What They Say:
After participating in the illustrious international competition like the Monaco Cup, what could Kazuma Azuma possibly do next? Well, return to his roots and head back to Japan! Yuichi Kirisaki of St. Pierre makes a bold challenge to the Pantasia crew. He proposes the Yakitate 9 game show, a revolutionary contest in which Kazuma and the others try to make breads that uniquely represent each and every part of Japan. It’s time for Pantasia and St. Pierre to finally settle things once and for all!
Contains episodes 53-69.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language only in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The series is one that plays up the audio side as you’d expect with some decent moments where it is big and loud but not because of the action but rather just because of the intensity of the moments, mostly where characters are overacting in a sense to really set the mood. For the most part, it works the stereo side fairly well when it’s necessary to make things come across from different points, which is usually just from dialogue or some ambient sounds, but overall it really does work a kind of full feeling about rather than defining things to a particular area. In the end, it all comes through cleanly and clearly throughout and we don’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing between 2004 and 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The sixteen episodes for this set are spread across four discs here, giving it all plenty of space to work with since it is a full frame show. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a bright and colorful look about it with a decent bit of detail to it in some places, but it’s not a show that goes too simple or too complex. Some of the details are more involved in the food itself since they want to make things really look appealing there and to be accurate. The animation is pretty solid throughout and there’s some very fluid sequences to be had, but this is also a show that’s going for a very specific kind of feeling to it so that it can spread it out for a lengthy run. It comes across well here with the transfer in that it has a clean look free of problems such as cross coloration, banding or background noise.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized DVD keepcase where it has a couple of hinges inside to hold the four discs. The front cover for this gives us most of the main cast of characters with a good look about them as it shows them where it may be a standard group shot, but it’s one that works well to highlight the core plays. It has a menu/restaurant kind of feeling to the background that works and the lighter colors certainly makes it all inviting and with a sense of fun, particularly with the logo along the upper right. It’s a little surprising that it’s not plugging the episode count more along the front cover. The back cover keeps to the same background design and we get some decent shots along the right along with the episode and disc count but also the DVD-ROM side with the liner notes. The left side has the premise that’s very clean and easy to read that covers the basics well without really revealing too much. The episode and extras are also laid out well and we get a solid technical grid along the bottom. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works off of the cover design which works well to tie things together as we get the white background with the orange crosshatching that gives it a light bit of pop that defines it well. The white space is well used as we get the navigation along it and it’s balanced a bit by the brighter pop of the logo itself with its red and blue. The right side changes things out with artwork of different characters but it avoids doing shots from the show and instead uses some nicely colored and detailed pieces that definitely makes the show look a little more current than it is. Since it’s a monolingual release, there’s almost nothing here in terms of navigation besides playing it and checking out the episodes. We get the trailers and the extras, but for the most part it’s all about the play all feature.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yakitate!! Japan comes to a close with this set, bringing sixteen more episodes of fun that essentially covers one final arc from the manga. The manga itself went on for a bit longer, finishing out about a year after the series ended, but not all of it ended up being animated. What we do get here is a kind of closure for the most part, but open enough so they could have continued it if the ratings were that. For those like myself just watching it here for the first time, it does bring to a close enough things that you’ll feel enough closure to the show as a whole to be able to walk away satisfied, which is important with a show of this length, even one that mostly goes for standard tournament style material.
Having come out of the Monaco arc as they did, there’s a good sense of relief with all that happened. We got a lot of things in that arc that really drew it out more than it should have, particularly with a certain judge, and removing that from this arc keeps things a lot more focused on the competition itself. Which is for the best, because some of the Pierrot material really dragged down parts of the previous arc for me rather than enhanced it. The series also returns to Japan here and focuses on telling tales involving the country in good ways with all the regions, something that lets the show connect with its viewers a bit more as well. The big change upon the casts return though is that the two business, Pantasia and St. Pierre, have found themselves under one owner after all that happened, with Kirisaki now fully in charge of both of them.
