Yakitate! Japan

Title: Yakitate! Japan aka Baked Fresh! Ja-pan
Genre: Comedy
Company: Aniplex/Sunrise/TV Tokyo/d-rights
Format: 69 episodes
Dates: 12 Oct 2004 – 14 Mar 2006

Synopsis: Ever since Azuma Kazuma’s introduction to bread as a young child, he has been striving to master a bread recipe which will capture the hearts and mouths of the Japanese people, a bread known as Ja-pan. Armed with the mystical “Solar Hands” Azuma makes his way to Tokyo to apply for the main store of Japan’s largest bakery chain, Pantasia.

The Highlights
Comedy: Wanes with time; needs more Kid.
Plot: Formulaic, both at the episodic and overarching levels.
Length: About 40 episodes too long.

Here’s yet another long running shounen series that overstayed its welcome. Yakitate! Japan is yet another in the long line of shounen series based on an unusual premise. However, in the early episodes, the way it relishes in its odd setting is a strength, augmented by the fact that Yakitate! is never afraid to be completely ridiculous. It’s inevitable, though, that you can’t build a long running series around over-the-top unwitty comedy, shounen gimmicks and plot devices. But this series is missing the elements that make a grand story that can stand the test of time, let alone one that is worth taking the time Yakitate! used to tell it.

Yakitate!‘s episodes are structured around a certain formula, which very much works against the series in time. After a while Yakitate!‘s formula is repeated so often, it becomes obvious. At this stage, it becomes easy to predict what will happen, even if the “how” is not quite clear. But when each episode’s resolution is so foreseeable, it is hard to care about the path that events will take to get there.

The comedy can be split into two categories: puns and parodies. And while they tend to be fresh and funny towards the beginning of the series, they become ever increasingly difficult to laugh at with time. Without a deep background in Japanese language and culture, expect a lot of the puns to fly past you; the parodies, on the other hand, lack of the subtlety and wit of excellent humour, making them rather inelegant and quite grating after about the fiftieth.

Among the parodies is an overarching one of shounen anime in general, but its message is lost once Yakitate! begins falling into the very flaws it started out spoofing. The plot follows a path clichéd to shounen series, with tournament after tournament, each more elaborate and inane than the past. Given that the plot is simply not allowed to move until the end of each tournament further makes the entire set up and its innate predictability all the more frustrating. To make things worse, when the series finally did approach its end, it had been so entrenched in following its formula for 68 episodes, that, to get out of its equilibrium and reach a conclusion, the final episode was rushed.

If I had some advice for watching Yakitate!, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s counter to my general philosophy on anime, I would say watch the first arc only. However, if you do decide to stick around for the long haul, expect long, repetitive bouts of shounen clichés, waning humour and predictable plot. I came to the conclusion long ago that I probably don’t have the patience for lengthy shounen anime. Yakitate! Japan reminds me why.

The Rating: 5
5/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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