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Saturday, January 12, 2008

MANGA CORNER: IRON WOK JAN VOL. 27

A long time ago, I wrote on this blog that I'd read the first two volumes of Iron Wok Jan and enjoyed them, but didn't feel inclined to pick up more. Actually, since then I have picked up more: not the entire series, but ten volumes here and there, ranging between vols. 3 and 18. Shinji Saijyo's storytelling may be overblown, but it's effective: he can actually build suspense over whether Jan can come up with a liver preparation that's better than foie gras. And it's also fun to read about the dishes and methods of preparation Jan and his rivals come up with, though I have no idea whether or not they would actually work. So when I saw in Previews (yes, I go through Previews, because my local comics store gives a 30% discount on preordered comics and graphic novels) that vol. 27 would be the last volume, I decided to get it. (The option of waiting to check it out when it arrived in stores wasn't open, since I don't know any place that carries the later volumes of the series.) Mild spoilers follow.

The first chapter of vol. 27 finishes up the Rising Chinese Chefs competition, which has lasted quite a long time. (I don't know when it starts, but when vol. 18 opens, it's already in the midst of its third round.) And the finale of the competition is both funny and unexpected -- or rather, it would be unexpected if the back cover blurb didn't give it away. On the other hand the ending of the series as a whole is disappointing: in fact, it's a washout. I was expecting a final showdown between Jan and his rival Kiriko, featuring the most bizarre and spectacular dish of all, or something like that. Well, not only is there no final showdown with Kiriko or anybody else, Jan doesn't even do any cooking in this volume. Just going by what you can deduce from this volume about vol. 26, it looks like that one may be better. I may pick it up.

On the plus side, Jan never reforms: he's as arrogant and obnoxious at the end as he was at the start, something I wouldn't have predicted after the first volume. Also on the plus side, there are several panels showing Kiriko folding her arms beneath her breasts. (That's a joke, I hasten to add. And it only makes sense if you're aware that all the female characters in Iron Wok Jan are F-cups.)

The ending of Iron Wok Jan only occupies 150 of vol. 27's pages. The rest is taken up by a "special alternate ending" which is basically a joke and not particularly funny, and by Saijyo's debut manga, a horror story which is pretty enjoyable, though nothing special.

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