Aug 29, 2019
A fascinatingly dated piece of animation that will be very interesting to a small niche of people and probably bore the rest to tears.
'Oishinbo: The Japan-America Rice War' is very much a product of its time, and that time is the early 90's, when economic tensions between Japan and the United States were at an all-time high. Giving a full historical background explanation would probably require starting at the end of the Second World War and then navigating 50 years of Post War economic policy and Cold War diplomacy. Suffice to say, by the early 90's Japan was booming, the US was treading water, and
a lot of name-calling was going on in both directions.
The Oishinbo manga was never afraid to state its opinions on political issues that affected food, and this anime movie adaptation is no different. However, while it would have been easy to churn out a bland "Banzai Nippon" propaganda piece, the anime actually takes a fairly balanced approach. Both the US and Japan are called out for various real or perceived faults and hypocrisies, and in the end both sides (optimistically) agree to try to do better.
However, the story isn't tightly focused. It bounces around a number of issues affecting Japanese rice agriculture, with American rice imports being only one of them. By the end of movie the main topic of discussion has meandered over to the use of pesticides in farming and everything gets wrapped up "because we say so". This movie touches on a lot of topics that will interesting to a certain niche audience, but doesn't weave them together terribly well.
Art and Sound are both noticeably aged. There's "cool old" animation, and then there's "old old" animation- this is the latter. Sound is pretty bland, it's mostly just people talking for long stretches of time. The characters are static as well and having some foreknowledge of them from reading the manga will be necessary.
As a historical artifact, "Oishinbo: The Japan-America Rice War" is a fascinating piece of animation. However, it's also the kind of anime where you have to know what you're getting into before to have any real enjoyment of it. This one is a hard 'skip' for casual viewers.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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