Shin Chuuka Ichiban

March 7, 2020

You thought the Fruits Basket remake was the longest interval for an anime to be given the reboot. Uh huh. 18 years is a bloody long time a gap to remake one of the most endearing childhood animes. But that record is ‘shattered’ with Shin Chuuka Ichiban. A remake of the original Chuuka Ichiban that ran its course back in 1997-1998, that’s 21 years for a series to take a hiatus and then suddenly pop back up with a new makeover. Well, I can’t say I’m pretty excited for it after what I read that this remake is going to be (spoilers: It’s not a continuation) but that damn nostalgia keeps getting in the way. Ah yes, if Shokugeki No Souma is too contemporary and international, going back to my Chinese roots may whet my appetite and make me like all those traditional Chinese foods (and ‘yucky’ vegetables) that I never liked as a kid. Maybe my tongue and tastes have matured by then. Or not.

Episode 1
Remember that black chicken episode? No. Yeah, I forgot all about it. Let’s rewatch this again then! Anyway, Mao and co stumble into this little outskirt town whose reputation has the best chicken dishes. When Shirou tries to steal persimmon to eat, its owner, Tia stops him. But she lets them eat since they’re hungry. Learning that Mao spent all his money on a cookbook and that’s why they have no more money, this reminds her of her own brother’s naivety. You see, before he died, he bought lots of black chickens. Despite having low vitality and egg quality, each time they die, he would rush to get replacement and higher quality feed. Of course the townspeople mocked him for raising such birds of misfortune till the day he died. Tia is only caring for them to carry out his dreams. So far nothing good for her. And after hearing this story, you bet Mao is going to enter tomorrow’s competition. Everyone cooks their chicken dish and of course nobody has high hopes for Mao’s black chicken. As usual, being the last participant to get his dish taste, the judges think he is insulting everyone because it’s just rice. Just take one bite. You’ll understand. And with that, here comes the exaggerated reactions! Oh yeah. Mao explains how he used the chicken’s body to stuff the rice as it absorbs its rich flavours. Then he reveals this is no black bird of misfortune but rather the mystical bird called silky fowl. Wow. You mean everybody didn’t realize that? That rare, huh? And realizing Mao’s Super Chef emblem, it is a given that he wins the competition. Thanks to Mao’s help, Tia now has renewed confidence to carry on this business and even better, the entire town will help support to rear these silky fowls.

Episode 2
Remember that episode when they first met Shell? I do! At least most of it. Let’s rewatch this again! Shirou being the smartass he is, thinks he can cook a simple dish when Mao is temporarily away. Of course it sucks and the customer who is no other than Shell calls for the one responsible. Mao takes on the responsibility and the challenge to cook him something satisfying and doesn’t disappoint when he cooks his requested dish containing 3 distinct egg flavours. Because of that, Shell wants to seriously challenge him to a shumai battle. Shell makes a shumai using his golden ratio that contains 4 different tastes. Unfortunately Mao got the same idea so had to scrape this if he is to avoid defeat. With half of the time remaining, he brainstorms and realizes what he needs to do. In the end, he creates this super huge big bang shumai that has distinct flavour everywhere depending on which part you pick. It is without a doubt Shell considers Mao the winner and even thanks Shirou for everything because otherwise he wouldn’t have this opportunity to meet Mao. Meanwhile Mei Li is feeling sad. Unlike Shirou, she didn’t fully believe that Mao could pull off this feat. Furthermore, Mao said Shirou was his one and only partner. She has been studying so hard to be useful to him but could it be she has no talent? Then a strange man hands her an invitation for her and her father.

Episode 3
Remember that episode where Mei Li got poisoned and Mao had to step in in Chouyu’s place to save her life? Uhm… I think so… Let’s rewatch this again! Chouyu and Mei Li accept the invitation for this dinner party. Did they invite Mao too? Because he tagged along. There are also top chefs from Guangzhou invited and everything seems to be fine until they get to the main dish. This dove dish is actually a poisoned brown frog in disguise. Too bad the chefs and Mei Li ate it and they’re out cold from the paralysis. The perpetrator is a masked chef, Li Yan who is seeking revenge over Chouyu. With Mei Li’s life on the line, he can’t back out. Just like last time, they will participate in best of 3 lobster battles and the first one is a decoration battle. However they must do it blindfolded. During the match, suddenly Chouyu collapses. Mao discovers a scorpion hidden in Chouyu’s lobster. He calls out the cheating but the mask chef claims Chouyu did the same thing the last time. Of course Mao will continue to battle him and despite Li Yan having no need to oblige, somehow he does because Mao is probably bugging him. The second battle is all about speed. Mao finishes first. Because Li Yan’s dish is incomplete, Mao won’t taste it. Li Yan thinks Mao’s fried lobster is also incomplete but after much bugging, he tries it out and realizes this is one helluva good lobster. Realizing his revenge won’t be complete unless he defeats Chouyu’s pupil, I guess we’re going to have a third match. But there is an additional condition. If Mao wins, he gets the antidote. Otherwise, he will drink this poison too.

