by Shinji Saijyo
published by DrMaster Publications; $9.95 US
As book 16 begins, the four young chefs — arrogant Jan, frustrated Kiriko, country Celine, and goofball Takao — are competing against hundreds of others in an annual competition. If Jan doesn’t win the entire thing (Kiriko was the champion last year), he’s going to lose his job at the restaurant. First, though, they have to get through the preliminary elimination round, cooking fried rice.
Celine finishes early, but Takao is in over his head, so he copies anyone he winds up next to. Kiriko demonstrates her skill and knowledge of technique, and Jan manages to once again annoy everyone. He smashed open the gas pipe that fed the stoves so he could create a pillar of fire to get the extreme heat he wanted for his dish. That meant that some competitors couldn’t cook, and the fire set off the sprinkler system, washing out a whole bunch of others.
Makes for some arresting images, though, of a demonically grinning Jan moving at top speed over open flame. He’s only interested in what he must do to win, regardless of what happens to those around him.
The special judges for the competition are three freaks: a woman obsessed with smells, a giant of a man fascinated by nutrition and vitamins, and a transvestite who’s only interested in what the food looks like. As the contest proper starts, the chefs are given tofu to cook, a difficult ingredient due to its versatility. Jan is chosen for judging first, and it’s not going well, until he pulls out a surprise.
The competitive drama is as fun to read as ever, complete with ever-more-exaggerated art style, but unfortunately, the last few volumes of this series have had problems with their coating. The clear plastic on the covers tends to wrinkle and bubble in spots. I have previously reviewed Book 13.