Anime review: Yakitate!! Japan
Status: watched 5 episodes (out of 69!)
Yakitate means “fresh baked!” and this show chronicles the search for a truly Japanese bread, Japan (which is a pun: pan is “bread” in Japanese).
Yes, a search for bread. And on this journey is 16 year old Azuma Kazuma. His obstacles: a country which values rice more than bread as well as his inexperience in formal breadmaking. His greatest weapon: “Solar Hands”, his unusually warm hands which magically help bread ferment while kneading (I can only assume this is due to a high amount of circulation in his hands).
It sounds lame, even boring: a multi-episode series about breadmaking. No robots. No spaceships. No talking animals with magic powers. (Ok, there’s a horse who can smell if bread is made with milk, but he doesn’t really talk). Despite all that, this show is simply fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously and even satirizes Japan’s obsessiveness with things like flower arranging, tea making, the game of Go, etc.
My initial problem with this series, however, had nothing to do with the style of animation or writing. It was the concept that Kazuma is trying to replace rice with bread as the staple breakfast food of his nation. As much as the series is a comedy, I’m disturbed by this because bread is taking over from rice in the Japanese diet and this is not a good thing. My background is Portuguese, and I’ve seen firsthand what happens when bread, a lot of bread, is a staple of your diet. Western influence has already messed up the Japanese diet with the introduction of processed and junk food, but now if bread takes over, the Japanese will be cursed with obesity and diabetes. Personally, I’m doing what little I can by having miso soup, rice, pickled veges and fish every morning for breakfast.
Anyways, once I got beyond my whole “bread” thing, I settled into the fun of this show. The characters are pretty 2 dimensional, and the show is silly, but it isn’t childish. Unlike a lot of other anime out there aimed at kids and teenagers, I think the writers of Yakitate have done a great job in being mature about a silly concept. What’s especially fun is how the show borrows and parodies standard action anime conventions, replacing swords and wizardry with French bread and warm hands. I’ll admit I don’t see how it can sustain for 69 episodes, but I’ll keep watching for a while.
The only thing that might keep me from sticking with this series to the end is that every time I watch it, I get an awesome craving for a big, fluffy, Portuguese bun.