Episode 4
Continuing from last episode, before the third round of stewed hotpot begins, Li Yan narrates his revenge began 16 years ago. So this is one big love revenge, huh? Apparently they were in love with the same woman, Meika and she was fought over via a cooking challenge. However Chouyu cheated by putting a poison needle hidden in his basket. Bitter by this lost, Li Yan threw away his chef pride and sought revenge and trained via Cooking Underworld. Both sides make their stew and who is going to judge it? Conveniently, Shirou was kidnapped for this. He is of course scared to make the wrong decision. So Mao tells him don’t choose his dish. Choose the best dish. That is his dish. Uhm, so technically still choose his dish? And of course Shirou tastes both and chooses Mao’s. He didn’t cheat or anything. Just that Li Yan’s dish was soaked with rich seafood that it enveloped the taste of the lobster which is supposed to be the cooking theme. Mao on the other hand, enhanced and supported the lobster. The victory means the antidote is administered to everyone. Wow. It works so fast considering the time they were being poisoned. Chouyu confronts Li Yan about this disgrace. It is revealed that Meika was the one who rigged the match. You see, Chouyu and Meika loved each other but her dad organized the contest in which Meika set up for Li Yan to lose. Chouyu never said anything because his feelings for Meika was too pure and he thought it is best if he just suffered from Li Yan’s hatred. Yeah, maybe he thought wrong. Suddenly Li Yan is like a changed person. Realizing his erred ways, he praises Mao to be the next big thing in the cooking world but also warns the Cooking Underworld will come after them for defeating him. He unmasks himself to show the scars on his face, proof of the trials and tribulations he went under the Cooking Underworld. Because of that, he drank the poison. He is going to die anyway for his failure. Everyone realizes the house is on fire and needs to get out. Oh no. They’re locked in! Don’t worry. Shell is here to rescue. You mean his dim sum tool is the one that barged open the locked door? Whatever. Everyone is safe except for Li Yan who let the fire burn him and the house collapse on him. Wow. Triple death.

Episode 5
Remember that episode where Leon first appeared? Let’s rewatch this again! Hearing news that Leon will return from his training after 4 years, you bet she is more than happy that this kind chef has returned. The night before, Shell got assaulted by someone and got his staff stolen. The only clue he has on the perpetrator is the Cooking Underworld mark on his hand. Next day as the gang prepare to carve up the buffalo, here comes Leon to carve them up so perfectly that there is not a single drop of blood. This punk is Leon? Then he gets rough with Mei Li when she accidentally touches his tools. This jerk is really Leon? Shell confronts him as the one who stole his staff but was overpowered. Then he forces his way to see Luo and demands the legendary utensils as promised. Shell then reveals his Cooking Underworld mark and warns about giving him that. Chouyu then decides to hold a contest at the Daxian temple to see if he is worthy of the utensil. His opponent will be Mao. The contest has them cut up a large sea bream and make 4 dishes out of it. We see Leon using all his knives to cut and prepare the fish with great speed and accuracy. As for Mao, he starts off using a metal wire to scale the fish. Just in time, Shell has got the knife that Mao requested. It is a very flexible knife because it has 100 holes in it. Everyone is shocked because it is a knife only known in the Cooking Underworld. Gosh. Is Mao a member too?!

Episode 6
Mao’s knife was made by Shell as per requested and it took him almost the entire day. Leon presents his dishes first and without a doubt, they’re all outstanding. Chouyu notes that despite this impressiveness, Leon has not used a single Cooking Underworld technique. Mao is up presenting his dish. In a single fish, he has 4 different tastes that represents the 4 different cuisines of China: Peking, Sichuan, Shanghai and Guangzhou. So good the judges can’t stop eating. So what will their decision be? It’s a draw! Too tough to decide! WTF?! Leon is not satisfied and will settle this with an extra round. With only a sea bream left, he lets Mao choose whatever parts first and will take the leftovers. But Mao respects him as a great chef and cuts the fish in exactly half. Chouyu and Shell believe Mao is at a disadvantage because Leon has yet to use his final knife. And now that he has unleashed it, it looks like it is made from some cold ice. Cutting so precise that the judges could see their reflections on the thinly cut fish strips?! How will Mao counter this? He uses the metal wires as hook into the holes of his knife to cut and ‘explode’ the fish meat. Leon creates an exquisite ice cold sashimi dish but this is at the expense of turning his right hand frostbite. As Mao hasn’t finished, Leon lets the judges taste his dish first and without betraying any expectations, they are sent to blue heaven. Now it is Mao’s turn. What’s this spring rolls he created? Everybody is sceptical if Mao will win because the window peak of the sea bream’s taste has passed. Hence the taste is dead.

