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Yakitate!! Ja-pan (焼きたて!! ジャぱん?, meaning "Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan", the "pan" also meaning "bread" in Japanese) is a manga, authored by Takashi Hashiguchi, serialized in Shogakukan's Shōnen Sunday, which has been adapted into a television anime series by Sunrise.
The manga has spanned 25 tankōbon volumes, as of January, 2007, while the weekly serialization of the manga has ended as of January 10, 2007. The anime series, broadcast on TV Tokyo and other local stations from October 2004 to March 2006, spanned a total of 69 episodes. The series won the 2003 Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōnen manga.
The story focuses on Kazuma Azuma, a boy on his quest to create "Ja-pan", a national bread for Japan itself. He initially heads to Tokyo to expand his horizons at the bread-making chain Pantasia; the story continues with Azuma's exploits with his other coworkers.
The title of this series itself is a play on words; Yakitate translates to "freshly baked", but Ja-pan has a double meaning. Besides referring to the country of Japan, pan is the Japanese word for "bread" (stemming from Portuguese pão). Ja-pan is a pun for this series. This mimics the style of the names of other varieties of bread in Japanese, such as "furansupan" (French Bread), "doitsupan" (German rye-based bread), "itariapan" (Italian bread), etc.
Besides the desire to create his Ja-pan, Azuma also possesses the legendary Solar Hands (太陽の手, taiyō no te). These hands are warmer than normal human hand temperature, and allow the dough to ferment faster. This gives him some advantage at the beginning of the series, but his innovation is his greater talent.
Although the story has baking as its main theme, the parts that generate the most interest are the outrageous puns in the story. Especially notable are the "reaction" based puns made by the judges, who go to great lengths to prove a single point about the bread that they had tasted. The series in general also pokes fun at the shōnen genre's tendency to be melodramatic over mundane tasks.