I recently binged the newest season of Food Wars on Netflix, and it got me thinking how much I love food shows. From cooking competitions like Final Table and Masterchef, to anime like Food Wars, or movies like Chef, I love them all. I’ve logged hours on YouTube just watching Bon Appetite, Tasty, and the like.
We’ve all seen Ratatouille, the Disney Pixar classic about the rat Chef. (If you haven’t, shame!) And at some point we’ve all read a Jughead comic where the protagonist is all about the good food. Eating all kinds of food at good ol’ Pop Tate’s.
But I’m not going to write about food. We’ve got someone waaaaay more qualified for that. Me, I’m going to introduce you to some interesting comics and anime based on food.
Written by the late great Anthony Bourdain. Yes THAT Anthony Bourdain. He creates a beautiful world ruled by food. Where the chef is on top of the food chain. This is basically an action movie in a comic book. It follows Jiro, a sushi chef who is ex-yakuza. He lands in a war between two food empires and what follows is carnage.
Bourdain also co-wrote the prequel Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi, which is more action oriented, and follows a young Jiro as he goes from being a gangster to a chef.
This is by far one of my favourite food based mangas. Food Wars or Shokugeki No Soma, revolves around a young high school chef, who starts at an elite culinary high school. His only goal, to be the best. It’s got food factions, societies, action, drama, comedy and more. Not to mention epic cook-offs that replace fight sequences. Think Game of Thrones meets Hells Kitchen.
The show is up to 4 seasons on Netflix. While the manga is complete. There’s also a spin-off crossover with the manga One Piece.
A manga and anime, Yakitate Japan follows bread lover Kazuma Azuma, who is looking to make Japan’s most heavenly bread. He has a superpower of sorts called Hands of the Sun. This gives him the ability to cook bread with his hands.
From the minds of Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj, Starve is set in a dystopian future. It sees a disgraced celebrity chef Gavin Cruickshank who has spent his years drinking away his fortune, return to battle in a cut throat TV competition he created. It’s grim, and dark. Not for the faint hearted, but definitely some excellent writing.
John Layman is twisted. But he’s also an awesome writer. Chew it has won 2 Eisner awards and 2 Harvey awards. The Food and Drug Administration is the top federal authority now. And in the world exist people with food related abilities. Chicken and other bird meats are outlawed after a bird flu pandemic killed 23 million people. Chew follows FDA agent Tony Chu. But he’s not just any agent. Tony Chu is a cibopath, he get psychic visions about anything he eats. Follow Chu and his friends and family as they unravel conspiracies, murder mysteries and everything in between. There’s also a super ass kicking secret agent chicken. This is one of my favourite series to read, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Iron Wok Jan
An older manga on the list, Iron Wok Jan is a boisterous competitive cooking manga. As the grandson of a revered chef, Jan must prove his worth in the culinary world. He continuously battles his rival Kiriko, another talented chef from an equally illustrious cooking family. Will Jan become the world’s greatest cuisine master?
Another one by Anthony Bourdain, Hungry Ghosts is a different direction from the action packed Get Jiro. It tells the story of a Russian oligarch who invites the chefs to play 100 candles. A Japanese Edo-period game where samurai would recount tales of ghosts, demons, and unspeakable things, as a way to one up each other. It’s riddled with Japanese mythology, while still celebrating culinary creativity. Do not read this if you’re afraid of the supernatural.
This is an odd one in the list. That’s probably why I’m putting it here. This manga and anime follows Toriko, a gourmet hunter. His main goal is to find heavenly cuisine and most delicious ingredients ever. In a world where hamburgers make up landscapes, it’s not surprise when you see the protagonist discover, or even fight off the weirdest food related things. As if mountains made of ice-cream wasn’t strange enough.
This one’s straight out of the eighties. A manga and anime that follows culinary prodigy Ajiyoshi Youichi who runs a restaurant with his mother. He is discovered by a renowned food critic who ultimately invites him to compete in a cook off.
While technically not about cooking, Ben-to is all about food. It’s all about the battle of finding the tastiest Bento lunch options around. And I do mean battle. There are some epic fight sequences. Yo Sato, our hero, gets caught up in one such brawl. He ends up joining an underground food lover gang to train for these fights. It’s basically, Food Fight Club!
Written by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the mad mind that brought you Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Seconds is about Katie, a young chef who runs a successful restaurant. Life takes a turn for the worse, but then a mysterious girl appears with simple DIY instructions for a do-over. Write your mistake – eat a mushroom – sleep – Wake up new. The second chance is here. But now with a taste of a do-over, Katie feels the urge to make her life perfect. It’s time for her to discover that actions have consequences. Expect the same madness and humour from Scott Pilgrim and then some.
Words : Anant Sagar