OP: 「One In A Billion」by Wake Up, May’n!
「ビーフシチュー/モーニング」 (Biifu shichuu/Mouningu)
“Beef Stew/Breakfast Special”
If a hidden well is what makes the desert a beautiful place, then Isekai Shokudou is a hidden gem that takes place in a delightfully quaint restaurant, existing halfway between reality and a fantasy realm. I have to confess that my interest in Isekai Shokudou stems from being familiar with a similar light novel series called Isekai Izakaya “Nobu”. Though it is too early to make comparisons, I really like how both are relaxing, and most importantly, I highly approve of how food is thematically handled. As an aspiring ‘Iseguy’ who is incidentally an avid foodie, allow me to be your tour guide for this special adventure. Let’s dive into another world packed full of culinary riches, through the mysterious door of Nekoya!
Other than sharing a focus on food, there is not much in common between Isekai Shokudou and the well known Shokugeki no Soma. Our calm and collected chef Tenshu (Suwabe Junichi) starkly contrasts the hotheaded Soma. However, where we lose an air of flamboyance, I would like to contextualise this quote from Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’:
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
Seeing ordinary folks enjoy delicious foods in ordinary ways marks quite a nice departure from exaggerated foodgasms. Not that I dislike Shokugeki no Soma, but the novelty really wears off after a while. Not to mention, listening to explanations on food science can be exciting, but sometimes gets a bit excessive. Though the scenes we got with food obviously functioned primarily for aesthetic purposes, my feelings of extreme happiness mostly came from observing the reactions of customers who clearly enjoyed their food. While enjoyment is not exactly tangible in form, I fully agree with the notion of it being a truly beautiful experience that can be felt out with the heart.
Aletta and Tenshu
Here, I must also highlight the potential reverse isekai, where an inhabitant from another world is transported to Earth in order to live out a dream life. Not an innately exciting concept, but a particularly refreshing change. Instead of your stock NEET/Otaku who is reincarnated following a bizarre death, we get what can be described as a genuine character with human problems in the form of Aletta (Uesaka Sumire). For me, her experiences of poverty and discrimination are also far more relatable, compared to the experiences of other protagonists featuring in stories revolving around isekai. Aletta’s struggles were well incorporated, and perhaps in a darker fantasy setting, she would be resorting to prostitution. So, thank goodness for her that we have a light-hearted eatery on our hands!
Ignoring her charming character designs for a moment, Aletta is adorable for many reasons. She’s softly spoken, likes to nervously fiddle with her hat, and has deep-seated insecurities about being partly demon. The intricate detailing of her skittish mannerisms is something I deeply appreciate, since Silver Link could easily have gone for what I would describe as cheap moe points. That may be something one call pull off in your stereotypical CGDCT series, but for a work of fiction that is slightly more mature in its telling, we would naturally want something substantial.
Where I will praise the series for being especially wholesome, is how we are presented with a strong dynamic between Aletta and Tenshu that defines their relationship as benefactor and beneficiary, as well as boss and employee. There isn’t so much of a fine line in this casual setting, where the two seamlessly blend together. You won’t get Tenshu strictly shouting orders at Aletta, the culmination being a safe environment where the vulnerable Aletta works for an honest living, while greatly enjoying the fantastic food during her breaks. However, Aletta is still expected to earn her keep by working 14 hour shifts, which I must remind you is no small task. As a student looking for a temporary job this summer, the vacancy Nekoya offers is pretty much as dreamy as it gets, vaguely playing into the wish-fulfilment aspect you would often find in isekai stories.
Isekai Shokudou’s overall premise is rather intriguing, so hopefully we’ll see production capitalise on the fantasy element. Otherwise I’m pretty happy to just sit here watching different food items roll in every week, with some side helping of backstories where the restaurants customers are concerned. If you are a foodie (paging Cherrie), you simply cannot pass up on this anime. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend Isekai Shokudou to casual or hardcore anime watchers alike, as it offers a uniquely relaxing retreat that you might not find anywhere else this season.
ED: 「ちいさなひとつぶ」 (Chiisana Hitotsubu) by Kiyono Yasuno