personal tastes but found the presentation of the subject matter more than enough reason to seek out the other titles and further explore the culture and creation of Japanese cuisine.