Oh, pardon me. I was having an Iron Chef moment. If you’re a fan of that show, I should warn you that Iron Wok Jan! has nothing to do with eccentric Japanese millionaires or badly dubbed Japanese starlets. It is about food, though. Now, those of you who don’t find the Food Network enthralling are probably thinking, “A graphic novel about cooking? What’s next? The Exciting Cross-Stitch Adventures?” You’ll see. The kitchen of a world-class Japanese restaurant is as tense as any battlefield in Iron Walk Jan! Jan Akiyama is a mean, steely-eyed cooking machine. He has to be–his grandfather was the master of Chinese cuisine in Japan, and he learned early on that cooking was a merciless struggle to be number one. Jan comes to Gobancho, Japan’s best Chinese restaurant, to prove he can top the staff of his grandfather’s old rival. When he gets there, he discovers he’s not the only hot young chef around. Kiriko Gobancho is the owner’s granddaughter and heiress, and she has serious cooking chops. She believes cooking is about heart, not competition, and she’s not about to let arrogant Jan have his way in her kitchen!
Iron Wok Jan! is a fascinating glimpse into a cuisine and a culture quite unlike my own. Jan and Kiriko square off over the best way to cook intestines and the relative merits of sheep’s brains versus salted duck eggs. It’s a fun read; Saijyo manages to convey the kinetic energy of expert chefs through explosive art with stark light and shadow. I’m not sure how big an audience there is for a comic about aspiring chefs, but I encourage fans of food or manga to check it out. As of October 2003 there should be six volumes of Iron Wok Jan! available from ComicsOne. The complete series is apparently a whopping 27 volumes.
Iron Wok Jan!, vol. 1
by Shinji Saijyo