Tampopo and the Eye of the Tiger (Or Was That Rocky Balboa?)

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In Tampopo, the main protagonist struggles to find a way to survive in the competitive ramen market so she seeks the advice and help of a “Cowboy” named Goro. This scene accurately depicts how seriously both characters are about the process of creating the ultimate bowl of ramen. Goro is sitting to the side in cowboy attire asserting his mentor-mentee role as the knowledgable Cowboy who has a plethora of life experience. As he holds up the stopwatch to check Tampopo’s time, he scrutinizes it carefully so that if she did not make the time by even a mere millisecond, he would not accept her work. Tampopo, on the other hand, is dressed in sweats, as if training for a marathon and poses strongly to stop the clock as she sets her bowl of ramen before her “coach” for evaluation.

This medium shot establishes the relationship between Goro and Tampopo as well as the standards that they have set for themselves in searching for the perfect bowl of ramen. The kitchen is much tidier than before, the water is clear, the bowls in the cabinets are stacked neatly, the vegetables are washed, and bar is wiped down thus portraying their dedication to the art of perfecting Tampopo’s ramen. They create an atmosphere that not only sets them up to be successful but motivates Tampopo to try again until she manages to perfect her ramen in the allotted time.

Subconsciously, people may associate it with Rocky Balboa and his quest because it has a similar feel and the music that plays in the background during this scene helps to evoke that feeling of trying to conquer the impossible. This scene is important because though Tampopo has gone with Goro to many different shops to observe, to taste, and to learn, it isn’t until she begins to practice that the hard work really begins. In emulating the Rocky Balboa type theme, Itami Juzo communicates the intensity and enthusiasm with which Tampopo pursues her goal.

Had Itami Juzo not included this scene, Tampopo’s pursuit of better ramen would seem less dedicated and motivated than seen in this scene. We would see her learning process as merely observing and going back to the kitchen for hours on end trying to emulate the cooking styles by herself until she succeeded. Instead, Goro is a motivational character that encourages her while keeping Tampopo on task. The clean kitchen ensures that even if she does not manage to accomplish her task right away, she can start over and try again. As she practices, Goro times her with a stopwatch in order to track her time, however, it also becomes a motivational tool because Tampopo has a set time goal that she can work towards as she continues to perfect the recipe. Thus, Tampopo is not merely slaving away in her kitchen, she is improving each time and with practice and the help of “Cowboy” Goro, she becomes closer and closer to creating the ultimate bowl of Ramen.

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