Episode 7
The fish is alive! In their mouths, that is! Wait a minute. Dead fish come back to life? Like, zombie fish?! Just kidding. Everyone realizes Mao also sacrificed his hand. The knife was burning hot and that heat was what sealed the taste and freshness of the sea bream. Like Leon who has frostbite, Mao has severe burns. In the end, the judges choose Mao as the winner. Oh well, they didn’t have hopes for him and suddenly he came up with a bright idea. Worthy to be the successor of this legendary utensil, the ever soul knife. Proof that he is the real successor after 400 years as a dragon mark appears on it. Because Mao views Leon as worthy as his cooking makes others happy, he also lets him have it. Woah! The dragon mark also appears. Even better. His Cooking Underworld mark vanishes!!! OMFG! It purifies too?! Time for Leon to tell his side of the story. When he was wandering around southern China, he didn’t feel anything exciting to learn. Until he stumbled upon a secret entrance of the Cooking Underworld. They let him joined and his harsh training began from there. Despite so, he enjoyed it. But it also made him arrogant. Then he made the mistake of trying to leave it because he found out how terrifying the organization is. That is why he decided to get the legendary utensil from Luo to fight against them. But how did Mao know about 100 hole knife? First he cooks some pork cubes that of course tastes delicious. Then he shows this old book that isn’t just your usual recipes from his mom, Pai. This book also contains her battles with chefs from the Cooking Underworld and hence all the strange and mysterious recipes and tools used during those battles. Phew. You relieved now that Mao isn’t from the Cooking Underworld? Because the Cooking Underworld do not show themselves, hence this is Mao’s only clue and he doesn’t want to show it off in fear he might attract unwanted attention. But after battles with Li Yan and Leon, he realizes he needs to realize his mom’s dream and defeat the Cooking Underworld. After hearing all that, Luo finds it is time to tell him about all the legendary utensils.

Episode 8
Looks like word has reached the Cooking Underworld about the ever soul knife. I don’t know how the info spread so fast before the age of the internet but whatever. Time to steal it, if you know how their thinking works. So we have a little history on the creation of the 8 legendary utensils. Crafted by Shuri who created it out from some meteorite. However he had to seal it away in different places as it was a period of strife and hardship. So I guess the utensils couldn’t unite the people, huh? As Pai once searched for it too, Mao wants to continue his mom’s search. Luo and Chouyu find it dangerous for him to go alone but Shell and Leon will accompany him. After all, they caught the Cooking Underworld baddie who was trying to steal the ever soul knife. Leon intercepted him and Shell knocked this guy out. This is the real culprit who stole Shell’s staff. With Mao’s determination, I guess they let him go. Luo also gave them maps, possible clues to the next legendary utensil in Shanghai. Oh, Shirou is coming too? Shouldn’t he be helping out in the restaurant instead of following Mao? Oh well, I guess no more foul ups in the restaurant. Next day as they leave, Mei Li didn’t see them off. Turns out she is also coming with them. She doesn’t want to wait for them to return! Yeah, it can be lonely for a girl waiting for the guy who worked here, went on a journey and then come back here. Yeah, Mao could’ve been the third guy… Also, Chouyu gave his blessings since it is her wish. I didn’t know ancient China was so lax in their children’s freedom but whatever. During the boat journey to China, we have a very brief skim through some of the ‘important’ events in Mao’s life. Like how Shou An betrayed Pai and stole her restaurant’s earnings. Pai gave Mao her book just before she died from overworking. A month later, Shou An returned to challenge Mao to become the new head of the restaurant but was soundly beaten by the mapo tofu theme. And then that pairing with Sanche that beat Chouyu but Sanche soon left for training in Shanghai. Not forgetting Mao’s Super Chef tournament in which he and Fei both won the title after giving full marks to their own dish. Ah, isn’t it so nostalgic remembering them? Meanwhile the captured Cooking Underworld dude killed himself. The higher ups realize he is useless for not being able to defeat Leon. Herald Shou An who wants to move in next because he has a personal grudge against Mao.

Episode 9
Remember Mao and his team battling the Cooking Underworld on a huge boat? Let’s rewatch this again! Arriving in Shanghai, their only clue is to seek the advice of the Grand Alliance. However they are confronted by ruffians who think they are from the Cooking Underworld since Leon is with them. However their boss chastises them for thinking so. He is Sanche and he welcomes Mao to his restaurant. Serving him his improved cooking, they get down to business as Sanche learns of Mao’s intentions. Recently Shanghai has been in uproar too with the Grand Alliance receiving daily threats about the legendary utensils. Sanche will ask his father once he returns from the Grand Alliance meeting. However somebody fell through the roof! It is a member of the Grand Alliance. The Cooking Underworld proclaims they have taken the Grand Alliance members as hostage. They want Sanche to come if he knows what is good for them. Hence everybody is blindfolded and taken to that huge vessel belonging to the Cooking Underworld. Inside the hall, Shan gets straight to the point she wants the map to the legendary utensil. Her side also has some code but they aren’t smart enough to decipher, I guess. Sanche proclaims it is not him who has the map but Mao. Hence it is a battle for the right to see who gets both the map and the code. Gee, the Cooking Underworld trying to fight fair for this? Something smells fishy. Shan introduces the judges who are high ranking governors of the Shanghai trade. They claim they aren’t working for the Cooking Underworld and don’t care who rules Shanghai as long as they are strong and can maintain order. Thus they will judge dishes fairly and since they know Sanche’s cutting skill weakness, they advise him to sit this out. With that, Sanche leaves this contest in the hands of Mao and the rest. With the first battle being a dim sum battle, Shell steps up. His opponent is Lakon who is some legendary dim sum master who served during the Three Kingdoms era. Damn, this gramps is a living fossil! And the dim sum’s topic will be manjuu. Did Shell purposely picked Lakon’s family specialty?

