Yakitate!! Ja-pan (焼きたて!! ジャぱん, meaning „Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan“, the „pan“ also meaning „bread“ in Japanese) is a manga, authored by Takashi Hashiguchi, serialized in Shogakukan’s Shōnen Sunday, which has been adapted into an anime television series by Sunrise. The manga has spanned 26 tankōbon volumes, while the weekly serialization of the manga has ended as of January 10, 2007. The anime series, broadcast on TV Tokyo and other local stations from October 2004 to March 2006, spanned a total of 69 episodes. The series won the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōnen manga. The manga series was later licensed by Viz Media for North American distribution.
The story focuses on Kazuma Azuma, a boy on his quest to create „Ja-pan“, a national bread for Japan itself. He initially heads to Tokyo to expand his horizons at the bread-making chain Pantasia; the story continues with Azuma’s exploits with his other coworkers.
The title of this series itself is a play on words; Yakitate translates to „freshly baked“, but Ja-pan has a double meaning. Besides referring to the country of Japan, pan is the Japanese word for „bread“ (stemming from Portuguese pão). Ja-pan is a pun for this series. This mimics the style of the names of other varieties of bread in Japanese, such as „furansupan“ (French Bread), „doitsupan“ (German rye-based bread), „itariapan“ (Italian bread), etc. The characters cook the bread using sheer anger and the power of their burning passion. This mimics the legendary Kanjitake (河内 恭) cooking style of Hokkaido
Besides the desire to create his Ja-pan, Azuma also possesses the legendary Solar Hands (太陽の手 taiyō no te). These hands are warmer than normal human hand temperature, and allow the dough to ferment faster. This gives him some advantage at the beginning of the series, but his innovation is his greater talent.
Although the story has baking as its main theme, the parts that raise the most interest are the outrageous puns in the story. Especially notable are the „reaction“ based puns made by the judges, who go to great lengths to prove a single point about the bread that they had tasted. The series in general also pokes fun at the shōnen genre’s tendency to be melodramatic over mundane tasks.
Originally only a 5-week series, the manga version of Yakitate!! Japan was formally serialized due to the positive fan response. Yakitate!! Japan received comparatively widespread support across various age-groups with notable popularity within the bakery industry. The series was also highly popular with the generation who grew up reading and watching the series Mister Ajikko. Yakitate!! Japan also managed to carry its popularity over to the anime version. A characteristic of the series is the usage and explanations of various technical terms employed in baking, thus providing the series with additional educational value. Another feature of the series is found in the reactions where some popular anime and manga series are parodied. What began as a pure cooking-themed manga, Yakitate!! Japan eventually took on heavy „gag elements“ by the end of its run.
The story starts with Azuma’s childhood ten years ago when he learned how to create a bread that tastes better than rice in order to prove his grandfather wrong.
This is the initial arc where Azuma goes to the Pantasia Main Branch Store expecting to get a job only to discover that he has to compete for it in a series of exams. Azuma also starts at a disadvantage as he loses almost all of the ten points he needs to avoid being disqualified (5 points for being late, 2 points for messy hair and 2 points for calling Kuroyanagi an old man). It is in this arc that Azuma meets Kyosuke Kawachi, Kuroyanagi Ryo, Tsukino Azusagawa and Kai Suwabara. Shortly after the competition, Azuma and Kawachi get jobs at Pantasia’s Southern Tokyo Branch store. A few stories take place there as they meet Ken Matsushiro and Azuma competes against a skilled but pampered baker named Mokoyama.
This story arc features a fierce tournament between all of the bakers that were hired by Pantasia that year. When Azuma and Kawachi learn about it, Kawachi declares Azuma his rival and begins intense physical training to gain artificial Solar Hands known as ‚Solar Gauntlets‘. This arc introduces Tsukino’s sisters and reveals that there is a secret animosity between them. Several rivals return and new ones are introduced as Azuma and Kawachi enter the competition. The story climaxes in a bread battle between Harvard Graduate Kanmuri and Azuma.
Azuma, Kawachi and Suwabara travel to Monaco to take part in an international bread competition which will determine the fate of the Pantasia franchise. There they meet Pierrot Bolneze, the clown judge, as well as the lion-headed King of Monaco who is holding the competition. However, Yuuchi Kirisaki, owner of Pantasia’s rival bakery chain St. Pierre, is bribing judges and pulling out all the stops to win, including trying to kill Team Japan (Azuma, Kawachi and Suwabara) on more than one occasion. There is also a subplot about Pierrot, who is an orphan looking for his true family.
