“Food, Glorious Food!” – Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice (manga) – 8/10 Hotsprings

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.  ~Lewis Grizzard

Mangaka: Tetsu Kariya (story), Akira Hanasaki (art)

Genre: Comedy/ Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Incomplete (1 Volume/ ? Volumes) *Note- only 7 volumes were licensed/published in English.

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in America by VIZ Media.

Art: This has a soft, cartoony-like feel that is similar to Tezuka’s. However, while the characters might be drawn that way, the food certainly isn’t! It’s shown with great detail and skill, and looks absolutely delicious!

Summary: In this volume of Oishinbo, Yamaoka and company look into the single most essential food in Japanese cuisine: rice. Cultivated for millennia, a staple meal in itself and the basis of countless other dishes, rice is an important component not only of the Japanese kitchen but also of Japanese culture. When Yamaoka is asked by Tōzai‘s head chef for help in coming up with a new rice dish, what starts out as a simple culinary request rapidly grows into a disquisition into the past, present and future of Japan’s food culture. (Viz.com)

Review: This just happened to be the only volume my library had on hand, and as I happen to really like rice, it seemed like a great choice. Viz compiled a whole bunch of chapters of rice-themed stories to make this volume, and it works very well, exploring different aspects of rice, how it’s grown, how you store it, the differences between types, and what it means in Japanese culture. This is really very crucial, because rice is a staple of the Japanese diet. It means that a lot of care is taken to demonstrate everything that it takes to make a good rice dish.

One thing that’s for sure is that I was educated about rice as surely as I was made hungry! Everything looked so good, from the rice balls that they demonstrated (a dish made for the Ultimate Menu, demonstrating all sorts of things about Japanese culture and cooking), to the plain white and brown rice, to the rice-and-meat meals not unlike fried rice, but looking far more scrumtious than anything I’ve come across in a Chinese restaurant!

This showed how little things can affect how healthy rice is, from what it means to be truly grown organically to whether brown or white rice is healthier. That chapter was as funny as it was interesting, because there was a lot of information I think that even those who know the basics of organic eating might be unaware of. How important rice can be to the family – so much so that engaged couples shop for a rice mill together! – was brought up, and how to properly store rice so that it doesn’t cook properly was shown. That was really stuff for those who are hard-core into stowring rice properly, since the average joe can’t have perfect control over the conditions they have their food in. It did give some helpful tips, though, and I appreciated the story that was told behind it regardless.

The toppings that go with rice were also highlighted, from oysters simmered in soy sauce, to more exotic ingredients like mushrooms only grown in certain mountain conditions, to certain sea fish, and even simpler things like egg and sesame seeds! All of them went with the rice in so many wonderful combinations. I was very impressed and dying to get my hands on some of the ingredients to try them for myself!

The highlight of the volume was the showdown for the Ultimate Menu, where one newspaper and another compete over which one can create the best menu item that represents Japan. Rice balls, the onigiri that are so prevalent in anime, were chosen since they are so important to the culture. While one decided on ingredients from Japan, the other decided to do them representing the past, present, and future. It was astounding how they managed to show japanese culture in so few items, and even to someone who’s never been there, managed to convey it so clearly. Some themes really ring true, no matter what culture you are.

Overall, this was a delicious, informative, but incredibly fun manga, and I hope I can read more someday!

Recommended: 10+. But there’s really nothing that inappropriate – a little drinking, but that’s as bad as it gets.

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