That’s not something that goes over well with the gang to be sure, but it gets complicated because of the way that Kirisaki runs things with them in providing them an out. Since Tsukino and the others walked away from Monaco with a good deal of money, which could complicate matters, Kirisak offers up a competition between them and people of his choosing that will determine the end ownership of things. Ownership that will take Kirisaki out of the picture himself, allowing Tsukino to take over Pantasia while Yukino takes over St. Pierre. He has his own reasons for it, which are touched on lightly at the end so as to not make him look like an utter incompetent businessman, but mostly it’s just to set things up in a way that provides for a lot of wacky moments. And to bleed Tsukino and her friends dry so they’re not a bigger threat, as he gets it so they end up paying for practically everything in the competition. Since he has them over a barrel, they have little choice.
This kicks off the Yakitate 9 competition, which is a series of nine matches spread across the country in different regions and towns, where the core trio of Azuma, Kanmuri and Kawachi participate together against various teams that Kirisaki brings in to go against them. The idea is that each area will work with local specialties and sometimes specific themes that are important in the area related to various foods and the like. That makes it a good challenge for the sides to work with, in ways that you can expect coming off of not only the previous competition arc in Monaco but also the original one that brought all of these characters into Pantasia. What we end up getting is a series of matches spread over one or two episodes that takes us to several areas with multiple challenges, some food based and some opponent based, with the fate of the company in their hands.
With as many episodes as we’ve seen so far, there’s not a lot of surprises in how this arc works. The welcome change is that it does focus more on Azuma and his skills, with Kawachi and Kanmuri aiding along the way, so it’s less about the others like we had for awhile. The narrowing focus helps because it makes the competitions more of Azuma vs everyone else, with some familiar foes returning, and plenty of new ones as well that are designed to deal with the particular challenges at hand. There’s time for the others to get involved in it all as well, with Kanmuri getting the most with an episode focused on his competing with a newly revealed brother over their futures depending on who wins, while Kawachi spends a lot of time with Tsukino and others providing commentary on the events as they play out moving across the country. The arc is also a plus in that Kuroyanagi returns to an involved role as the judge for it all instead of a commentator like he was in Monaco, and that brings us a lot of reaction gags.
The show has some fun cameo appearances along the way, some that definitely require a bit more reading in the liner notes to get an understanding of, but we also get some obvious ones, including a comical Naruto appearance. But the show also takes some unusual turns. As we get down to the final couple of episodes, the penultimate one is an almost entire Lord of the Rings fantasy piece that ties into the challenge at hand. It’s decently done as they have a lot of fun with it, but it feels so out of place in the larger picture of how the series has worked that it’s disconcerting. The last episode is also rather meta in a number of ways as we get the competition working hard to come to a resolution, but you have people like Kawachi talking about how the show is ending and that if things don’t go well quickly, they might even get canceled mid-episode. It’s amusing to be sure, but with it avoiding self-referential material for the most part throughout it’s run, it feels a little out of place.
Yakitate!! Japan draws to a close with one final competition arc, one that’s a bit shorter than the previous two. That helps to keep it moving along to be sure, but some of the leisurely aspects of the previous arcs helped to not make it feel so rushed. The show is one that has a whole lot of fun with what it does when it comes to food, though I have no clue how accurate any of it truly is and how much is just a whole lot of bluffing. But what it does is apply a traditional shounen tournament style to it with plenty of outlandish material to make it silly and fun in a good way. It’s the kind of easily accessible show that doesn’t require a lot of deep thought, but it provides quite a lot of fun and silly entertainment. It’s not setting out to be a world changing series, but rather one that wants to put a goofy grin on your face as you watch the concoctions come together, the judges react outlandishly, and cartoonish opponents provide the challenges. It’s a fun series that hits the right mark throughout with its approach and style.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Liner Notes (DVD-ROM PDF)
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Running Time: 425 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.