Manga Review – Battles of the Wandering Chef

Battles of the Wandering Chef Volume 1

Battles of the Wandering Chef
包丁無宿勝負旅 (Houchou Mushuku Shoubu Tabi)
TSUCHIYAMA Shigeru (story/art), TAGAWA Yasuyuki (drafting cooperation)
Seinen – Sports
2 Volumes of 4 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (NIHONBUNGEISHA)

Summary:

Musashi, the second son of a restaurant owner, has gotten into a fight once again and has a stint at juvenile hall. When Musashi returns, his friends are waiting for him, excited to eat Musashi’s cooking once again. But his older brother, Shinichi, is the head chef of the restaurant now and won’t let his delinquent younger brother use the kitchen. A customer suggests a cooking face-off, so which brother will come out on top?

Review:

Battles of the Wandering Chef is more like Younger Son Tries to Find His Place in the World.

I doubt they’re quite as strict in the real world, but man, business owners in manga-dom take the concept of heirs way too seriously. Take Goro, who ran the restaurant Yanagiya. He has two sons: Shinichi and Musashi. Both boys have an interest in food and cooking, so to me, the practical thing to do is to train them both and let them run the restaurant together, as a family.

I do understand Goro and Shinichi’s frustration with Musashi. He has a list of encounters with the police due to getting into fights. A restaurant isn’t going to survive if one of the chefs is ready and willing to attack rude customers. The physical damage alone would add up to be a lot of money. At the same time, perhaps Musashi could have learned to control his temper if his dad was giving him as much attention, or Goro could provide positive reinforcement like, “If you don’t get into any fights this week, you can run the restaurant next week.”

But alas, manga-dom doesn’t often operate on good parenting techniques.

Battles of the Wandering Chef Sample 1

Musashi could have come to work at the restaurant after high school, but instead he’s been working food stands. At his latest gig, a rude patron causes him to flip out and beat up seven guys. He returns home after serving his sentence, but his brother isn’t interested in helping him or his yakuza-looking friends. An argument ensues, and the two serve their best dishes to determine who is better. The man declares Shinichi the winner for knowing his ingredients and being a real professional. What he means or why Musashi hasn’t been trained in this in his 18 years, I ‘m not entirely sure.

Regardless, he has to leave and gets hired at a new restaurant that’s opening. Musashi eventually is torn between Ryu, a chef there who has taken him under his wing, and Yanagiya.

For a manga titled Battles of the Wandering Chef, I expected something closer to Bakumeshi! (Food Explosion!). After all, they are written by the same author and have a lot of things in common (strong male lead with bushy eyebrows, hates seeing food wasted, etc.). So far, Musashi has spent almost all of the first two volumes at one restaurant — hardly wandering. Sure, it looks like he’s leaving now, but the manga is halfway over! He’s searching for someone who has been called a wandering chef, so it’s possible that the title is referring to this man, not Musashi. It’d still be odd since the manga has only two volumes yet, not a lot of time to formerly meet this master of cuisine to make him the titular character.

The other problem is that I just don’t understand these people’s thought process. OK, a couple of them I understand: the manager of the Mitsuboshiya, the restaurant Musashi works at, just wants to make money to please the scary higher-ups. But I go back to how Musashi can make delicious food yet doesn’t understand ingredients. That’s like a computer sci major going, “A computer’s a computer.” Even though he hasn’t been trained full-time by Goro, shouldn’t some of the things he’s learning at Mitsuboshiya have come naturally with living at a restaurant? Another character talks about sacred rules and then pushes to abolish tradition. Goro hasn’t made a house specialty in years. There’s a whole organization dedicated to united to defend restaurants and make their region known for cooking. (Huh?) Everybody kind of stinks; no one comes out of this series looking like a great person. I guess that’s supposed to make them more realistic, but I wasn’t rooting for anyone.

Battles of the Wandering Chef Sample 2

Tsuchiyama’s art is similar to his other works. Big guys, bushy eyes, and rounded faces. I did have trouble telling the brothers apart in some scenes. There was even an instance I didn’t realize the manga had jumped to the other restaurant because of how similar they look, especially in up-close shots. Even with the other guys I felt there was a lack of variety in the character designs. No female characters so far either, so that adds to the monotony of the visuals. There are a lot of fish-related dishes being served, so fish being prepared takes up a good amount of the food-making scenes. There were times that the manga over-explained things, but combined with the stilted dialogue, I was tuning out. Between the story and the art, this wasn’t my cup of tea.

Translation:

Honorifics are not used. Footnotes are used to explain many of the Japanese names of ingredients and dishes. There were errors like repeated dialogue, missing spaces, and other typos. Awkward dialogue was also a problem at points.

Final Comments:

Battles of the Wandering Chef needs more battles and a chef that actually wanders. Maybe the title affected my enjoyment of the series, but I’m not interested in continuing.

Many of Tsuchiyama’s manga are licensed by Media Do.

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