Anime Review: Yakitake! Ja-Pan

September 14, 2014
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If you’re a fan of anime, you’ll know that amongst all of the excellent anime I recommend there’s a high level of weird, weird stuff out there that I just ignore and let sink into oblivion. Some shows just have weird bits, some are predominantly crazy, and there’s always someone saying “this is the weirdest show I’ve ever seen”… and then, I point them to Yakitake!! Ja-Pan.

Now, I’m not claiming Yakitake is the weirdest anime ever. Knowing Japan, there will always be a weirder anime out there. The important distinction is that Yakitake is both weird and compelling – it’s the only bizarre anime I’ve ever seen through to completion.

So, what is it? It’s an anime about the high-pressure world of bread-making. Yes, making bread. There are bread-making competitions. Apparently you can get huge audiences for that. And national and international TV broadcasts of competitions. Why aren’t we watching already?

Anime Review: Yakitake! Ja-Pan

The hero of our tale is innocent antenna-haired Azuma Kazuma, a naturally gifted baker because of his “Solar Hands”, which are so hot that they keep cooking the dough while he is kneading. Which is apparently a huge advantage. You will learn a lot about cooking from watching this show. Joining him in his adventures is a muscular boogie manager with an afro, a sweet damsel in distress, and a best friend whose only distinguishing feature is to be really, really Kansai – the local accent of Osaka – and to be astonished by everything. A lot of shouting and pointing happens. This show does a lot of shouting, pointing, and shocked reactions.

If you have any interest in making your own bread, the show is actually very informative. The recipes and cooking styles are complex, but the English subtitles post descriptive Wikipedia-like posts to explain what the hell they’re talking about.

But we don’t watch the show for the bread-making tips. No, no, we watch it for the totally wacky Judging Reactions, and… nope, that’s it, just the Judging. Every episode is built towards these climactic moments with a lot of tension and high stakes. Taking a bite into one of breads will send a judge into paroxysms of pleasure and we go into their heads to watch them disappear off on the trippiest hallucinations. I mean really trippy. Orgasmic faces, peacocks flying around, moons and aliens and time travel and melons. It’s zany. (Yes, I’m bringing “zany” back.)

I’d like to describe this show as light entertainment that you could just watch in your pajamas while you wait for your coffee to brew each morning, but I often found myself still in my pajamas at midday, clicking on “watch next” – I was always so curious about what else they were going to throw at me. Every episode has a very similar structure, with each new competition raising the stakes a little higher, the rivals more talented/evil each time, the reactions progressively more and more surreal… yet somehow I couldn’t get enough. Just re-watching it for this review has me watching more than typing. It’s a simple appeal, but a strong one.

To conclude: watch a bit. See if you like it. And if anyone tells you that they saw the weirdest anime – you can set them right.

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