This extremely passionate anime series about baking the best bread to represent Japan was a childhood TV staple.
By: Nicole S. Castro on June 09, 2022 at 12:00 PHT
Among the many comedy anime of the 2000s, one of the most memorable definitely has to be Yakitate!! Japan, which aired from 2004 to 2006. Very few series take "_____ is life!" to extremes the way this series did with bread.
So, buckle up and get your croissants, curry bread, pandesal (for the Filipinos who watched this on local channels), etc. ready as we look back on this hunger-triggering comedy.
Yakitate!! Japan (Japanese: 焼きたて!! ジャぱん)[a] is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Takashi Hashiguchi. It was serialized in Shogakukan's Weekly Shōnen Sunday from December 2001 to January 2007, with its chapters collected in 26 tankōbon volumes. The manga won the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shōnen category in 2004.
The TV anime adaptation by Sunrise broadcasted on TV Tokyo from October 2004 to March 2006 with a total of 69 episodes.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
The series focuses on protagonist Kazuma Azuma (CV: Yumiko Kobayashi), a boy on a quest to create "Ja-pan", a national bread for Japan that can compete with the signature breads of other countries. Azuma's talent for baking bread becomes apparent to everyone early on as they realize he possesses the legendary Solar Hands (also called Hands of the Sun) (Japanese: 太陽の手, Romaji: Taiyō no Te). This means his hands are warmer than the average person's, prompting dough to ferment faster. He also has great passion and creativity which lead to all sorts of interesting creations.
From his hometown in Niigata, Azuma travels to Tokyo to compete in the Pantasia recruitment competition so that he can work for Pantasia, the best bakery in Japan. However, Azuma forfeits during the final round because he believed in Kyosuke Kawachi's (CV: Shūhei Sakaguchi) lie that he couldn't afford to lose or else he and his siblings would go homeless. Crushed by guilt, Kawachi gives up the chance to work for Pantasia's Main Branch. Instead, he and Azuma are hired by Tsukino Azusagawa (CV: Chihiro Otsuka) to work for Pantasia's Southern Tokyo Branch. As Azuma works with the staff at the Southern Tokyo Branch, he meets other bakers from all backgrounds, both learning from and competing against them.
With over 60 types of bread made by Azuma alone, Yakitate!! Japan is both an educational show as well as an exaggerated gag comedy. The unrealistic moments of god-tier bread supremacy remind us of the commentary used to describe superhuman moves in sports anime like Prince of Tennis (whose first TV anime also aired in the early 2000s).
(Seriously, who could forget the 324-layer croissant from episode 3?)
Whether the breads are realistic or unrealistic, there is no doubt Yakitate!! Japan has left a lasting impression on popular culture. Many fans also credit the beginnings of their baking career to this anime.
Just this March 2022, YouTuber Andrew Douglas Rea, better known as Babish, attempted to recreate the anime's famous croissant with fellow content creator Alvin Zhou. Do they succeed, though?
So, how does the anime end?
The anime concludes with episode 69, the final match of the Yakitate!! 9 arc against Meister/Sylvan Kirisaki (CV: Show Hayami). Though he is the manager of the Pantasia Main Branch, he chooses to side with rival bakery St. Pierre so he can go up against Azuma. It's a battle between Meister's Omanta (manta ray) Gopan vs. Azuma's Ultimate Nou-Miso Japan!
Side note: Our favorite bread judge since episode 1 Ryou Kuroyanagi (CV: Takehito Koyasu) sure has a tough job. He travels several planes of fantasy before he makes his decision on who baked the better bread.
To be honest, Kuroyanagi and fellow judge Pierrot Bolneze (CV: Tomokazu Seki) are of no help because they both judge the breads to be a tie.
Ironically, it's main antagonist Yuuichi Kirisaki (CV: Fumihiko Tachiki) who gives the victory to Kazuma's Ultimate Nou-Miso Ja-pan.
Kazuma's Nou-Miso bread is a pun on two ways to read "Nou" (脳味噌 = brains vs 能生味噌 = miso bean paste from Nō, Niigata). True to comedic form, the Nou-Miso Ja-pan is capable of rewiring people's brains. The three judges who ate it temporarily experienced hilarious personality changes: Kuroyanagi became polite and spoke in keigo (honorific Japanese), Pierrot the clown became serious, and Kirisaki became kind. It is this kind Kirisaki who breaks the tie and officially proclaims Azuma as the winner.
In the manga, it was revealed that Kirisaki's evilness was a reaction to his first ultimate Gopan, known as Devil's Gopan or Maou, a highly addictive bread that can turn a kind person evil and vice versa.
Whether you're Team Rice or Team Bread, Yakitate!! Japan is definitely #TeamChildhood for those who spent their 2000s glued to the TV screen. And yes, now that we're ending this article, we're craving bread too!
The next time someone asks why you like bread so much, you'll have thousands of grandiose spiels to respond with thanks to Yakitate!! Japan.
Digest by AniradioPlus
NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.