Premise

Liu Mao-Hsing, or Mao to his friends, is a young boy from the Szechuan region of China whose amazing tongue, indomitable spirit, and sense of creativity enables him to be a great chef. His late mother, Pai, serves as constant inspiration to this child prodigy, and her memory often serves to assist him in his many cooking battles. Mei Li, the daughter of Super Chef Chouyu, serves as fan service and a love interest for Mao, and Shirou serves as comic relief. His constant quest is to improve and to bring happiness to the people through food.

Review

This anime, also known as Chuuka Ichiban!, lacks much of the violence (replaced by cooking battles reminiscent of Iron Chef) and sexuality of most current anime, while retaining a large sense of humor and a good level of information. (In the fansub I watched, however, swearing was still largely present.) From using sour foods to increase appetite, to replacing the meat of mapodofu with cooked soybeans to change the texture of the dish, Mao's creativity and zest for cooking encourages the viewer to apply their own drive in their activity of choice.

Having watched all 52 episodes, I can say that it is a very entertaining experience to watch Mao mature throughout the series. While there are certain episodes which seem to act more as filler than as actual plot-development devices, they still present the viewer with more cooking secrets. Certainly, this is not a thought-provoking cartoon, but given the young intended audience, it does very well by showing them the rewards of hard work and perseverance. As somebody who thoroughly enjoys food and the preparation thereof, it is an educational experience which may lack the thorough treatment of the subject by such programs such as Alton Brown's Good Eats; it thus might be better to show this particular program to younger aspiring cooks.

Availability

It would certainly be fun if the Food Network picked this show up; given their airings of Iron Chef, it might not be too far of a stretch. However, as far as I know, there's only one way to get the full series, and that is through the legal grey areas known as fansubbing and Bittorrent. The copy I got was reasonably well subtitled, but had several noticable issues where names were applied inconsistently to various things, in addition to the audio itself permanently switching from Cantonese to Mandarin around halfway through the series.

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