Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi
by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Ale Garza, Jose Villarrubia (Vertigo, 2015)

Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi is the action-soaked prequel to Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose's Get Jiro! Set in Japan years before the first installment, a younger Jiro, who is part of a mob family, dispenses gangsta justice with his demented half-brother by day, while secretly training at night to be a sushi chef. Jiro tries to keep his family obligations and his culinary passion separate, but eventually finds himself forced to choose.

The previous installment did a wonderful job of worldbuilding. Set in a dystopian world of city-states, extreme, warring chefs sit atop the food chain like vultures, controlling the food distribution for the fractured population. It's a genius concept, really: gangs composed of foodies and vegans, with chefs as the new tribal barons. Fatalistic, quirky and filled with violent action setpieces, Get Jiro! was Blade Runner with extra sharp knives.

The prequel aims to serve up the backstory on the uber talented, uber secretive chef Jiro. The son of one of Japan's most notorious crime lords, Jiro is torn between his father's plans for him and his private desire to master an art. But the family is getting ready to make a huge move in the underworld and if Jiro doesn't step up to the plate, his half-brother, Ichigo, will take over -- while doing him in at the same time.

The story of Jiro is ultimately a classic crime-and-vengeance story that happens to be the theme of about a thousand Asian mob crime stories. Maybe that's what gives Blood & Sushi a "been, there, done that" sort of vibe. Much like the previous volume, it's ultra-violent, but the violence lacks the ferocity of the first story. The action has a rather basic, movie-like feel, with graphic violence occurring so frequently that it eventually loses all meaning. The gonzo, over-the-top narrative is severely watered down, the biting, Transmetropolitan-level satire virtually nonexistent. There are no real twists or turns -- so plentiful in the first story -- to lift the second tale above its rudimentary level. As for the art, the colors are dark and the inking is rather heavy. Like the story, it's perhaps more straightforward than exceptional.

The potential of the story isn't wasted, though. Blood & Sushi is still stylish, action packed, and has a decent amount of culinary exploration at its center, especially in the history of the dishes and foods. It may not be anything memorable but it will do until the next installment.

review by
Mary Harvey

23 September 2017

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