Episode 10
After both sides finish their dim sum, the judges taste Lakon’s 8 treasure manjuu first. Then it is Shell’s laughing buns. They have a hard time picking the winner but when they finally decided, remember that drama when nobody chose Shell? Yup. Shocked, right? Nobody chose Lakon either. So it’s a draw. Hence Shell and Lakon eat each other’s manjuu and give sarcastic remarks about it. Yup, they’re even nit-picking on unnecessary stuffs before laughing it all off. Eh? Are they friends now? After Shell explains how he came up with this idea, Lakon realizes he has been stuck inside Cooking Underworld for too long and wants to go travel and see different styles of cooking. Yup, he is leaving this organization. Hence he gives the victory to Shell. Note, Shell didn’t win. He was handed the victory. Still not happy? Lakon throws him his staff. Come back in 10 years and they’ll fight again and crush him. Till then, hold on to his staff. Damn, this old fart still going to be around then?! Shan won’t let him leave for admitting his loss but apparently Lakon is also a ninja because it must be those dough that did the trick to make him vanish. Next up is Leon against Shan. It will be a seafood battle and Leon is shocked to see that Shan also has the same set of knives as him.

Episode 11
Shan shows she can use the knives as good as him as she slices open the fish, takes it its roe, puts it back in the water! OMG! The cut just disappeared?! And the fish continues swimming like as though it has never been sliced?! Is the fish high on drugs? With Shan getting psychological on Leon that his sins can never be washed away, Leon drops his tools and, uhm, scream?! Apparently he did something unforgivable. In search for the best knives, he stumbled upon a legendary knife maker. After forging the best knives ever, Leon killed him so as to ensure there will be no more better knives! When he reported this to the higher up of the Cooking Underworld, they praised his actions. That was when he learnt this organization is truly scary. With Leon not believing he can stand beside Mao anymore, Mao punches him! A reminder that if this is what he wanted when he journeyed with him. If that sin cannot be cleansed, then cook to make millions happy! Yup, that basic is enough for Leon to get over and move on. Now that we can start the competition proper, they are to cook a Shanghai crab dish. While Leon skilfully uses his knives and cooking knowledge, Shan seems to be fooling around with the judges. Just short of turning this into a striptease. Once they’re done, Shan reminds the judges to keep their promises. They taste Shan’s dish first. Hmmm… Nothing extraordinary with this crab eggs dish and crab soup. Next is Leon. You’d think he has bagged this but it seems the judges spit out his food and are angry it takes like sh*t!

Episode 12
The judges announce Shan as the winner. Leon’s team of course are furious. They taste Leon’s crab dish and find it extraordinary. Tasting Shan’s ordinary dish, just meh. Mao then has Shirou as the guinea pig to drink all the crab soup that is the culprit. Now eat Leon’s dish. Tastes like sh*t! Due to the rich concentrated crab content, it numbed the judges’ taste and hence her sneaky tongue exhaustion technique. Shan continues to brag and Leon continues to be depressed. With that, Shell confronts Shan and somewhat knows the truth. You see, the only reason she has the same set of knives as Leon is because Leon didn’t deal the fatal blow to that knife maker. Yup, Shan (conveniently) found that dying blacksmith and resurrected him back to life with her underworld techniques. Grateful for saving his life, he granted her request to forge another set of knives. Then she killed him!!! Yeah, she made sure he stayed dead. Damn, this guy sure is bad luck with this set of knives! Leon is so angry that he is going to kill her and then himself. But wait! The spirit of that blacksmith returns! WTF???!!! Did he come down from heaven just to tell Leon not to use his cooking to kill people? He views Leon as the rightful owner of his knives so Shan’s set miraculously shatters. Leon renews his motivation to carry on his will to use his knives for the better. Leon mans up and accepts his loss. For the final round, Shan hints Mao’s opponent is someone he knows. You guessed it. It’s Shou An. In addition to the map and code, he wants to wager Sanche’s father’s life. Should Mao lose, Sanche’s father will die and Mao will live with the guilt of his own failure letting someone die. Mao isn’t pleased he is doing all this but Shou An beats him up and tells him off this is all so that he will know the pain of all the suffering he went through. Don’t know how Mao got the strength to rip off Shou An’s shirt. See all the scars? Hence Mao will settle their past grudges once and for all. Yup, a tofu battle. But readymade tofu won’t be fun so the judges want them to make it from scratch. Bring it on!

Bland Undercooked Copy-pasta… Im-pasta!
Oh God… OMG… F*ck… F*CK!!! FFFFFUUUUU!!!!!! Is this how they handled the remake?! Is this how it even ended?! Because well, there is going to be a second season. And because of what I have seen in this remake, I am very worried for the next season of this remake. Watching the first episode already made my guts have this bad feeling. And true enough my worst fears come true. Now that it has ended like this, my zawa-zawa senses are tingling that they might butchered the next season and make it even worse. Thank goodness for nostalgia of the original TV series ‘shielding’ me and preventing me from breaking down even more. I didn’t taste the dishes in this remake but I already feel like I want to puke and vomit blood. Sorry for the exaggeration but it’s not joke. This remake feels bad. Worse, in fact.

