An overly innocent, young Japanese boy with special hands and an undying will is destined to become the world’s greatest baker. This is the premise behind the latest anime and manga series, Yakitate!! Japan (in Japan, “anime” is what they call cartoons on television and “manga” is the comic book versions). “Yakitate” literally means “fresh baked” and the word “Japan” is actually a pun: (ja-pan) “pan” means “bread”; freshly baked Japanese bread! The series follows Azuma Kazuma, who becomes obsessed with bread at the tender age of six when his sister announces over the breakfast table that the family should consider having bread for breakfast instead of the traditional natto, misso soup, and rice. Initially, Azuma and his grandfather refuse but after Azuma’s first visit to a bakery, he is a quick convert. The bakery owner shows Azuma the process behind baking bread and immediately notices that he has special hands: “solar hands” that are warmer than usual and particularly suited to kneading dough. Thus begins Azuma’s passion to create a bread to represent his home country Japan, just like how he believes that “French bread” represents France. A bit ridiculous at first, Yakitate!! Japan is addictive (I am currently on the tenth episode of the manga). The most interesting aspect of the story is the different types of breads discussed (croissants, sweet breads, dessert breads, etc.) and the inventive ways of baking them. Yakitate!! Japan is a testament to the creativity of Japanese artists, who are able to create a palatable narrative on something as simple as bread.
Manga: Since the original comic book versions of Yakitate!! Japan are written in Japanese, American fans have created “scanslations” of them (scanned graphic files with English translations). The legality of these is suspect, but they are nevertheless widely available to download and read.
For downloads of the latest episodes, try DirectManga.com
Anime: Again, since the original cartoons are dubbed in Japanese, American fans of Yakitate!! Japan have sub-titled them in English. The legality of these, as well, are suspect, but nevertheless widely available to download and watch.