Graphic Novel Review: Food Wars! Vol 1 & 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

I like food so I thought I’d give Food Wars! a try.  I thought the first volume was okay, but it didn’t blow me away.  Soma’s family owns a diner, and Soma’s number one goal in life is to be a better cook than his dad.  I love this storyline; it kept me reading The Prince of Tennis for a long time (and I need to catch up on that one!).  I’m not sure why I find this trope so appealing, but it is one of my favorites.  The protagonist working to hone his skills, hoping to one day surpass the person who taught him almost everything he knows, yeah, I really like that.

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Hello Kitty Strawberry Marshmallow Snack Review

I feel that it is part of my civic duty to warn you to stay away from these disgustingly sweet snacks, that appear so innocently packaged with an adorable Hello Kitty illustration.  She’s carrying a basket of strawberries, and for some unknown reason, she is also sporting a set of wings.  Probably because she died from toxic sugar overload after eating the little blobs lurking inside the package with her likeness.

Now, before you think that I have some kind of Hello Kitty bias, I will freely admit that I harbor a secret soft spot for the cute little feline.  Even her friends are cute, and I have many useless items bearing their illustrations.  I only purchased this bag of marshmallow glop because Hello Kitty was on the bag. How could I leave the precious cat abandoned on the store shelf?

The marshmallows have a typical pliant texture, and the marshmallow itself isn’t unpalatable.  What makes these snacks so sickening is the clump of strawberry jelly that’s hidden on the inside.  The jelly has a gummy consistency, and it feels very unpleasant when you bite down on it.  Worse, the aftertaste is awful, leaving behind a filmy coating on the teeth that demands a visit to the bathroom to brush the offensive scum away.

If you see these snacks in your local store, do yourself a favor.  Don’t get sucked into a Hello Kitty trance and blindly reach out to pick up the bag.  Turn away before the cute factor kicks in, because soon after purchasing these gross balls of goo, you will be looking for the nearest trash can.

Oishinbo – A la Carte Vol 1 by Kariya & Hanasaki Manga Review

Title:  Oishinbo – A la Carte Vol 1

Story:  Tetsu Kariya

Art:  Akira Hanasaki

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 9781421521398

May Contain Spoilers

People who know me, know that I love food.  I love food so much that I plan entire vacations around eating, and I take dolls to restaurants just so I can photograph the cuisine with my model and blog about it later.  The boyfriend has gotten used to this somewhat strange quirk, but fellow diners aren’t always so forgiving.  I don’t see what is so unusual about sharing the dinner table with a My Scene Barbie, but I’ve never been considered the most normal member of my family.

Oishinbo is, plain and simple, about food.  Oh, sure, there’s a bit of a plot involving Yamaoka and his bully of a father, but first and foremost, this is about different types of Japanese cuisine and its preparation.  If you aren’t fascinated with the proper way to slice sashimi or brew tea, than you are going to be bored out of your mind by this book.  I enjoyed the episodic chapters, with all of the slicing and dicing, but this is something that I could only enjoy in small doses.  There are 102 collected editions of this series – Viz has chosen highlights from the series and will be releasing seven volumes in English.  This volume included some color pages, some recipes for dishes covered in the book, and a boat load of notes to clarify terms used in the book.

The basic story centers around Yamaoka, a journalist who has been chosen to create the “Ultimate Menu,” a model meal embodying the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.  Yamaoka doesn’t  actually seem to work very hard on this project; instead, he and his co-workers spend an awful lot of time eating.  To challenge his digestive peace, his father, a loud, harsh critic of even the most beautifully prepared dishes, somehow always manages to arrive to disturb his son’s attempts to enjoy a relaxed meal.  Kaibara is serious about his dinner – this guy will throw plates of carefully arranged sashimi or bowls of miso in a fit of rage, terrifying everyone on the premises.  I would just love to see his reaction to some of my home cooked meals.

I wasn’t overly fond of the art.  The people seemed stiff and wooden, but the food did make me a little hungry.  I am not someone who enjoys cooking – tossing some fresh veggies into a bowl of instant ramen is about as much effort as I want to make when preparing a meal, but it was interesting seeing how much care was expended creating some of the food in the book.  All of that cutting and cooking and arranging on beautiful plates seemed very tiring, though I wouldn’t hesitate to dive in if someone placed one in front of me.

