Seinen – Drama
3 Volumes of 4 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (Nihonbungeisha)
Tenshakaku is an immensely popular ramen chain, with its founder still very much involved in the shops’ operations and offering employees good benefits… provided you can survive the rough training period. But when he dies, Tenshakaku is thrown into disorder. Three men are hired during this tumultuous time, but amidst the struggle for power, will they help save Tenshakaku — or ruin it?
Risky Business sounds like a gambling manga, but the only gamble is the one you take on this series.
On one hand, the manga is very intriguing with all the manipulation and underhanded tricks going on. On the other hand, man, this manga has a high amount of unlikable characters.
But maybe I should back up for a minute.
A man and his wife built up a successful ramen chain called Tenshakaku. There are four restaurants with their own specialties, but they all use the same secret sauce mix that’s kept under lock and key. The owner dies suddenly, throwing the business into disarray. The wife, now the Boss, and the four managers all try to keep the restaurant from declining. One of the branches hires three new employees to start on a provisional basis:
- Hyodo: nicknamed Dropout since he didn’t finish college. Mysterious.
- Katsube: nicknamed Yama after his home prefecture. Son of a ramen shop owner.
- Sawada: nicknamed Downie from being laid off. Clumsy but good with advertising.
The three all share an employee dorm room while in their trial period. It’s really hard to talk about what happens without spoiling anything, but some people have less-than-honorable intentions while working at Tenshakaku. It’s not just the newly hired employees either. The wife is understandably grief-stricken, but then she starts viewing Hyodo as either some kind of reincarnation of her husband or a gift from heaven. She repeatedly hits on the younger man, but he’s interested in other things.
So Risky Business is about who is trying to sabotage or take over Tenshakaku, for what reason, will they be successful. But it’s also about whether the people who seem to want Tenshakaku to succeed will keep that feeling. Will the threat of closure corrupt them? Will the promise of money entice them? And even if they are caught, will their absence affect the running of the restaurant?
In a way, Risky Business is a Death Note style manipulation game. With only one volume left, it’s certainly possible that the puppeteer could succeed where Kira failed. Many times, the schemer’s plots are represented by snakes. Not so much that they’re slippery (that too), but because they’re slowly creeping up and going to bring Tenshakaku under their control when Boss least expects it. But they seemed to come into the picture with plans in their mind, so that’s unlike Death Note. This manga is also missing an L-like character, both in stopping him and in charm.
The other problem is that this series has a lot of similar-looking characters. Yes, Tsuchiyama isn’t known for his wide range of character designs (think Tezuka Star System), but many of the men look alike. It’s harder than his other works since there isn’t as huge of an age gap as some of his other manga, like Kenka Ramen. This manga is filled with big guys with bushy eyebrows. I also had trouble keeping the four restaurants apart, so I couldn’t remember which one the main characters were working at. The snakes make a good spirit animal, and it helps bring out the dark side of this manga. Ramen, of course, is featured heavily in the art, but the actual process of making ramen, coming up with new recipes, or even consuming isn’t as big of a focus in Risky Business versus some of Tsuchiyama’s other works. Those are covered, of course, but mostly in the context of how they’re helping or interfering with the characters’ plans.
Honorifics are used. Footnotes are used for things like food names and explaining the 49th day after death. One place is introduced as “Mendokoro Tenshukaku” and then later “the noodle shop Tenshukaku” — I think the manga should have just stuck with the latter. A few typos like missing spaces. Katsube’s home area is introduced as “Yagamata” instead of “Yamagata”. That’s how he gets his nickname, but it makes less sense in English because of this mistake. Third volume page flips Western way.
I can’t say I really liked Risky Business, but I do want to finish it to see what happens to Tenshakaku. Honestly, it could go either way. So the fact I want to finish it makes it a success, I guess…?
Many of Tsuchiyama’s works are available through Media Do.
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