Uchi Hiroki

Review: Osen (2008)

Manga credit: greenleaf1309.livejournal.com

I can’t remember how I found out about Osen but I knew I had to give it a shot after checking out the manga that it was adapted from. Written by Kikuchi Shota and serialized in the Japanese men’s magazine Evening, Osen is a manga about food (or more specifically, traditional Japanese cuisine) and a fond tribute to the vanishing artistic traditions of the country. Most of the story takes place in Isshouan, a venerated traditional Japanese restaurant located in the town of Kasagi-no-yado near Tokyo. It’s one of those places that rely not so much on media publicity but the loyal patronage of regulars and “those in the know”.

As you can imagine of a restaurant of this calibre, the food served at Isshouan is of the pornographic, superlative-inducing variety. However its main star is really its foxy proprietress Osen, an unabashed sake-loving hedonist who can often be seen enjoying a long soak in the bath or lounging around in a semi-perpetual state of undress.

Don’t be fooled by her come hither pouts though. There’s a reason everyone, from the restaurant’s patrons to the town’s villagers, fawns over her and that’s because Osen has skills no one can touch (of course the fact that she’s a total babe probably has something to do with it as well.) As the okami of Isshouan, her knowledge of food and culinary techniques is unparalleled but being a master chef isn’t her only call to adulation. She’s also a master potter, gardener and sake maker – a living embodiment of the artisan trades that once flourished in Old Japan, if you will – as well as one helluva okami.

This is the de-facto response everyone has when they meet Osen.

Nothing fazes Osen, not even the sudden arrival of a sumo wrestler and his entourage, and every time you see her diffusing a crisis with her skillz (or plain common sense), you can’t help but wonder: ‘Why has no one made this woman mayor of Tokyo yet?”

It goes without saying that I think the manga is definitely worth checking out (only the first two chapters of Volume 1 have been translated into English though) but what about the drama?  (more…)

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