Grade: B

Rated for Teen

Review copy provided by Viz

Mixed Vegetables Vol 2 by Ayumi Komura Manga Review

Title: Mixed Vegetables Vol 2

Author: Ayumi Komura

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  9781421519685

May Contain Spoilers

Hanayu just wants to be a sushi chef.  Her only problem?  She’s the daughter of a famous patisserie, and she’s in line to take over the family business.  Hayato just wants to bake cakes.  His problem?  He’s the son of a famous sushi chef, and he’s expected to take over the family business.  Will Hanayu and Hayato be able to find a way to make their dreams come true and keep their families happy at the same time?

Hanayu’s plan to marry Hayato so she can work at his family’s sushi restaurant has been derailed!  He had a similar plan of marrying into her family so he could become a patisserie.  Now the two aren’t talking, and Hanayu is more upset about it than she ever thought possible.  She was only after him for his sushi connections, wasn’t she?  Maybe not, because now she misses his friendship.  Hanayu has to work through the awkwardness that has cropped up between them, and she has to learn how to pay more attention when ordering supplies for her cooking class.  She’s got a lot on her mind, and she just can’t concentrate because she’s so unhappy about Hayato.

I’m just not buying into Hanayu and Hayato’s relationship.  If they were willing to marry into each other’s families so they could pursue their career choice, I don’t understand why, now that their original goal is out in the open, they don’t see this as a viable solution anymore.  It was alright when they would have been using the other person, but now that everything is on the table and they know what’s going on, it’s unacceptable?  That just doesn’t make any sense to me.  It’s the perfect way to get what they want!  They don’t dislike each other, and it would allow Hanayu to expand her knife collection and Hayato to decorate cakes to his heart’s content.  But then I guess the story would come to an end.

While Hanayu and Hayato work out their relationship, they also have school stress to deal with.  They are both very competitive, and they strive to outdo each other during class.  This usually gets them into trouble with their teacher, who seems to suffer from a multiple personality disorder.  Both of them take enough knocks from Matsuzaka that closed head injuries were a very real possibility.  The battle over the eggs was a little too much, but the food pictured during class sessions usually makes me hungry.

When Hanayu’s determination to follow her dreams begins to wane, Hayato taunts her about losing her drive.  This made me like him better.  He actually tries to help her stay focused on her goals and prods her along when she starts second guessing herself.  Now that is boyfriend material. How long will it be before they realize that both of their dreams are within their reach, if only they are willing to work together to achieve them?

While the story can be listless at times, I do enjoy the crisp art.  The characters are very expressive.  Hairstyles are a bit on the unkempt side, and would be a nightmare in most kitchens, especially Hanayu’s untamed locks.  The food always looks appetizing, and makes me want to run over to Happy Sushi for a quick fix for the hunger pangs I am suddenly suffering from.

Grade: C+

Rated for Teen

Review copy provided by Viz

Yakitate!! Japan #4 by Takashi Hashiguchi Manga Review

Buy it here

Title: Yakitate!! Japan #4

Author:  Takashi Hashiguchi

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  1421509210

May Contain Spoilers

Kazuma and Kawachi are back, battling it out in the Pantasia Rookie Tournament!  After defeating Mizuno and her high-class melon bread, she throws another challenge at Kazuma and Tsukino – if her gargantuan protector, Koala, defeats Kazuma, Tsukino has to withdraw her claim to be Pantasia’s successor!  If Kazuma wins, she’ll withdraw.  Before he can stop her, Tsukino agrees.  There’s just one problem!  In order to advance to the next round, Kazuma has to make fried noodle bread.  Only he’s never made fried noodles in his life! 

This book was filled with such awful puns, and I’m utterly embarrassed to admit that I laughed at them.  Loudly.  I couldn’t help myself!  The situations and the jokes get more and more ridiculous with each passing volume.  Not that I mind; I find the characters very appealing.  Even Kawachi, who constantly rips on Kazuma for being a simpleton, is a good guy at heart.  This leaves just one character with no personality.  Tsukino, I hope that you become more than Kazuma’s porter before the end of the series.

We had the introduction of a new face,  Mr Ryu.  He operates a noodle factory, and the manager takes the noodle-deficient bakers to meet his old friend.  Don’t be fooled by Mr Ryu’s wimpy profession!  He’s also a master of the ancient Chinese assassination martial arts!!  While he would prefer employing his super deadly slaughter techniques, he seems more than happy to teach the boys how to stir-fry some noodles.  However, even he admits that Kazuma has no chance unless he can come up with something special for his yakisoba.  What will Kazuma do?

This was another romp through the kitchen.  Martial arts baking?  Yes, it’s silly, but it’s oh, so fun! 

Grade: B

Rated for Older Teen

Youma Con Impressions


Yesterday was Youma Con in Troy, Michigan.  I decided to brave the hour and fifteen minute drive to check it out.  On the way, I met up with my parents for breakfast.  It’s always a good idea to start con days with a healthy breakfast!

