Manga Review – Kenka Ramen

Kenka Ramen Volume 1

Kenka Ramen
喧嘩ラーメン
TSUCHIYAMA Shigeru
Seinen – Comedy, sports
3 Volumes of 17 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (Nihonbungeisha)

Summary:

Yoshitsune is the leader of a gang, and his dad is dedicated to his ramen shop. The two don’t see eye-to-eye on much. But while Yoshitsune complains about his dad’s business, he refuses to see it be shut down. However, father and son have very different ideas on running a shop, but when a ramen critic is about to walk out, Yoshitsune has no choice but to step in. But can he make the place successful, or will it end up in ruins?

Review:

Man, who knew ramen was such a serious business. Ramen unions, ramen festivals, ramen critics, even firing someone for making a stronger soup at a customer’s request… sheesh. I guess it’s to be expected based on the other works by Tsuchiyama I’ve read.

Yoshitsune is the leader of a gang, but when he thinks he’s leaving the battlefield for some alone time with a member of a female gang named Remi, she instead takes him to her father’s workplace. Her father is a yakuza, and he’s interested in acquiring the spot where his dad’s shop is. Yoshitsune did say he’d like to see Gantetsu Ramen turned into a convenience store, but that was just him grumbling since it’s the place he lived with his deceased mom. He manages to gain Remi’s dad’s approval to leave Gantetsu Ramen alone.

Kenka Ramen Sample 1

But there are still problems. Dad Gantetsu adheres to his own strict standards, and he has no interest in expanding or compromising on how he runs his kitchen. When he is forced to leave because he physically cannot make his ramen anymore, Yoshitsune ends up running the shop. Gantetsu purposely does not leave him any instructions. Yoshitsune has the basics of ramen making down, but he doesn’t know all the details, let alone his father’s secret ingredients. Meanwhile, others are still plotting to get revenge on Gantetsu Ramen (like the ramen union). Yoshitsune does get a boost in popularity after the noodles he cooked and his father’s broth impress a critic, but that doesn’t do much good if he’s struggling to obtain ingredients and make them well!

So I’m still having trouble with Yoshitsune’s train of thought. Gets involved in shady stuff, uses his real name when out, complains about his dad to a chick he hopes to pick up… and is shocked when she’s connected to shady businesses? One of Remi’s dad’s underlings tries to break the agreement the boss and Yoshitsune made, but even without that, if he so hates the thought of losing the place where his mom supported his dad so much… why doesn’t he at least not go around one step short of, “HEY EVERYONE, I LIKE TO RIDE AROUND ON MOTORCYCLES AND GET INTO FIGHTS. IF YOU HAVE ANY COMPLAINTS, PLEASE SEND MESSAGES TO 123 MAIN STREET, OR REACH ME THROUGH GANTETSU RAMEN, WHERE MY DAD WORKS. GOT THAT? GA-N-TE-TSU RA-ME-N.” I mean, I know he resents his dad for not being there for his mother’s death and instead working on perfecting ramen (his life’s work meant to support his family). I can understand how he feels. But how he goes from “I don’t care about dad and his business” to “must protect it and run the place” is weird to me.

… I also think it’s one thing to compare cooking techniques to smexy time techniques, but dude… if you’re getting turned on by what you’re imagining while making food for other people, you don’t belong in the kitchen.

Yes, as an 18-year-old, Yoshitsune certainly has an appetite for things other than food. Remi originally hooked Yoshitsune as a favor to her father, but now she does seem to care for him after her father was impressed by his spirit. Don’t think she likes likes him yet, but they are both friends and friends with benefits.

Kenka Ramen Sample 2

Also, speaking of friends, what happened to his gang? I guess since he was the boss of the group, he wouldn’t have to go through any rituals like in some gangs, but it’s weird that he’s riding around bikes one day then he’s suddenly running a food joint the next. In fact, Yoshitsune’s closest allies (besides Remi, who provides encouragement and support) are his father’s two food suppliers and a senior citizen who comes to Gantetsu Ramen regularly.

So when I left off, Yoshitsune had just has his first ramen battle and is ready to take on another challenge. So with a title like Kenka Ramen, I imagine this food series will have regular food face-offs, but there will also be Yoshitsune’s battle for creating his ultimate dish. The manga has a very sports manga feel to it. The ramen expert has a special move when he comes across an exquisite bowl, and Yoshitsune’s rival in the ramen battle uses an ultimate technique. Drama is already happening with bribed judges and facing off against profit-focused corporations, so Yoshitsune is probably going to spend the rest of the series being busy… when he’s not getting busy with Remi.

Kenka Ramen Sample 3

Yoshitsune looks like a blend of Yusuke and Kuwabara from Yu Yu Hakusho. That makes sense since they’re all hoodlums. Remi reminds me of some rival lady from an Urasawa manga. She and Yoshitsune’s fantasies provide some fan service, so expect some nudity in Kenka Ramen. I guess that’s to balance out all the old men in the manga. The manga covers all the processes and types of ramen, and it’s much easier process to watch than seeing fish getting cut up. The manga has a good amount of punching, which isn’t a surprise when gangs and the yakuza is involved. While I don’t understand Yoshitsune’s thought process, the layout of the manga is excellent with plenty of large panels and spread to capture the action. I’m sure with a name like Kenka Ramen, there’s going to be plenty of action for readers to follow along with.

Translation:

Honorifics are used, I noticed some typos like missing letters or incorrect spacing (“townga- tetsu” instead of “town Gantetsu”). Not having a space or dash with honorifics happens several times (“Mitsuesan” instead of “Mitsue-san”). I didn’t understand at least one metaphor or cliche, and I wonder if it’s a translation issue. On a couple of occasions, the Japanese text is left alone and English put to the side. Footnotes include words like “nippo” (daily) and “kenka” (battle/fight).

Final Comments:

I haven’t read it, but Kenka Ramen feels like it may be a more mature version of Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma as a sports-food hybrid. I haven’t quite figured out Yoshitsune as a character, but hopefully his journey gives him some solid development.

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

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