I’m really going to miss Viz’s A la Carte collections of classic culinary manga Oishinbo, written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki. The last installment (I’ll say “for now” because hope springs eternal) focuses kind of loosely on Izakaya, or Pub Food, and it covers a lot of the territory that’s become so endearingly familiar over the course of the series. For instance…
That doesn’t strike me as a compliment, but the characters’ raptures over various dishes often don’t. They say things like, “Oh, the bones of the fish give it a nice crunch!” or “The muskiness is so refreshing!” But there’s absolute sincerity in these exclamations, and that’s part of the charm. I’m not saying I’m ever going to echo the sentiments based on anything I eat, but they do keep things lively and they help paint a taste picture.
I was a super picky eater as a kid, so I have what might be a misplaced level of empathy for the characters featured in Oishinbo’s food peril stories. Let me explain what those are: every now and then, the regulars run across a friend or acquaintance or co-worker who absolutely must learn to like a food they despise. If they don’t, their professional, educational or romantic prospects will go right down the drain. Now, I’ll try any food once at this point, and I’m pretty good at expressing honest dislike of this or that food without judgment or apology, but there’s that nagging anxiety of the picky child. So while the stakes in these stories can be a little ridiculous, I feel the characters’ pain.
Not liking potatoes, though… dude needs to get over that.
Preach it, sister. The panel above is from a story that embodies two big Oishinbo themes: booze is awesome, and kids these days don’t know squat. The latter is generally expressed in the lead’s rivalry with his horrible father, but I’m pleased to report that there are no scarring father-son showdowns in this volume. Instead, a young actor fears for his career because he can’t drink sake properly. Our heroes take him out of town to snack and drink and snack and drink some more until he racks up the right sense memories to really look like that sake hits the spot. Along the way, he learns to hold his liquor and to pace himself so he can drink and snack with the best of them. And that, my friends, is valuable information no matter where you live or how old you are.