Cut to, about this time, about 20 years ago.
As discussed at length, I grew up in a really rural area. And all across the south, there are these places….places where assholes go to really go strong. Places most people don’t know about. Usually there is a beach of some kind, fishing, and cheap liquor.
Well, I was stuck in one of those places for a week in the summer in between one of my high school years. My family had a houseboat out there, and it was a hub of activity for a very limited window of time.
The rest of my family was stoked to have a vacation out there. It was one of those situations where even the adults didn’t really adult. The first night we were there, most of the adults spent their time drinking beer, cooking a big pot of jambalaya, and watching the college age kids make an ass of themselves.
I fucking hated it. I sat inside, playing whatever portable video game console I had (Game Boy Color at the time). The only other respite I had was satellite TV. See my grandparents really intended the house to be for everyone, so they got a full package of channels, which god knows what that shit cost back then. But they really wanted people to use the houseboat.
So, I am inside, sulking, watching some shit on satellite TV (I can’t even remember what it was, but it sucked), eating my jambalaya, and leaving everyone alone.
At the houseboat that night was a bunch of my grandfathers scumbag friends and a few of their kids. One of their kids was slightly older than me. College age. He’s drinking beer, which I don’t get.
He looks at me, looks at the nerd shit all around me, and looks at the TV, and goes, “Oh you don’t want to watch this shit. You want to watch Iron Chef. You ever seen that shit? On Food Network?” We didn’t have foodnetwork in my podunk town.
So, I put it on food network
Fuckin blown away. You got to understand, the internet was just starting to creep around. My friends and I were into anime. I think lack of access to shit like manga and body pillows prevented us from converting into full weeaboo. But I think even more, is the obvious. It was different. It was NOT american. Not fuckin football.
I spent most of that week either playing video games, reading, or watching Iron Chef.
And this shit is STILL one of a kind. Like, the American imitation just doesn’t fucking work. It completely loses its magic; though its heart is in the right place. It just turns it into a normal reality competition show. Where as Iron Chef is something completely different. I’ll give a few reasons why Iron Chef deserves to be remembered. And especially in this time of stupidity, its welcome again.
Its all the best parts of anime with none of the bullshit
Think about it. What is it about Anime that draws people in? The drama. The ridiculous angles. The reactions. This show has all that. Take for example this episode, which is high among my favorites. You have this completely nuts backstory of a chef who cooked for Chairman Mao, who is stepping down to the commoners to take on, the Son of the God of Sichuan Cooking, Chen Kenichi.
Like fuck Goku training for most of a season. This right here is big insanity. I also think the way its filmed really adds to it. This sort of “in-the-shit” camera that gets up in the face of the competitors.
Very Little Personality Drama, The Conflict is the Food
The show isn’t really about making people hate each other, or like finding what is wrong with them. Like the Iron Chefs, I have no idea how they are as people, and I think that makes the show better. Like when they “trash talk” its always really subdued and never explored.
The source of attraction of the show is the food. Like any real conflicts (we will get to that in a bit) are more about different schools of thinking around cooking. Which in the grand scheme of things, are much more enjoyable to watch than people just being trash to each other. Even though Iron Chef doesn’t escape this 100% of the time, its definitely not the core of the show.
The BEST fucking foreign language dubbing of all time
I have watched them both ways, and I have to say, dubbed is the ONLY way to watch the show. The dubbing is perfect. Not that its like “art-y” or something. Its way over the top. First, the decision to not dub Chairman Kaga is a flawless decision. It adds to his mystique. But the rest of the dubbing, from Ohta all the way down. The vocal execution is perfect. Also, the translations make it more interesting. I dont fuckin speak japanese, so I can’t speak on accuracy, but I can speak on entertainment. The translators pick good opportunities to switch in an american expression, where clearly they didn’t use one. It helps kind of suck you in.
And yes, the female participants unfortunately are kind of one note, but you can push past that.
The Ohta Faction
Ok, this is by far the best example of what seperates old school Iron Chef from any and all imitators. Running overly dramatic storylines.
The Ohta Faction is a group of incel-like assholes who believe that Japanese cooking must remain traditional. So they throw chef after chef against Morimoto, who just repeatedly destroys them with no bullshit. I fucking love it. Its the best shit in Iron Chef. I just like this concept of this group of people so grumpy to get their way that they will go after anyone doing something else, and just get TROUNCED. Great shit.
Here’s the thing. Its completely no risk, high reward television. The right kind of stupid. And at the same time, a clear love of the craft of cooking. A life goal of mine is to eat at the restaurants founded by all three of the main cats. I’ve done Morimoto’s before (with the Iron Chef himself at the restaurant, no less) and it was incredible. I still want to do Chen Kenichi’s son’s place Shisen Hanten, and Sakai’s La Rochelle.
Maybe one day….if dat Rona ever ends