Yuuchi Kirisaki has challenged Pantasia to a final bread-making competition in the form of an Othello-like game for the fate of Pantasia. The Pantasia gang composed of Azuma, Kawachi and Kanmuri meet new opponents called the CMAP (a spoof of popular J-pop band SMAP) as well as a rematch with an old rival. There are ups and downs in the matches, and the Southern Tokyo Branch face a number of matches, including CMAP’s other members. Other Opponents are Suwabara and Monica, Mokoyama Tsuyoshi, Yukino Azusagawa and Meister Kirisaki.
A 16-year-old male protagonist (depicted as looking much younger in the anime, being only a little higher than half of height of adult male characters), a bread artisan who dreams of making the perfect Japan. Initially, he doesn’t seem very bright (although he turns out to be a mathematical genius, as seen in the episode where they are trapped in a cave with Pierrot, Episode 40 of the manga) but when it comes to bread, he’s a genius. He is knowledgeable about rice because he lived on a rice farm, and about Japanese food in general due to further learning and dealing with Japanese restaurants. Azuma also has „Solar Hands“: exceptionally warm hands that allow the yeast to ferment faster and better when he is making his bread. Eternally optimistic and cheerful, he is never upset by the challenges faced in baking competitions, but rather by emotional tragedies befalling the characters around him. Inspiration for his Japan comes from seemingly random sources such as other Japanese foods and stories from his experienced but overly-talkative grandfather, who is a rice farmer.
Co-Worker and sidekick to Azuma, from the Kansai area. Initially, Kawachi’s knowledge is superior to Azuma’s, but as the story develops, he becomes the fall guy and comedic relief. He considers Azuma to be his rival, but the two develop a dynamic that is more like that of a pair of siblings. With Tsukino’s help, he has obtained „Solar Gauntlets“: Solar Hands developed through physical training. He is somewhat lazy, but at desperate times, he focuses his effort to create exceptional bread. An interesting note about Kawachi is his hairstyle – he is the character with the most hairstyle changes throughout the entire series. Another running gag with Kawachi in the early volumes is his tendency to exclaim „What do you mean?!“ (rendered in English as „What was that?!“), which both Manager Ken and others have noted upon, with Suwabara even breaking the fourth wall in the 8th volume by denouncing Kawachi for saying the phrase four times in the starting pages of the chapter. His final reaction to eating Azuma’s bread resulted in him transforming into Dhalsim, of which he has not been said to have returned to his original form.
Kuroyanagi’s understudy, a serious bread artisan. A master of the katana who claims to have left the swordsman path of destruction to follow the path of life-giving bread. Despite that, he often becomes very warrior-like and fearsome during baking competitions, which occasionally makes other characters wonder if he is truly focused on the ‚life-giving‘ aspect of his bread. Like Kawachi, he has the „Solar Gauntlets“ and considers Azuma to be a rival. During the first appearances, he seems cold-hearted and tough, but in the Monaco Cup Finals, he falls in love with a rival German baker working for the American team, Monica Adenauer, and shows a more tender side of himself plain football socks. After his loss in the Newcomer’s Battle, he understands that all techniques are actually „stolen“ from all existing food, and thus he begins to „steal“ techniques from other food, bakers, etc., to create „Lupan“ which is possibly derived from the anime/manga series Lupin („Rupan“ in Japanese) who is a famous „thief“.
An extremely talented Pantasia baker, first encountered during the Pantasia Newcomers‘ Tournament and discovered to possess the „Solar Hands“ as well. A Harvard graduate like Kuroyanagi, he looks up to Kuroyanagi as a mentor, calling him ‚Senpai‘ (which means Senior). He is considered to be a „Harvard Junior Genius“, having graduated the prestigious school at a very young age of sixteen. Originally working for Tsukino’s evil sister, Yukino Azusagawa, Kanmuri defected to the Pantasia’s Southern Tokyo store to work with Azuma. He remained to maintain the store throughout the Monaco Cup, but rejoined the team for the Yakitate!! 25/Yakitate!! 9 challenge. Late in the series, he is revealed to be one out of the last two possible heirs to the Hashiguchi Company, the biggest gangster organization in Japan. Although he firmly states that he’d never join the Yakuza, a problem sets as the other heir, Masanobu Tsutsumi, Shigeru’s half-brother, shares the same sentiments. He is probably named after a Shogakukan editor of the same name.
