Warning: This analysis contains heavy spoilers for the anime/manga “Yakitate!! Japan.” If you have not read the manga/watched the anime and you want to avoid spoilers, avoid reading this analysis. But if you don’t mind spoilers or if you have already watched the manga and/or anime (though I recommend that you read and watch both the manga and anime because I mention various examples from both sources).
It’s not often that I go into analyzing an entire manga or anime, but I couldn’t help but notice a whole theme emerging in the manga/anime Yakitate!! Japan. This theme involves how numerous characters suffer with family issues, including dissent among family members, loss of family members, and even abandonment, only to have all of these characters resolve their situations by the end. There are quite a few examples, and I’m going to summarize as many characters’ situations as I can remember to show exactly what kinds of issues are touched upon, as well as their resolutions of those issues.
Tsukino Azusagawa goes through the loss of her family early on in the series, as it is revealed that, prior to the events of the series, Tsukino’s mother was said to have died of cancer. Due to Tsukino being the “illegitimate” child in the family because she had a different mother than her two other siblings Yukino and Mizuno. What makes Tsukino’s mother’s death even worse is that Yukino took Tsukino’s mother’s ashes and threw them all over a dead tree. Also, other than the grandfather of the family, Tsukino isn’t backed up by any of her other family members at all. Sibling rivalry was a major component for the Pantasia Newcomers Arc, and Mizuno and Tsukino had a bet going on between them for a good few chapters/episodes that if the people that worked under them (Azuma for Tsukino and Mokoyama for Mizuno) failed to win against each other in competition, the loser would withdraw from ever being successor of Pantasia, the bakery they all are part of. Thankfully, Mizuno and Tsukino are able to reconcile the family issues between each other.
Unfortunately, Yukino doesn’t reconcile these competitive and negative feelings about her siblings, especially when it comes to Tsukino. Out of greed, Yukino’s sabotages Kawachi’s match against Kanmuri during the Pantasia Newcomers Arc ,and tried to sabotage Azuma in the final round of the competition. During the rest of the anime/manga, Yukino does many things to sabotage Tsukino’s chance of becoming successor of Pantasia. I won’t divulge further on what exactly all those things were, in order not to spoil the whole anime/manga. However, in the end Yukino doesn’t succeed in her evil plans, which is good for Tsukino in the end.
Kanmuri also had his fair share of family issues. He and his brother suffered from favoritism issues in their childhood, but Kanmuri was the favoured child in this case, unlike Tsukino’s situation. This led to discourse between Kanmuri and his brother to try to outdo each other. However, with Kanmuri being so intelligent, it was hard for them to ever see each other as equals. Both brothers were also potential heirs to a Yakuza organization, but neither of them wanted to inherit control over said organization. Thankfully, both brothers resolve this problem late in the manga/anime and reconcile with each other in the process. What’s even better is that their father decides to get someone else to lead the family’s yakuza organization instead, which means that none of the brothers have to take ownership of it.
Kai Suwabara was abandoned by his father early in his youth, and nothing is said about Kai’s mother. Since the abandonment, Kai had to care for himself on his own with only an elderly dojo master to actually care for him. Monica Adenauer, Kai’s love interest, also suffered from family issues. Her mother was hospitalized from stress, while it is implied that Monica’s father died from overworking himself after they moved to America from Germany to try to have a better life. Since then, Monica was basically on her own at least until around the end of the Monaco Cup where Kai and Monica became a couple. Kai and Monica, by the end of the anime/manga, thankfully manage to somewhat move past these tragedies with each other. At the end of the manga it’s shown that the two even get married and have a kid together, therefore having their own family with each other again after losing their family in the past.
Meister Kirisaki, the General Manager of Pantasia, was abandoned by his biological father sometime after Meister’s younger sister, Sophie, was born. Meister and Sophie’s mother died sometime later due to illness, and Meister had no one to turn to for a while, taking care of Sophie on his own for who-knows-how-long. Their father came back briefly, but he was under control of the Maou Bread. The Maou influenced their father to eat bread in front of them while they were starving to death, only to leave again. Had Meister and Sophie not had their adoptive father step into the picture, they might not have even existed by the time of the manga/anime. By the end of the manga, however, their biological father is returned back to normal and the family relations between them are supposedly restored.
Azuma Kazuma, had differentiating issues between him and older relatives, particularly with his grandfathers. One grandfather did not approve of Azuma’s dream of making Japan’s national bread in the beginning of the anime/manga but Azuma soon convinced him that this was a dream Azuma saw as worth working towards, and later on in the manga another grandpa did not even see Azuma as family because of the fact that Azuma went ahead with his dream of creating Japan’s national bread. This same grandpa also tried to cut Azuma down with his sword in one chapter, but thankfully they mended their relationship after Azuma managed to show him why this dream was so important to him.
Kawachi Kyosuke’s father died in a house fire caused by his own work. Due to Kawachi’s family being so poor, Kawachi had to become the breadwinner for his family due to father’s death. Kawachi’s younger siblings do not even appear to be grateful for this, as they are portrayed during the Monaco Cup Arc to be rather spoiled. However, Kawachi does find a way to move on in a sense by honoring his father with one of his bread creations created during the Monaco Cup—specifically a bread called “Victory.”
I think the reason why all of these characters (and possibly more, but these were all the characters who I could think of at the moment of writing this post) end up having happy endings with their family issues is because there is supposed to be a theme of hope regarding family issues. No matter what happens, things do have the potential to get better than first perceived. This is a touching theme, and not often do I feel like I find themes of hope and resolution in much fiction at all, so I appreciate finding a theme like this in the series.
The only issue I have with how this theme is shown in the manga/anime, however, is that realistically, not all family matters can be magically settled and resolved as easily as they were in the manga/anime. This especially applies to situations such as Meister and Sophie being abandoned by their father and later traumatized by his future actions. Sophie was incredibly outraged at what their father did, and I assume that Meister probably, realistically, would have been upset at the least. Even if the two did find out later in the manga that their father never meant to do the things he did to them due to being mind-controlled by a bread he created, I still think that the broken familial bonds would need more mending than just getting their father out of that bread’s influence.
Despite this lack of this realistic element, however, the manga and anime overall does tap into quite a few family issues. All characters deal with these issues in various ways, and the majority of these issues usually end up in some good resolution, more or less. I appreciate the hope that the series brings with their use of the theme of family issues, each of them somewhat unique in their own way for each of the characters, and how things definitely got better for all of them. And I believe that something to give us all hope is always a good thing.