I thought ‘Shin’ in the title would mean new because obviously this is a remake. However I soon found out that it means true. WTF?! It’s a lie! Don’t fall for the lies!!! Although the original manga did add that word back in the late 90’s, this anime remake doesn’t feel anything than that. It feels so fake that it is close to being an imposter… An im-pasta! Hahaha!!! GEDDIT???!!! Oh, I see that pasta isn’t a Chinese dish. But do you know that Marco Polo came to China and ‘stole’ that ingredient and brought it back to Europe and ‘recreated’ a dish that Italians are so renowned for today? You can thank China for that. Food, weapon, economy, technology, they’ve got it all covered! Hahaha!!! Oops, getting side-tracked there… I hope at this rate the ‘Shin’ won’t become ‘Shinu’ AKA death… Please, don’t…

One of my biggest hopes for this remake is to at least be a continuation of where the TV series left off. Or at least dedicate a few early episodes and breeze through it with a few scenes of the original series faster than Sonic the Hedgehog before giving us new and fresh episodes. Even if that is not the ideal kind of remake but at least it is still better than this copy and paste remake. Yup, the entire first season of this remake adapts the middle parts of the original anime, leaving out the initial episodes of seeing how Mao became the youngest Super Chef and the final part whereby Mao and his team fought Fei with their Super Chef title on the line. I might not remember every detail of the original series but I still remember the important parts. That is why I still understand and somewhat expected what is going to happen. Hence if you are a newbie and just jumped in watching this remake, you will be so lost and wondering why this and this are like that. As the original series spanned across 52 episodes, breezing through a dozen episodes in this remake could hardly flesh out the story and the characters, hence some might be confused over what is happening. And for those who still praise this remake is good, please go rewatch the original. You haven’t seen anything like the original yet. That is way much better despite being retro.

However, it would be wrong for me to say that they completely copy and paste everything. I noticed that there are some parts whereby they changed the story a little. For example, the part whereby Leon’s fake double was exposed. In the original, he used the ever soul knife to kill himself and turned that knife into a useless utensil. Though, it was never explained later how the knife got ‘resurrected’ and regained its shine. In this remake, the culprit poisoned himself. Though it saved us that plot hole, I just wondered how this guy who was so tied up could reach for his poison and drank it. You mean nobody was keeping a watch on him? Seriously, nobody? His hands were all tied up, you know… Unless he convinced somebody to feed him the poison… Another major change which I particularly didn’t like is how they cut out Sanche’s battle! I know we’re running out of time but they really messed this one up by omitting Sanche’s fight with a Cooking Underworld chef whereby he won the soup battle despite the latter using underhanded tactics. Thus reducing Sanche’s character to merely a sideshow. And you wonder why Mao’s team already needs more ‘useless sidekicks’… Because of this omission, they made Shell technically win his match whereas in the original, it was clearly a draw (though, Lakon still got away).

A big obvious factor that ‘differentiates’ this remake with the original is the art style. To put it shortly. It’s hideous. It feels like the animation quality is not there as the characters look simple and at certain angles, they look cartoonish. Like Mao, I thought he look more cartoonish than anything. Save for Shirou. This Japanese kid is already cartoonish in the original so he doesn’t look any different in this remake. Hahaha!!! And Mei Li… Oh boy. She’s not one of the hottest anime chicks in my list but this remake somewhat makes her plain and ugly! Oh damn, you mean this is the remake of the Mei Li character? She looks slightly better with her hair tied up and Chinese qipao but that was just for a very short scene before she reverted back to her usual style. Leon and Shell don’t look menacing as they should. Not to say that they look scary but at least they look respectable in that sense. Here, Shell looks more like a second rate joker and Leon some delinquent. And why does Lakon look more like some old desert punk geezer than an intimidating living fossil dim sum master?

The animation quality is so bad that some characters look weird like those judges on the Cooking Underworld vessel, they look more like perverts than tough influential people! Honest! It pains me to see that this means that all the other background characters that we don’t care, they look simple and generic. Worse, why do I notice that white strip of line in the art style in just almost everywhere? Like as though the characters are shining! Must be the good food and cooking. Not! Are they too lazy to put in proper hues or something? In addition, the animation is bad enough that the exaggerated reaction scenes are more laughable than anything. Yup, the character animations are already stiff and then you have this supposedly hilarious reaction scenes which are supposed to be funny but it comes off as bad. Just bad. Even though the remake’s colours and hues are brighter, it pales in comparison to the much dated and retro feel of the original. Yes, the original’s animation still beats this sorry crap anytime even though the remake has some better sceneries and updated effects to go with it. The original series was made by Nippon Animation. Now Production I.G helms it. They have got a lot to do if they’re going to make the next season.