Granddaughter to the owner of the Pantasia chain, and understudy to Ken Matsushiro. She seems to have a crush on Azuma, though it is never explicitly stated. Has difficulty getting along with the rest of the Pantasia-involved Azusagawa family because she is an illegitimate child. She is still very dedicated to the Pantasia chain, seeking out talented new bakers (like Azuma and Kawachi) and has garnered the support of many other characters. While she stays behind the scene most of the time, she is implied to be talented, as she managed to make it to the third place of a past newcomer’s battle.
Manager of Pantasia Southern Tokyo branch. A burly man with an afro and aviator sunglasses. Renowned as the best French-bread artisan in Japan, he seems to have a predilection with horses and betting on horse-racing. He is Kuroyanagi’s former teacher, but early on recognized his outstanding talent as a food critic, and from that point on discouraged his baking, ultimately driving him away. He also likes to tease Kawachi, to whom he was apparently very similar in his youth, occasionally to give him ideas on bread, but mostly just for the hell of it. He can also make Kawachi hallucinate at times. Due to a series of mishaps, he became the next heir to the Hashiguchi company, much to his displeasure, but by the end of the manga he seems to have enthusiastically embraced his new role, making all his subordinates copy his hairstyle.
The theme of a bread maker in a society that lacks a long tradition of eating bread on a frequent basis is unusual. Bread consumption in Japan saw appreciable figures within roughly the fifty years leading up to 2003. Lack of bread eating food culture, in fact, serves as the protagonist’s, Azuma Kazuma, motive throughout the entire series: to create a bread that would reflect Japan and that the Japanese could be proud of. This concept further reflects the Japanese propensity to borrow from other cultures and make it their own. In this instance, Azuma is trying to make a bread that will fit the Japanese palate. Real-world examples of this exist as well such as the introduction of castella (カステラ) from Portugal and ramen from China. The Japanese assimilate these foods altering them in the process to make them what eventually becomes something Japanese.
The entire series demonstrates the Japanese celebratory attitude towards food. The reactions of the characters after tasting the newly created breads are comical, but at the same time they reflect the importance of freshness, preparation, etc. that is integral to Japanese food culture. The various devices and methods that Azuma and his companions develop to create breads that could be considered works of art throughout the series holds truth to this. Emphasis on accentuating the natural flavors of the ingredients to make the bread, while still having something that can truly be called bread, is a constant struggle for Azuma and his companions. Keeping food in its natural state is a major point of Japanese food culture. Although Azuma and his companions will often go through great lengths to prepare their ingredients for use, this is perfectly acceptable in Japanese food culture. Quite often extensive preparation of ingredients is required before they are even edible such as neutralizing irritants, bitterness, astringency, etc.
Seasonality is an important feature of Japanese food culture. Like the characters in the anime, most respectable Japanese chefs and their customers will go out of their way to ensure the freshness and seasonality of the food they are serving or eating. In the match in Ōma (episodes. 54-56) for example, Azuma decides to use sea urchins (uni) that is both fresher and in season instead of the city’s main specialty, fatty tuna, which is out of season and can only be obtained in its frozen form.
Furthermore, the Yakitate!! 9 story arc illustrates a peculiar feature of Japanese culture in its treatment of local ingredients. The fact that the competitors are judged according to how many and how well they incorporate local specialties into their breads demonstrates how important this is in Japanese food culture. Paul H. Noguchi succinctly summarizes this when he writes that „foods strongly suggest the areas that produce them.“ This is especially true in a country like Japan where nearly every locality is „famous“ (a common term in Japan meaning locally well-known) for producing some specialty dish or ingredient. Thus, the characters are able to emphasize local culture by employing local ingredients into their breads. This fact is further enhanced by the often lengthy quests that Azuma, Kanmuri, and Kawachi undertake to find the perfect ingredient, or the perfect method of incorporating that ingredient to emphasize its natural flavor, and the care that the locals took producing it. The outcome of the CMAP rematch battle (episodes. 57-58) illustrates this point perfectly. During the match in Saito, the doctor who examines Kuroyanagi and pronounces Azuma’s Team Pantasia the winner explains to CMAP that the reason they lost the match was because their bread lacked love like the love that locals put into raising their mangos. This emphasis on locality is not unique to Yakitate!! Japan, and is, in fact, a very common feature of many popular Japanese television programs, particularly those found on NHK such as Tsurube no kazoku ni kanpai (鶴瓶の家族に乾杯). Millie Creighton attributes this feature to a Japanese fascination with furusato (hometown) appeal. Thus, the entire concept of displaying local specialties and ingredients behind the Yakitate!! 9 story arc is nothing new in Japanese television.
