Get Jiro: Blood And Sushi

Writers: Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose
Artist: Ale Garza
Publisher: Vertigo

The original Get Jiro! started out with the titular Jiro serving his sushi to a bunch of redneck American customers, and then proceeding to chop the head off one of them for daring to ask for a California roll. What followed was a mish-mash of blood, violence, and food that made for an entertaining, though sometimes messy read.

The highlight of that 2012 original graphic novel, however, was the way co-writers Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose lovingly depicted food in all its glory, and with the former chef’s vast experience and knowledge translating perfectly onto the pages where cooking or eating was involved.

In this prequel, the focus is less on food, and more on how Jiro became the highly sought-after head-chopping sushi chef in the original book.

Jiro is the youngest son of a Japanese yakuza boss, being groomed by his father to take over his criminal empire. However, Jiro would rather become a sushi chef instead, and is secretly learning the trade in between doing “missions” for the yakuza. His elder half-brother, Ichigo, is a sadistic, trigger-happy, and downright homicidal maniac who likes killing people a little too much, and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

As mentioned before, the story is pretty simple, really, and you should be able to guess what happens based on what I just told you. Compared to the wacky food-related carnage and mayhem in the first book, Get Jiro: Blood And Sushi almost seems mild by comparison.

Bourdain and Rose have mentioned in an interview with Fast Company magazine that this new book is a reflection of their love for the Japanese film genre. “Yakuza films of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s…’80s. Sword flicks. Violent sword flicks like Shogun Assassin and yakuza films like Humanity,” Bourdain says in the interview.

So, gone are the madcap nods to foodie culture and the business of cooking and eating, as well as the dystopian food-obsessed world in Get Jiro. In its place is a more sombre, subdued, almost noir-like world populated by Japanese triads, violence, and sushi chefs. The food-related parts are also more contemplative, and more reserved than the cooking-show-like depictions in the first book.

Though not as detailed as Langdon Foss’s in the first book, Ale Garza’s art is wonderful to look at. He is equally adept at drawing food that looks so delicious you’d want to lick it off the page, while still holding his own when drawing the violent scenes.

As far as prequels go, Get Jiro: Blood And Sushi gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. It gives Jiro a convincing (if slightly unimaginative) back story, and is different enough in style and atmosphere to stand alone even if you have not read the the original Get Jiro.

If you loved Bourdain and Rose’s storytelling in the first one, or are a fan of his work in general, then you should have no reservations about getting this one as well.