Umami #1

Panel Syndicate


Follow the adventures of Uma and Ami on their pursuit to the capital city, Ami hot on the tails of her dream career as a chef in the royal kitchens (and it has nothing to do with her father being the King’s head chef) and Uma desperately seeking, salt (yes, salt). After mysterious black smoke billows from her hometown, Uma leaves her family behind on the hunt for salt, whilst Ami is packing ready to join her father in the royal kitchens of the capital.

It is enjoyable to read through  the different narratives of Uma’s journey and the idea of a cook and a chef being two separate professions is excellent, and Uma’s use of food as tools and utensils is another stroke of ingenuity. Uma is reminiscent of many traditional small child characters, just think of a number of precocious young Ghibli characters or of Tezuka’s Dororo, this character is moulded out of a wealth of small insolent children that have ventured alone before her. Uma is the boisterous yet determined protagonist of this tale, and on her bull-headed adventure she meets a distraught and helpless Ami. Ami is no doubt clever, she studies and is ready for the royal kitchen, all nepotism aside, however she is a scatter brain and quite defenseless against the real world.

The artwork, what can I say. Truly lovable artwork, but it was disappointing not to see colour. Especially after having been enticed by the beautiful front cover and seeing what colour can do for Ken Niimura. He has bright ideas, and I am not opposed to seeing them in grayscale, but they could have been sharpened at the edges a little, or a larger range of grayscale used so that some of the more intricate details of the landscapes could be brought forward. It had the story of the next big animation film, but the art is more akin to its first draft storyboard than a finished product.

The series centres on the relationship between two women navigating the countryside, however once again, as it often is, this comic is written by a man, and it makes you wonder whether any woman was consulted on this relationship dynamic. The determined little girl is a usual character, however Ami’s flappable, neurotic character is perhaps a little cliched, hopefully her character will be strengthened in future issues. Otherwise it will maintain a cardboard aesthetic.

Despite its flaws this comic series really looks to be an impressive tale, if it were ever printed it was be a nice present for children. Niimura has a delightful scope for humour and the plot is funny and warm.

Use of English:

  • An internet based slang that usually uses “d” instead of “th”
  • Colloquial sounding reducing of words and running words into one another – “th’only” “yer – you”
  • Different perspectives
  • Onomatopoeia


woe- great sadness

super-dooper – or super duper, meaning really special, excellent

“what the blazes” – what on earth, what is going on

to chuck – to throw

pulse stew – a stew made from different beans (pulses)



The great thing about digital comics is that there is no requirement for a subscription, and Panel Syndicate’s pay what you want scheme is affordable and reasonable, so I do think I will purchase another issue.


I am giving this comic the better of the two scores I would pick, purely for its potential and we shall see how #2 lives up to its score.


Publisher: Panel Syndicate

Writer: Ken Niimura

Artist:Ken Niimura

Colourist: Ken Niimura



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