by Takashi Hashiguchi; adaptation by Drew Williams
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Just when I thought this competition manga had settled into a steady routine — naive country boy with innate gifts for baking bread rises to each challenge, creating a new twist on whatever type of baked good he’s assigned — the author shakes things up with the latest volume.
It opens with two digressions. The first features the store manager telling the trainees how he became a master baker. It’s an over-the-top high school satire of young love and lots of fighting in which bread saves his life in an unexpected fashion.
The second is even stranger, if you can imagine. It’s a culture-flipped twist on the book itself, a story in which a breast-obsessed American boy dreams of making the perfect bowl of rice. The author of this tale is effeminate and relies on his assistant, dressed as a maid, to do all the work for him. I admire a creator who can make fun of himself and his creation. Even if it’s only a diversion to keep from becoming bored with his work, it demonstrates the kind of sense of humor that keeps the book fun.
Then it’s back to the main story, in which the students have been challenged to make melon bread, a blend with a cookie top. For some reason, one of the competitors has a koala head, which nobody wonders about. There’s another cook-off later in the book, making noodles for fried noodle bread (which, if I’m reading the drawings right, consists of noodles in a bun, which sounds disgusting). I don’t know if the judge has always been drawn doing this, and I just didn’t notice before, but I found the way good food makes him reshape his body into symbols and figures hilarious.
Since I’m still finding new things in each installment, I conclude that it’s not yet settled into formula, which I appreciate. Plus, there are even four color pages at the end of this book!