The reactions that the characters display during the judging are humorous and illustrate an aspect of Japanese food culture; in the culture food can have a powerful effect upon the body and psyche. Coupled with this is the importance of presentation. The presentation of food in Japanese cuisine is an integral part of the experience that can sometimes make or break the dish. The way food is arranged and prepared is, in fact, sometimes more important than the taste of the food itself. Presentation for the characters is important such as getting the bread to the judge as quickly as possible to keep it from cooling too much. At times, presentation alone can significantly affect how the food will taste and the outcome of the judging.
※ Indicates it was produced in Japan by the Yamazaki Pan Company.
After the Monaco Cup Arc, Azuma ceases to attach numbers to his Ja-pan (Ken stated that it’s because all those before are mere trial products). The breads he makes in the Yakitate 25/9 Arc are tied to various areas of Japan, and are named accordingly.
Yakitate 25 Non-bread:
(ordered by baker, then appearance)
Normally, extremities such as the hands are lower in temperature than the rest of the body, but if one can increase blood flow to the hands, that difference decreases. In France, those that possess this ability are said to have Solar Hands. Note: Gran Kayser has hands that are a combination of the cumulative techniques of Solar Hands and Solar Gauntlets known as the „Solar Hand, Gigantis.“
By training the body, particularly the arm muscles, one can promote blood flow to the hands and subsequently increase their temperature to an extent as to be near in skill to the Solar Hands. Note: Kai Suwabara is able to use the body’s natural defenses to increase his blood flow by holding dry ice to cool his hands in what he calls, „Solar Gauntlet, Overcoat.“
Also known as Goddess Hands, the possessor of flexible knuckles and feminine hands. A benefit of possessing this skill is the ability to knead out a bread’s hardness. Note: Gran Kayser uses his hands as feet so they are far more flexible than normal. He calls them „Le Main de Deesse wilson football uniforms, Ultima.“
Ability opposite that of the “Solar Hands.” This ability is least suited for making bread due to the unusually cold hand temperatures. However, this ability is best suited to for use in unfermented breads, such as tarts (which use large quantities of butter), because low hand temperature will not melt the butter. So far, Yukino Azusagawa is the only person in the show who possesses this skill.
Process whereby bread is baked at 300 °C or above for 3 minutes, instead of the normal 200 °C for 15 minutes. Steam from inside the dough explodes causing the dough to puff out. The greater the difference in temperature between the dough and the oven, the better; however, in the case of dough that is mixed with chocolate, etc., it is more difficult to get the temperature high enough, quickly enough.
Process whereby bread is baked at a very low temperature of 150 °C for an extended period of time in order to avoid coloring the outside of the bread. However, as flavor and texture are determined by the way moisture leaves the bread, these features can be lost during the process. This defect can be overcome by coating the bread in mizuame during preparation.
Food additive produced from refined vegetable (wheat) protein. Used in breads made from ingredients which do not normally form gluten, but can be used when making bread to create a sticky texture.
Method of twisting bread dough in one direction whereby difficult to heat portions of dough are created. During the baking process, these areas continue to ferment, thus producing fluffier, plumper bread in the folds. However, over-twisting the bread can cause the gas produced during fermentation to escape, thus creating a poor tasting end product.
Process whereby whisking butter, thus incorporating air into it, causes bread to become fluffy and plump. Method used mostly in cakes.
After the first leavening, the dough is re-kneaded to produce new gluten and a fluffy, plump bread. This causes the gluten structure to re-form, preventing the possibility of creating an extremely hard bread.
Process where old dough is mixed with new dough as a substitute for yeast. Mixing in mature dough with new dough creates a light and flavorful bread.
The background music used throughout the series are composed and arranged by Taku Iwasaki.
The anime version of Yakitate!! Japan, by Yasunao Aoki, consists of 69 episodes. It is divided into three arcs. Episodes 1 to 26 form the first arc Pantasia Newcomers Battle. The second arc, Monaco Cup Arc, runs from episode 27 to 52. The remaining seventeen episodes are from the third arc, Yakitate! 9 Arc.