US Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment
Production Studio: Sunrise
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network
One young man’s quest to make the world’s best Ja-pan.
Kazuma Azuma is a young man with a dream. Above all else, Kazuma wants to make the world a lighter, fluffier place by crafting a bread that’s distinctly Japanese. He wants to craft a crusty morsel that truly defines the essence of Japan, itself. In other words, he wants to make the greatest “Ja-PAN” bread (get it?) to ever exist.
Yakitate!! Japan‘s first arc sees the intrepid Azuma at the start of his yeast-like rise. He departs his simple country home to partake in an event known only as “The Pantasia Exam.”
Pantasia is a hugely popular chain of bakeries, which hires only the best of the best. And, like hungry shoppers lining up for freshly baked baguettes, talented chefs gather to compete for a coveted position in the company’s main store.
As one would expect, the competition is stiffer than week-old bread. Azuma has a secret weapon, though. He was born with the “Hands of the Sun.” Because of this, Azuma’s hands produce more heat than normal, allowing him to knead a truly godlike bread dough.
Unfortunately, that’s where his natural advantages end. Azuma’s a bit lacking in the practical sense, and his knowledge of baking is limited to what he calls “Ja-Pan” bread. Because of this, he must rely on his raw skill(and a little help from his friends). Will this be enough to pass the exam, though?
This first act basically serves to introduce the cast to the viewer and set the gears of growth into motion. The story is little more than a collection of shonen genre tropes, which sees Kazuma and rival baker Kyousuke battling to grow stronger and compete in the Pantasia Rookie Competition.
Still, the series handles itself well, with a wink and a nod, and tongue planted firmly in cheek. The series constantly parodies itself, as well as other popular titles like Fist of The North Star with the aid of bread-based hallucinations. (Editor’s note: Not even once) The fourth wall is broken time and again, though it’s done so in a manner that doesn’t pull the viewer too far from the experience.
On his quest, Kazuma joins an eccentric group of characters when he joins Pantasia’s South Branch. These characters help to shape Kazuma into the baker he will become. Kyousuke Kawachi is a talented baker with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things bread. He’s is very much the everyman and a born sidekick to Kazuma. Kyousuke is a nice contrast to Kazuma, who is dumb as bricks but exceedingly talented.
Store manager Ken is an afro-sporting strongman and a master of the art of French bread. On the surface, Ken comes across as an unintelligible drunk. Beyond this first impression, though, is the heart and skill of a master baker.
Finally, there’s Tsukino Azusagawa: Assistant Manager of the Pantasia south branch. She’s a schoolgirl with a heart of gold, who has a knack for seeing the true potential in just about anybody. She’s also a possible hair for the Pantasia company once her father dies. The rivalry between the future airs of the company plays a pivotal role during this arc.
This first arc sets the stage for a grand experience, as various subplots begin to reveal themselves to the viewer. Yakitate!! Japan has the perfect degree of dramatic spice to keep its viewers invested in the experience. Bread puns are rolled out with reckless abandon, and the tight storytelling leaves the viewer kneading to see more. Fans who can cut through its comedic crust will find a classic struggle of broken families, financial hardships, and bitter rivalries. I’m excited to see how things will develop as the show gets more time in the oven. In any case, it’s certainly an anime worth handing over your hard owned dough for.
Episode #1 Stream
For fans who want to join the flaky, fluffy fun, Nozomi Entertainment uploaded the first 31 episode of the series to its YouTube channel. (US Residents Only)