by Takashi Hashiguchi
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Since I last checked in on this series with Book 4, I’m a little lost as to exactly what’s going on or who many of the characters are, but it’s easy enough to pick up. After a digressive introductory chapter, we’re right back into a bread-making competition.
The first chapter is pretty interesting, too, taken on its own: it’s the story of Shadow White, who has perfect mimetic skills, but he quickly learns that being able to look like an expert doing something (like hitting a baseball) doesn’t mean you have expert performance. Unless, apparently, it’s bread-making; he’s been coached by a master chef into representing the US in this final bake-off.
The competition itself has, as its goal, making bread so good that it sends the judge to heaven, where he can temporarily reunite with his dead father. This is simultaneously mystically symbolic and immensely silly, just like the series. The bakers must also fulfill the goal of representing the flavors of their country to the fullest.
The competitor’s bread can send the eater into the cosmos, unless they’re particularly well-trained and sensitive, in which case they might go beyond. As one says, “Mortal minds can’t even begin to comprehend what we would find.” Maybe I should have paid more attention to the “story so far” paragraph, which mentions hemp bread. Might explain a lot.
I wish I knew more about Galaxy Express 999, since there’s a scene representing a vision that homages it. On the other hand, one of the winning breads — a bagel made with rice and fried in tea — sounds absolutely nasty, so I’m glad to miss out on that sense perception. And I’m a little confused as to why a donut best represents Japan. Oh, well, regardless of the outcome, it was fun and dramatic.