As for the characters, there is nothing more for me to say. It is a disaster having just 12 episodes to try and flesh out everything. It couldn’t. Like I have said before, newcomers will be confused and not fully understand the dynamics of Mao’s team unless they go rewatch the original. Mei Li and Shirou are already deadweight in the original since they can’t cook on the same level as Mao, Shell and Leon. They are even reduced to even more so here. Imagine a novice joker and a daughter of a famous chef walking around in broad daylight accompany history’s youngest Super Chef. This is such a weird combo. Thank goodness Shell and Leon can fight… Also said before, because they skipped the earlier stories from the original, Mao’s character is not given enough justice as to why he earned that Super Chef title. That fast flashback did not do his character justice. Only because of my nostalgia and memories, the reason why I didn’t hate it so much. Otherwise, I would have gone full blown unforgiving sarcasm, ranting and beating the dead horse about this. So I guess those who watched the original, we won’t need to stay tune to find out how Mao and Shou An’s battle turned out. We already know it like, 21 years ago! And this remake hasn’t even begun their battle yet… Sighs…

And so sorry for those hoping to see some Mao x Mei Li romance. Sure, the original trolled us on this and there is no such budding romance at all. At least it is just one-sided because you know, how obvious Mei Li’s body actions are and the reason why she puts herself in danger following him around. Because she is in love with him! Duh! Of course with Mao thinking about cooking, that will always be his first love and romance. Yup, making millions of customers happy instead of the only girl before him happy. It wouldn’t be a cooking themed show if that happened. So that hinted romance is totally missing in this remake and Mei Li is often seen as some worrying girl. She worries a lot about Mao and the expression on her face doesn’t make it look like it is because of love. Worried that she is not useful to Mao? Definitely. He is Super Chef material, you know. Worried that Mao is from the Cooking Underworld? Oh well, internet and background checks didn’t exist then. I don’t if it is a tradition for Chouyu’s restaurant to have prodigy chefs to leave on a journey to become better chefs, for better or worse. Look at how Leon and Sanche turned out. I guess it would do some good for Mao. Mei Li and Shirou too. That’s why he has no qualms letting them go with Mao.

Ah yes, the original series still resonates with me so much that if you noticed I used the original names of the characters here in my blog. The remake has the characters’ names written in their pinyin format, which is of course more accurate. So it was odd for me to see that Shell has become Xie Lu, Leon as Lei En, Chouyu as Zhou Yu, Sanche as Sanjie, Shan as Xiang, Lakon as Luo Kong and Pai as Bei. Of course come to think of it in retrospect, it is weird for ancient China to have Chinese people named as Shell and Leon. You can thank bad translation for that. But it was impactful enough that it still got stuck in my mind until today.

Being a typical remake and after so long, it is only obvious that an entirely new set of voice actors being casted for this remake. Though, ironically that some of the veteran seiyuus who voiced the characters in the original TV series are still somewhat active in the voice acting scene today (namely Satsuki Yukino, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Ryotaro Okiayu, Akio Ohtsuka and Juurouta Kosugi). So before Mayumi Tanaka became famous and synonymous with her role as One Piece’s Luffy, she was the voice of Mao. Yup, I clearly remembered her. Obviously she is too busy in that role since that anime is still running and hence they casted Natsumi Fujiwara (Dimaria in Fairy Tail) as the role of Mao. I guess she sounds okay, close enough to the original Mao. Unfortunately with a few talented and popular seiyuus lending their talents to this remake, it is still not enough to pull this series out of the doldrums. Felt pity for Yuuichi Nakamura as Shell, Tomokazu Sugita as Leon, Ai Kayano as Mei Li, Yuko Kaida as Shan and yes, a ‘downgraded’ Nobuhiko Okamoto as Sanche voicing their characters. They did their best but clearly other factors prevented them from shining through. Like I noticed how Tomokazu Sugita narrated just the title of the next episode in the next episode preview, he sounded so half-hearted and drab saying his lines that I wonder if he ever regretted taking up this role.

The rest of the newly casted casts are Yukiyo Fujii as Shirou (Latifa in Amagi Brilliant Park), Keiichi Nakagawa as Shou An (Sakaki in Beelzebub), Yoshimitsu Shimoyama as Chouyu (Alzack in Fairy Tail), Shinpachi Tsuji as Luo (Makarov in Fairy Tail) and Junya Enoki as Fei (Jack in Beastars). On a trivial note, I think Chouyu’s voice sounds a bit, uhm, evil? Doesn’t give off that feel that he is a fearsome chef (in a respectable way, that is). The opening theme is Koufukuron by Qaijff and the ending theme is Paradigm Shift by Brian The Sun. Typical lively anime songs that suit the pace of this show. But nothing attractive enough that caught my attention like those songs from the original TV series. The remake’s BGMs aren’t anything that stands out like the original. Some few Chinese-like music but mostly weird ones. Nothing memorable.

Overall, this remake is terrible. It would probably taste worse than that tongue exhaustion technique and even as bad as sh*t. Sorry, but those are my sentiments right now. Only thank nostalgia from preventing me blowing off steam 100%. How dare they butchered my childhood anime like that with this raw uncooked remake. Such standards of mediocrity will not fly in today’s era. Not with all the updated technology and creativity that has been growing in the anime industry for the past couple of decades. I don’t know if this remake is to soften the impact as Shokugeki No Souma is going into its homerun stretch. Its manga already ended so the anime is probably reaching that stage too with the fifth season rumoured to be its last. But if this is the way this remake is heading, sad to say that it will not only leave very bad aftertaste in everyone’s mouth, but I think Gordon Ramsey will also be screaming his head off at this atrocity with his insane insults. Enough to make Mao give up his Super Chef title. Enough for the Cooking Underworld to give up cooking forever and become monks in the mountains of China. Enough for me to still not like those yucky vegetables I never liked as a kid. Pizza, anyone?

