The Unbearable Radness of Project X
When I saw in Previews a few months ago that DMP--America's foremost publisher of wispy man-on-man love stories--was putting out an entire graphic novel based around the secret origin of Cup Noodles, I knew that it was something I wanted to have in my life. And like I said last night, it is mind-boggling.
So prepare yourself: You are about to experience the single greatest noodle-related comic book ever published.
The fact that Project X: Cup Noodle--or to use the full title, Project X - The Challengers: Cup Noodle - The Miracle of 8.2 Billion Served--even exists is mystifying. It is, after all, a 205-page graphic novel about the creation of a popular snack food, and I cannot for the life of me figure out who exactly the target audience is that they're shooting for.
Although considering that I bought it, I'm going to go ahead and assume that they're trying to hit the key "mid-twenties college dropout with a website and a weakness for the utterly absurd" demographic. Yeah, that seems about right.
The premise is, of course, patently absurd, but Tadashi Katoh--who is also apparently the creator of something called Teacher Ron's Magnifying Glass--just runs with it, creating an over-the-top tribute to the Japanese Salaryman that likens them less to cogs in the corporate machine and more to something along the lines of Riggs and Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon.
Except this is Japan, so the characters shout out the names of their cooking techniques while lightning crashes in the background.
And that is awesome.
Even better is Momofuku Andou, the president of Nissin Foods, who brought instant ramen to popularity in Japan after--and this is true--learning of its black market popularity in postwar Osaka. And according to the story, he became convinced of the marketablity of noodles that would be ready to eat from their own container after he tried to market instant Ramen in America and was met with blank stares from businessmen who couldn't figure out how to add hot water to a brick of noodles on a plate.
Which is odd, because I'm reasonably certain that we've had bowl in this country for quite some time, but who am I to argue with Project X?
Anyway, Andou spends the majority of the book sitting behind his throne imperiously, issuing complex orders like the necessity of adding freeze-dried shrimp to symbolize good fortune within a cup of instant ramen, and occasionally dropping some of the Mind-Blowing Secrets of Cup Noodle:
OH YES: The Cup Contains Time Itself. I defy you--defy you, I say!--to find any other snack food that is as convenient as Cup Noodle and also contains complete and utter mastery of the Fourth Dimension. IT CAN'T BE DONE.
Anyway, despite the setbacks of proper noodle cooking that are--I assure you--extensively detailed, up to and including the difficulties that a guy has with enjoying his new wife's cooking when he has to taste-test ramen twenty times a day, Cup Noodle eventually takes off. And you know what that means.
One of the additional features of the book--and surprisingly, there are quite a few--is a pictoral guide to the various forms of Cup Noodle that have been released over the years, which is actually pretty entertaining. Check it.
My personal favorites? 1990's undoubtedly x-treme Cup Noodle: Red Zone and, of course, D-Cup Noodle (second row down, right-hand page). Seriously, what's the deal there?