This is the prequel to Get Jiro!, Anthony Bourdain’s debut comic. Here we get a small glimpse of Jiro’s origins, how he lived in Japan and how he came to live in America.
Interestingly, Get Jiro! depicted L.A. as a sort of foodie dystopia, a wasteland essentially ruled by Food Network chefs turned mob bosses, where all forms of traditional entertainment disappeared, but this comic has a very different tone. There’s no attempt at a creative setting in this. What we see of Japanese society seems to be fairly normal, with some Yakuza violence thrown in. The plot is less silly and outlandish than the first book, but it’s also a lot more predictable. If you asked me what Jiro did in Japan after I’d read the first comic, my guess probably would have come quite close.
Food is a theme throughout this comic, occasionally coming to the forefront. Jiro is secretly apprenticing under a master sushi chef when he’s not on Yakuza business. We get to see him struggling with still only being allowed to work on rice after two years, and there’s a scene with him discussing the similarities between Italian and Japanese food with his girlfriend over a meal, but mainly it’s just in the background – chapter headings being named after Japanese dishes or people eating yakitori, that sort of thing. I guess I was hoping for something closer to the Oishinbo manga series, essentially a story about someone learning how to cook, but that would be a major departure from the first book. This comic does well with the unique balance of gruesome violence and food culture that Bourdain and Rose have created.
Even though this felt a bit by the numbers, it was still a fun read. I preferred the illustrations in this one as well. From what I’ve seen, most people enjoyed the first comic more, and even though I liked that he took more chances with that story, I think I enjoyed this one more in the end.