Chuuka Ichiban Soundtrack

August 28, 2009

This is sure an old anime for me to blog on. Chuuka Ichiban was the first of only two food themed animes that I have watched. With all the seemingly delicious and sumptuous Chinese cuisine that the show has to offer, how I wished I had a taste of Mao’s exceptional culinary cooking skills. Even with the prospect of just seeing all the cooking action, it was enough to make me salivate. Oh yes. Don’t forget those hilarious reactions when other people taste Mao’s out-of-this-world cooking. Simply classic effects.
Although the series doesn’t provide eye candy (in terms of animation visuals or hot babes ;p) and the above mentioned savoury candy (how can you taste something instantly on TV?), at least it has several background music which provides ear candy. The original soundtrack is not something to boast about nor is it quite a popular one. Released back in August 1998, the single album consists of only 24 tracks of which 6 tracks are TV versions of the opening and ending themes of the series. Which means if you do the maths, there would only be 18 background music, which are composed by Michihiko Oota. However, not all of them are to my liking and just like my previous blog on anime soundtracks, listed below are my favourite ones in alphabetical order:-
1) Being Kind To A Great Mother
2) Born In The Sun
3) Speed & Technique
4) The Great Wall Of China
Uh huh. Not much, eh? But it is not the quantity that matters. Among the four, my favourite one is still Speed & Technique. A very catchy and lively beat which is mainly piano and strings driven. I remember this piece is played when we see Mao in fast forward cooking action. Cutting, slicing, frying and cooking those tasty mouth watering dishes. Hey, you can’t wait and watch the entire cooking process, right? I’m not saying that they show it in fast forwarding sense whereby the action zooms by quickly. Just several important clips here and there on how our chefs are progressing with their work.
Next is Born In The Sun, which is the longest duration track in the album lasting close to 5 minutes. This is Mao’s theme in particular. Another lively and upbeat rock piece to show Mao’s exuberant and creative side. Not to mention his innocent and bubbly exterior as well. With the electric guitar as its lead, this is the kind of song which gives us an impression of hope and looking forward. Also, the kind of tune in which should befit most happy endings.
To portray the grandeur and magnificence of the Chinese culture, that is what the theme The Great Wall Of China perfectly does. The orchestra and very Chinese-like tune may sound a little repetitive even if the bridge part sounds a little diverse but perhaps it is to give an everlasting impression of the continuity of the Chinese splendour. Finally Being Kind To A Great Mother is a slow string-driven piece. Though it has a little sad tune in it, but I feel it sounds more towards ‘paying respects’ to a revered figure. In this instance, Mao’s late mom who is also a great chef herself.
Though I’m not saying the other pieces suck, they don’t really appeal to me. So a brief description on the other tracks in the series. Silly Kid sounds more like the blues with some fanfare. Like one of those songs when you enter a pub or nightclub. I’m sure with such a name, this piece is for comical situations. Guess who is the silly kid? Figuring Out What To Do may start out more like a fantasy journey through the Milky Way with its mystical-like tune but it soon turns into a lively piece which gives an impression exactly like its aptly named title. Kikkaro initially starts off with a grand sounding orchestra piece like as though you’ve entered a revered place than halfway it changes to a slower pace with a Chinese tune. Oath Of Vengeance is a slow eerie piece in the beginning and gradually the strings and creepy deep bass definitely make it sound like a revenge plot anxiously going to burst anytime. An aptly named track is Appearance Of An Ominous Enemy. The dark feel of the track sends a warning signal that a great opponent has arrived.
I remember when the people who taste those wonderful dishes, they go into some relaxing fantasy of their own. That is what the background music Voluptuous portrays. Though it also sounds very Chinese-like, the easy and soothing pace of the song gives an impression of a peace of mind. If only in real life many dishes could have such an effect. The Competitive Heart Is Burning feels like another theme for a cooking battle albeit it is a slower pace compared to Speed & Technique but sounds a little more intense. Another battle themed song is Solution Of Riddle. This dramatic cosmic-like tune sounds like the chefs have to put on their thinking caps to figure out a way to solve the issues at hand. However the song sounds more towards optimistic rather than tensed. Which Is The Winner is a suspenseful track as it gives off an air of suspense (I think an organ was used for this effect) before the judges deliver their final verdict to the winner of the cooking battle. Of course we know who it’s going to be lah. And after all that hard work and our heroes have won, the lively Victory And Glory piece is played to honour their win.
Going On A Journey sounds like a variation of Born In The Sun. Even the rock beat is no exception. Maybe this could be Mao’s second theme. But because of the name of the song, it brings to mind a hope-filled trip and adventures awaiting our heroes. Hope For Tomorrow also sounds like a shorter variation of Born In The Sun but is more strings-driven in a moderate calming pace. Just like its name suggests, it gives a sense of hope for whatever may await the protagonists. However I don’t find the track Anxiety befitting its tune. Sure it sounds dramatic but again the grandeur of the piece gives an impression of an impending approach of something big. Perhaps because of this overwhelming feeling, maybe one is supposed to feel anxious? Confidence Lost is another track which doesn’t sound like its title. It’s not a sad or gloomy piece but more of a dramatic and suspenseful tune. Also sounds a little like a situation where time is running out.
In a nutshell, this whole album helps to complement the series though it doesn’t stand out very obvious on its own. But I note that many of the tracks are appropriately named to fit the atmosphere and situation in the series, though a handful to me doesn’t feel so. It’s better than giving some long-winded and unsuitable names which will make listeners scratch their heads of how a particular track’s tune is related to its name. Though I don’t feel like rewatching the series even if they rerun it on TV, I’m still listening to my favourite quartet of songs in this album from time to time. It brings back great nostalgic memories. Now if only I could taste the food…

