Sushi samu­rai cuts through food fol­lies

Get Jiro!

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - An­drew Mcmillen

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,

ob­ses­sion

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

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