Michael actually got up early to meet us for breakfast, and then we headed over to the con.  I hadn’t been in the Hilton before, but it seemed an adequate facility for the convention.  I have only a few complaints about the hotel itself; the lobby was way too small for all the posing co-players, as was the balcony on the 2nd floor.  The "photoshoots" for specific series were held on the balcony, and there just wasn’t enough room there!  The problem with holding a con in November in Michigan is the stupid weather.  Though it had warmed up quite a bit from earlier in the week, it was still a little chilly for costumed con-goers to be comfortable standing outside so total geeks like myself could photograph them.


Upon entering the hotel at a little after 9 am, what was the first thing that attracted my attention??  The arcade!  This is always the case at cons, and it drives Dean nuts.  He will suffer many activities that aren’t his "thing", but he draws the line at watching me play DDR.  Good thing he wasn’t invited to this convention!  I think Michael got a little tired of being in the arcade, too, as he left around 2. 

After touring the arcade, I discovered that the games were on freeplay, and then I really wanted to  get registered so I could make a fool of myself for free before the dealer room opened.  The registration process was a breeze, in part because there was no line yet.  Later in the day, it looked like there was line, but it always seemed organized.  Nothing like Comicon International, where even pre-registered guests have to wait in hours long lines.  Of course, this con is what I consider a baby con – it’s still pretty small compared to A-Cen, even, so they still have lots of time to mess things up.

After a few rounds of ITG (not a good idea on a full stomach!), we headed back to the dealer room.  Bryce, Mara, and Erik (in costume) had arrived by then.  The dealer room was a bit of a joke.  There were maybe 8 vendors in too small an area for all the people trying to stuff themselves into the room.  As is typical, the prices were sky high, and better deals could be easily found on-line.  I did break down and purchase 2  Bleach cell phone dangles, but at 20% off, the manga wasn’t much of a deal. There are a couple of yaoi titles that I would have purchased, but yaoi was woefully absent from the tables.  I asked if they were hiding it somewhere, and you’d think I was asking for something illicit.  Sheesh.  I didn’t even look at the DVDs because they are so much cheaper on-line.

We went back to the arcade, which still wasn’t very busy, and played more ITG. I never was able to try DDR SuperNova, because there was always a rather long line for it.  Since I like ITG, I just decided that standing in lines was out for the day.  Then we people watched, which was very entertaining. Then it was on to the music video screenings.

I’m impressed with how good AMVs have gotten over the years.  They only showed the winners on Saturday, and I was disappointed that I missed seeing some of the other entries.  I can sit for hours just watching AMVs!  It’s a good thing I don’t mind sitting by myself, as most people quickly get bored of this endeavor.

A large percentage of con goers were in costume.  There were some really fantastic ones, like Ed and Al from FMA, and Tousen from Bleach.  One of my favorite con pastimes is to find a place to sit that’s out of the traffic zone, and just watch the co-players.  I keep thinking it would be so much fun to co-play, but the effort required to prepare a good costume is too daunting for me.  Instead, I’m content to sit back and watch the fruits of every one else’s labors.

We took a break at 2 to grab some lunch.  Nobana is down the street, and I was surprised to learn that it’s owned by Noble Fish/One World Market.  I was all excited to get some sushi, but as I was ordering, I saw that they have shrimp tempura curry.  So much for the sushi.  There aren’t any Japanese restuarants on my side of town that have curry, so I had to try it.  It was really good, and the portion was more than adequate.  I couldn’t finish it. 

Back to the con for more people watching.  I didn’t stay much longer, as I had a long drive home, and still had some errands to run on the way home.

Overall, I was surprised by how many attendees there were.  I hope that the con releases the attendance numbers.  Things seemed a little crowded at the hotel, so I think they might have to start searching for another venue if they continue holding the convention.  The registration area needs to be moved to a separate room; it was difficult trying to squeeze by the line to get to the dealer room, the main panel room and artist alley.  The dealer room was a joke; they really need to expand the area and get more dealers to set up shop.  When I go to a convention, my top priority is hitting the dealer room and searching for character goods for whatever happens to be my favorite series at the time.  I was extremely disappointed with the skimpy pickings available.  I have been spoiled by the larger cons, and everything less just pales in comparison.  Still, this was a worthy effort. 

OT – Random Riding Lesson – Are We There Yet?


