- Titles: Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan!
- Genre: comedy, food, action shonen, surreal
- Episodes: 69
- Studio: Sunrise
I love carbs. This doesn’t make me special. A lot of people love carbs. Carbs are great! And one of the best carbs out there is freshly baked bread. I’m not talking about that weird white sliced sponge thing that’s been in your cupboard for 3 weeks now, I’m talking straight out of the oven, warm and fragrant bread that makes the whole house smell like heaven type of bread. Yeah. Oh wait, I’m supposed to be talking about an anime…right. Azuma Kazuma has a great name and just like me, understands the joys of bread. Unfortunately, Japan doesn’t have a huge bread tradition like other countries. Why go through all the trouble of baking bread when you can have a delicious bowl of rice instead. So Kazuma has made it his life’s mission to show Japan how great bread can be and show the world just how delicious Japanese bread is. Or should I say: Ja-Pan! If you don’t like puns, this is not the show for you…
I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Yakitate!! Japan. I think it was when I decided I wanted to go through AniList and look up manga/anime with the “cooking” tag. At one point I had a “cooking” anime craving. I was drawn to the summary and I really thought Yakitate!! Japan sounded like a fun anime but the high episode count scared me a little. That’s the only reason it took me so long to get to it if I’m being honest.
Yakitate!! Japan aired in 2004. So it’s kind of a classic in anime terms. I know that technically it’s not a ‘90s anime but it’s close. 2004 is when Monster came out and the original Bleach series. Ok, I’ll be honest, Yakitate!! Japan looks a bit old even for the time. Aspect ratio has a lot to do with it, it’s in letterbox which instantly gives you nostalgia vibes and most anime of the time had moved on to widescreen. The quality of the Crunchyroll version isn’t great either. It often looks grainy and low resolution. But that’s not really the fault of the production, is it?
Ok, so Yakitate!! Japan does look “old”. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing in the least. It might turn off some viewers but I think most will stop noticing it after an episode or two. And for the most part, the production is actually good. I started noticing a few slip-ups in art consistency in the last stretch, after episode 60 or so, which made me realize how consistent the show had been for 60 episodes. Nice! There are a lot of high-speed moments that require some more elaborate animation and they are all handled wall. I would have appreciated a bit more creativity when it comes to laying around with the art style, but when they do it’s very fun to watch.
The colours are pretty boring and this is also one of the reasons the show doesn’t look as modern but the voice acting is great. I suppose having to work with the same cast for close to 70 episodes will make you develop a rapport no matter what but since most of the cast had good chemistry to begin with, it only gets better with time. I will say that the soundtrack is very repetitive. By now I can’t think of the show without a particular piece of music playing in my head since I heard it almost every episode, sometimes more than once. As to whether this is good or bad is up to the beholder. On the one hand, it is rather boring to just have the one piece playing over and over but on the other, it creates a really strong sense of identity for the show. For me, it evened out.
Story & Characters
How do I put this? I personally get a very strong sense that Yakitate!! Japan was a precursor to Food Wars but without the fanservice. The basic ideas are similar. Yakitate!! Japan plays out like an action shonen. Young Kazuma is on an epic quest, he makes some friends along the way and has to fight increasingly stronger opponents in bread-baking battles that look like fights for the fate of the world. And of course, anyone who tastes such delicious bread is going to have a ridiculous reaction!
Both shows really go into exaggeration for laughs. However, instead of relying on blue humour, suggestive sound effects, and visuals, Yakitate!! Japan uses ridiculous nonsense humour. It’s often completely surreal. The opponents almost immediately become superhumans with bread-based abilities and intense bread-centric backstories. There are frequent fourth wall breaks even referring to the network the show originally aired on and the manga that it’s based on and numerous references to other anime. It’s an anime for anime lovers, that’s for sure.
I realize that this type of absurdist comedy isn’t for everyone. I have read comments from people that just find it annoying. So let me be clear, this is at the core of Yakitate!! Japan. It’s a silly comedy before anything else. And a fairly wholesome one at that. If this brand of humour isn’t your thing, you should avoid this show. I don’t see how it could offer you anything else to make up for it. Except maybe bread facts. If you are actually really into baking bread, then this might actually be the best anime for you regardless of your feelings on comedies.
Even though I personally think bread is really very delicious, I actually rarely bake any. Mostly because I tend to instantly devour it when I do and that isn’t good for my health or waistline. So I wasn’t super knowledgeable on baking techniques and traditions going into it. And I feel like I learned a ton. I didn’t even know that melon pan used cookie dough to create the crunchy top crust. It makes tons of sense now and when I mentioned it to a baker friend of mine they looked at me like I was telling the 2 +2 = 4 but for me, it was a revelation. And that’s something we learn in the 3rd episode or so.
I could tell you about the characters and actual story but honestly, that’s not going to give you a good idea of what to expect. The main characters are pretty well developed as you would think since they have 69 episodes to do so. The opponents are akin to villains in shonen arcs with the main ones having elaborate backstories and emotional stakes. The story is an ever-escalating succession of battles…bread battles.
But that’s not the point. It’s a silly little joke show and every episode is supposed to make you laugh. Kawachi tends to be the butt of a lot of jokes when they decide to go for humour at a character’s expense but for the most part, Yakitate!! Japan sticks to absurdity and doesn’t really do jokes at the expense of someone. I tend to prefer this since jokes at the expense of someone are often lazy and repetitive, but it can be a bit more limiting. And there’s something to be said for humour with a good bite as well. At the end of the day, it’s going to depend a lot on your personal sense of humour.
You might like this anime if:
You really enjoy absurdist comedies or bread. You’ll love it if you like both
My favourite character:
Azuma’s sister and Pierrot – more for his backstory than for the character. Now that’s a backstory!
- Every time Kazuma says Ja-Pan – yum
- Every time anyone mentions the “hands of the sun” – rub your hands together
- Every time anyone has a Pan reaction – take a sip
- Every time Azuma cries – oh no
- Every time Kazuma and Kawachi bicker – take a sip
- Every time the manager gets violent – take a sip
- Every time we see Azuma’s old mentor – remember him for later
- Every time we see Azuma’s sister – cheer
- Every time we see the manager without an afro – take a sip
- Every time Kinoshita gets forgotten – did you forget who Kinoshita is?
- Every time Kirisaki shows up – take a sip
- Every time there’s a 4th wall break – raise your glass
- Every time Azuma almost calls someone “old man” – take a sip
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.