Cooking Master Boy Season 1 (1997)
中華一番! (Chuuka Ichiban)


The story takes place in 19th century China during the Qing Dynasty, where the Emperor was weakened and the country was close to chaos. It is also during a fictitious era called “The Era of the Cooking Wars”. It was an era in which top chefs with different cooking styles tried their best to improve their skills and to become the best chef in China. It is a country where insulting a high-grade chef or fooling around with cooking could land a person in jail, and impersonating a top-chef is as good as a usurpation of authority. Chefs compete with each other in order to gain respect and even power, but also with the risks of losing everything.
Directed by
Written by
Screenplay by
Music by


  • The overall rating of the show.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


  • Animation quality and consistency for that time. 

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


  • How well the story flows and keeps you engaged.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great


World building


Character design
Annoying character traits



In 1995, Kodansha published the manga. From 1995 to 1997, it was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Magazine. However, during serialization, the character ‘真’ was added, so from 1997 to 1999, it was serialized as Shin Chūka Ichiban! (真・中華一番!, True ver. – The best in Chinese (food)!).

In some other countries, the anime adaptation was also called Cooking Master Boy.

Alternative title

– Chuuka Ichiban!
– 中華一番!
– 요리왕 비룡
– Shin Chūka Ichiban!
– 中華小廚師
– 真・中華一番!
– Cooking Master Boy
– Đầu Bếp Cung Đình
– ยอดกุ๊กแดนมังกร
– Най-добрият готвач
– 中华小当家

TL;DR Review

Chūka Ichiban! (中華一番!, lit. The best in Chinese (food)) is a manga created by Etsushi Ogawa. It is also known as Cooking Master Boy in some country. In 1997, it was adapted into an anime series directed by Masami Anno.

The animation is good for the time (1997), but lack details compare to today standard. The pieces of music are very good of that late 90’s Jpop style.

Our main character, Liu “Mao” Xing, is a 13-year-old boy that is frankly overpowered. He got a photographic memory, can tell almost any ingredients used from one taste, can cook like a master without any training, and solutions tend to just fall right into his laps. You find you are rooting for him not because he’s a likable character, but because almost everyone that challenges him is like a villain.

The other two supporting characters that follow Mao around, Mei Li and Shirou, would be better off if they didn’t exist. Mei Li serve no function than being a trigger for Mao to give his expositions and possibly force love interest. For a 16-year-old, she has the maturity of a 12-year-old. As for Shirou, he is just an annoying brat. It’s like having an annoying goofy comedy relief character in an already goofy comedy. It’s just redundant. I think the show starts to turn off for me when this character was introduced.

Get ready, for this show is comprised almost of just expositions. As this is targetted at a younger demographic, it is essentially an educational show filled with explanations.

The story is just a string of random encounters and challenges at the start. There is an introduction arc early in the season, but after that, it just meanders about. The plot and dialogs can be cringy at times.

The only saving grace of the show is seeing how Mao will beat the next challenge. There’s something oddly satisfying when he takes some people down a notch. This is one of my guilty pleasure.

You can tell this anime may have inspired other later cooking show like Yakitate!! Ja-pan and Food Wars!

I would only recommend this anime for those that like the previously mentioned series. It isn’t very deep and quite goofy, but a decent watch when you just want to shut off your brain. Cooking Master Boy contains some graphic violence and alcohol and tobacco consumption. Intended for young adults.

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Opening Theme

– “空 (Sora)” by Maki Ohguro (eps 1-18)
– “息もできない (Iki mo Dekinai) ~Now I can breath~” by ZARD (eps 19-36)
– “君さえいれば (Kimi Sae Ireba)” by DEEN (eps 37-52)

Closing Theme

– “青い空に出逢えた (Aoi Sora ni Deaeta)” by Arisa Tsujio (eps 1-20)
– “ミネラル (Mineral)” by Kaori Nanao (eps 21-36)
– “風のように自由 (Kaze no You ni Jiyuu; Free Like the Wind)” by Keiko Utoku (eps 37-52)



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Photo by Nicolas LB, Jon Flobrant, and Yvette de Wit on Unsplash.

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