Chuuka Ichiban

Kaze No You Ni Jiyuu

November 2, 2007

  Watashi wa yume no naka de,
  Anata ni atte imasu feel me,
  Tomodachi no koto ni naru to,
  Tokuige ni hanasu anata ga suki
Here’s another retro song that I once used to sing. Okay, maybe the song itself isn’t decades old but since I haven’t been singing this song for quite a while, it seems like it’s been ages already. Kaze No You Ni Jiyuu ~Free As The Wind~ is the thrid ending song of the series Chuuka Ichiban and is sung by Keiko Utoku.
  Shitto suru jibun no koto wa,
  Donna fuu ni utsutte iru no demo,
  Aoi honou wa akai honou yori zutto,
  Onda ga takai
Not that I’m saying that this song is hard to sing, but it isn’t an easy one either. At least the verse part is easy to sing because it isn’t high pitched nor it has that long voice sustaining part. So the tough part is the chorus (especially those last lines of the chorus) whereby it has a little of those 2 elements. Thus it didn’t go well for a person with a horrible voice like mine even though there are background vocals.
  Kawaita mizuumi ni,
  Amamizu ga shimikonde yuku you ni,
  Kokoro no naka wo tabi shiyou,
  Mokutekichi wa kitto aru
I remember when I first sang this song, my timing was a little off. Sometimes too fast and sometimes too slow. Since I rarely sing this song nowadays, I think I’ll still be facing the same problem. Lyrics wise, this love song ballad is simple enough to remember but of course without practice, I’ve given it all back. Hmm… I wonder what Keiko’s saying or rather murmuring during the solo part. Sounds like English since I could only grasped some of the words.
  Onaji jidai ni meguriaetta no,
  Kaze no you ni jiyuu,
  Sonna futari ni shinu made ni nareru kana,
  Anata e no kimochi wa uchuu no PAWAA
One thing I would like to note about the tv animation for this song is that I find the characters drawn (Mao and Mei Li) don’t really look like the characters itself. In fact they look so horrible and it’s so obvious! I don’t know whether they used different artists to do so, but I got a feeling that it’s deliberate. Plus, there are 2 versions of this song for the tv version. One a more slower ballad and the other a typical pop song. But aside that, if ever I feel nostalgic, this song would be one of those good ones to start with.


June 2, 2006

  Kagayaite itai yo ne,  Itsumo waratte itai yo ne,
  Heya no sumi no GURIIN mo genki da shi
I remember that this is the first anime song that I fell in love with. Thus, making it the first anime song that I’ve taped. Yup, it’s Sora, the first opening song from the anime Chuuka Ichiban.
  Demo yume mite’ta tomodachi ga akiramete osamatta,
  Yuukidzukeru kokoro no dokka de HOTTO shite ‘tari shite
The singer of this song Maki Ohguro, though I didn’t know whether the singer was a guy or or girl at first, as the voice may seem ambiguous to either gender. Though I didn’t really find out (even up till now) I have a feeling that the singer may be female. But that doesn’t stop me from listening over and over again.
  Ima nara umi e mukou BASU ni ma ni au,
  Kondo dake wa misugoshicha ikenai ki ga suru
This is quite a lively and catchy piece with trumpets blazing in the background and especially the solo part. Another one of those songs where it wants to make you get up and do a little dance of your own.
  Aoi sora no shita de mou ichido, Tsubasa wo hirogete,
  Ichido shika nai life, Sou da yo ne mottainai yo ne
I don’t sing this song quite as often as before mainly because I really don’t sound good. Uh-huh, you know me, don’t have that singing voice. Somehow it’s rather difficult for me to match and hit the right tone of the song.
  Akai sora ni dakarete doko made mo, Kaze wo oikakete,
  Arukinareta michi ni, se wo mukete hashitte miyou
And that last part of the song which goes ‘nah nah nah nah nah…’ was quite long. Lasted for a minute plus. At first sound so odd, then funny, now like normal. Oh well, continue with my singing…

Chuuka Ichiban

October 20, 2005

Watching Cooking Master Boy sometimes make me either want to really laugh out loud or just roll my eyes and sigh. Especially the food tasting part where there always seems to be over-reaction or exaggeration by the tastee (the one tasting the food). Wah… I didn’t know Mao’s culinary skills were so good at such a tender young age. Together with Shell and Leon, they make the Underground Cooking World tremble with fear (hopefully). Nevertheless, I still find it an enjoyable anime to watch.

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