Last night I took a riding lesson with Roxanne and Krystal way out in the boonies. I raced from work over to Karla’s after wolfing down a package of Thai noodles, and then we drove for an hour to arrive at the barn, just in time to wait because the lessons were running late. *sigh*

Roxanne went first. She is catch riding at ASHAM next weekend, so she rode the horse she’ll be showing. Her lesson was only about 20 minutes. Yeah! I was really tired by that time and just wanted to get on a horse and then go home.

Krystal was next. I thought we would be riding in a group lesson; I was disappointed to find out we weren’t. The arena is about half the size of DHS’s, but there is an observation room with a bathroom. The barn was clean and well kept. Overall, the farm was nice, but it’s so far away!

They brought out a paint while Krystal was still riding, and I hopped  on. The horse’s name was Vinny, and he’s a country pleasure horse. That means he doesn’t have a lot of forward motion, and doesn’t trot very high. He had a nice head set, though, and I didn’t have to fight to keep his head up.

Vinny was a lot of work! It was rather warm last night, and I soon worked up a sweat. He was a notch lazier than Harley – argh! The entire time we worked at the posting trot it was sit, kick, up, sit, kick, up. I can’t believe how quickly I became tired! The canter was the same – stride, kick, stride, kick, and he still kept falling out of it! I was able to get the correct canter leads every time he took off, though.

After the lesson, we went out for a bite to eat. The Tomato Kitchen was right by the freeway, so we stopped there. It was ok, but it was so far past my bedtime that all I wanted to do was go home and sleep! I didn’t get home until after 11, and I have to get up at 4:45!!

Back from the World Championship Horse Show – 2006


He’s the Man heading over to collect his ribbons

I’m back from the horse show.  Since my laptop was locked in my parents’ car most of the time, and I was getting back from the show late, the only time I had to blog was first thing in the morning.  The show started at 9, and since I had to grab a shuttle over to Freedom Hall, that didn’t leave me much time to post!

I was able to meet the people that I purchased Blondie from.  I was hoping to see one of their yearlings, Bingo Night, but they sent her home on Thursday.  SOB!!  There was a picture of her in one of the show publications that was released every morning, so I at least have her picture.  Ann said she would send a picture and a video, and I hope she remembers.

 He’s the Man’s victory pass

The highlight of the Friday night classes was the Amateur Roadster to Bike Championship.  What an exciting class!  The judges called for two workouts, where they ask part of the class to show again, because they couldn’t decide on a winner.  I love the roadster classes to begin with, and to see horses of this quality compete was really fun!  Incidentally, William Shatner was driving one of the horses, and he came in second, for all of you Star Trek freaks out there. 

Saturday night, decked out in a dress and my tennis shoes (my dress shoes were in my camera bag, but I had developed a blister from all of the walking, and couldn’t wear them!), I watched He’s the Man take first place in the Five Gaited World’s Grand Championship.  There was no workout, which was disappointing, and though the winner looked good, I think Five O’Clock looked better.  He’s the Man had a few issues, and wasn’t what I would  consider the "perfect" horse.  He broke the first way of the ring, and I don’t think he deserved the championship.  He is a beautiful horse, though.  I think I liked his conformation the best.  I think Echo of Thunder was second, and Five O’Clock was third, but I was so tired from being out late and getting up early that I might have them reversed.  EDIT:  I do have them reversed.  Five O’Clock was second, and Echo of Thunder was third. 

I was able to see Along Came A Spider again, but she came in second!  I love this horse! I think she should have won.  I found that I often didn’t agree with the judges, but I’m sure that is mostly because I’m new to whole thing and don’t really understand what they are judging yet.  One thing that really bugged me, though, was the number of last year’s (and the year before, and before that, even!) that won again this year.  This sport reminds me of figure skating – there’s a lot of politics going on in the background.

I wasn’t able to enjoy food this trip.  I found myself stuck at the fairgrounds most of the time, which meant eating fair food.  Yuck! I am now thoroughly sick of corn dogs.  There is a restaurant in Freedom Hall, and I had  an expensive buffet lunch there, which I really enjoyed, but I didn’t discover it’s exsistance until the end of the week.  It was nice to sit in the air conditioning, and have people run over to fill my coffee cup every time it dipped below the halfway mark.  Next year I will probably eat there a couple days if I go again.

On Saturday, I went shopping at the Executive Inn with the barn people.  Since I had already been through the shops, there wasn’t anything new to look at.  I did purchase a dufflebag with a saddlebred embroidered on the front, and the day before I purchased a garment bag, some jods, and 2 lapel pins.  Most of the vendors were high-priced, exclusive shops, and their wares were a tad too rich for my humble means.

I only covered the most important stuff, so I don’t bore anyone.  If you want more details, I’ll fill you in  later!