Seinen – Comedy, sports
5 Volumes of 24 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (Nihonbungeisha)
Office worker Mantaro is broke, so he enters a store’s eating contest to get some extra cash. But while both he and a big college judo club member failed the challenge, he sees a man in a cowboy hat and sunglasses win the very next day. But when another judo club member arrives and threatens to destroy the store if he’s not given a chance to try, sunglasses man suggests a new challenge — with Mantaro as his competition!
Kuishinbo! is written about a competition I don’t care about, but I find myself caring about one man’s journey to be the best there ever was… as a food eater?
Mantaro has a large appetite, but he is surprised when he can only eat two bowls of pork rice out of the five needed to win some money. He didn’t expect a man who looks like a foreigner to be able to eat 10 bowls. But with this man’s tips, Mantaro manages to beat a judo competitor in an eating challenge. George introduces himself as a pro food fighter and says Mantaro has what it takes to be a pro eater. Mantaro thinks that sounds ridiculous, but he ends up giving George a call when his boss makes him compete in a dumpling eating contest. His competitor is someone Mantaro dislikes for being rude to an udon chef.
So Mantaro finds himself getting involved in the world of pro eating.
The manga does reference Kenka Ramen (and maybe others), but out of all of Tsuchiyama’s works I’ve read so far, I think Kuishinbo! is the closest to a “regular” sports manga. Talented newbie, specialties, nicknames that tie into those special abilities, honor vs dishonor in the sport — they’re all here. While it seems rather absurd to have characters trying to create a league of eaters, this familiarity with manga like Kuroko’s Basketball, Yowamushi Pedal, and The Prince of Tennis makes it easy to dive into this series.
Plus, unlike some of the author’s other protagonists, Mantaro doesn’t have a lot of obvious flaws. He still has the habit of throwing a fit when someone changes up served food like using water to thin out food to make it easy to finish fast instead of enjoying food. But he’s not an emotional teenager who keeps destroying restaurants or dreaming about women. Although you can call him a weirdo for throwing away his career to become a food fighter. But at least he isn’t annoying, although I am curious about what his family thinks. (Presuming he has some sort of family out there.)
One of the key points of Kuishinbo! is that there are two teams with different ideals. The TFF includes George, who serves as Mantaro’s inspiration, and Inumaru, a trainer. They want to appreciate food and compete fairly. On the other hand is the OKFF, a group that will use any trick possible before and during the match to claim victory. But while Mantaro allies himself with the TFF, he ends up going on a solo journey after a major setback. So he’s just not following around George, who is a legend.
However, I’d think this works better as a tournament manga. While I do think Mantaro is a nice guy, it’s a little boring when he’s by himself. George is the type that all his matches will likely be an auto-win, but perhaps the OKFF could prevent him from competing at times. They’ve already managed to block TFF at several turns. With almost 20 volumes to go, I’m sure there are a lot of twists and surprises.
The manga is also going at a good pace. The manga shows Mantaro training, but once Inumaru explains the process to him (and readers), a good amount of training occurs off-screen during his wandering. Kuishinbo! has introduced several other competitive eaters, but I’m still not exactly sure who will be important long-term, as the OKFF is trying to build its team and Mantaro is still meeting people as he sojourns around. Most of the antagonists are motivated by money, but if George’s experience with the Three Evil Eatin’ Brothers (yes, that’s what they were called) is any indication, perhaps Mantaro can help others unlock the joys of food.
Mantaro undergoes some physical changes as he trains as a food fighter, but I’m glad Tsuchiyama didn’t just turn him into a big blob. (Although supposedly being heavy doesn’t help in competitive eating.) It’s enough to notice he’s bigger but not enough to make him unrecognizable. Mantaro, like other characters, will probably look similar to ones from Tsuchiyama’s other works. George likely is mixed race, probably American since he likes to wear a cowboy hat. The manga does a surprising thorough job explaining food eating tips and tricks, almost better than sports with all their rules and details. Tsuchiyama’s drawings of food, as always, is made to impress, especially if you love noodle dishes. The manga’s pace allows for large panels and two-page spreads, and the lack of mature and excessively violent situations means that this is the type of series you can enjoy reading anywhere or lend out. Maybe later it gets more raunchy and blood-filled later on, but I doubt it.
Honorifics are used. Some signs are left untranslated. There are typos. The adaptation does try to capture the accents with words like “needta”, “tha”, “withya”. OKFF is kept with a footnote for Kuidaore when it’s first introduced.
Out of all of Tsuchiyama’s manga I’ve tried so far, Kuishinbo! is my favorite even though I think competitive eating is pretty ridiculous. If you want to see adults be the star of a competitive sports story instead of just being mentors, this is a good choice, especially since it is written for a general audience.
Many of Tsuchiyama’s manga are available through Media Do.
This post may contain reviews of free products. I may earn compensation if you use my links or referral codes. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure policy here.