Sushi samurai cuts through food follies
WITH sales of graphic novels and food books continuing to resist the publishing downturn, it was perhaps inevitable the two forms would be combined.
Unsurprisingly, the food and comic bookloving Japan staked out the territory early on with Oshinobo, a long-running docudrama manga series exploring Japanese cuisine. In the West, who better to rise to the challenge than bad boy New York chef turned author and television star Anthony Bourdain, who in turn looks to Japan for inspiration in Get Jiro!, his graphic novel debut.
Though the book is co-written with novelist Joel Rose ( The Blackest Bird, La Pacifica), there’s no mistaking Bourdain’s abrasive, irreverent voice. Get Jiro! is a broad, pungent satire that cuts a bloody swath through American food culture.
Bourdain has some form in this area with his epicurean crime capers Bone in the Throat and The Bobby Gold Stories, but Get Jiro! shifts the action and attitude to a near-future Los Angeles where food has overtaken music, film By Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose Art by Langdon Foss and Jose Villarrubia DC Comics, 160pp, $34.95 (HB) and sports as the national celebrity chefs reign supreme.
Presiding over this dyspeptic dystopia are two culinary empires locked in a deadly turf war. In the blue corner is Global Affiliates managed by Bob, a sharp-tongued, commercially savvy restaurateur who exploits the gourmet pretensions of his patrons while saving the good stuff for himself. In the green corner, the healthier-than-thou Rose runs the Farm, a cult-like collective of locavores, vegetarians and macrobiotic avengers who commandeer the ethical high ground while its leaders secretly indulge in the finest foie gras. Caught in the middle are the independent eateries and street food hawkers,
and eking out a living on the fringes of the city.
One such sole trader is Jiro, a taciturn, consummate sushi chef with a mysterious past and exemplary knife skills — whether he’s slicing blue fin tuna or dispatching foolhardy customers.
When Bob and Rose discover Jiro’s existence they attempt to recruit him to their own causes, and he seizes the chance to play both sides off against each other. The ensuing mayhem is predictably violent, gastronomically enlightening and fitfully entertaining.
With a deep bow to Kurosawa’s samurai epic Yojimbo, a nod to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and with a dash of Quentin Tarantino thrown in for good measure, Bourdain concocts a curious tale to air some of his peeves and passions. Yet despite being a lively, droll romp for much of its length, Get Jiro! abruptly runs out of steam and bite in its closing scenes.
In his now customary harangue against the worst excesses of contemporary food culture, Bourdain targets the obvious — America’s