OP: 「エプロンボーイ」 (Apron Boy) by DJ Miso Shiru to MC Gohan
「年越しそば」 (Toshikoshi Soba)
“New Year Soba”
With Fate/Apocrypha‘s end, Fate/Grand Order short on New Years, and Fate/Extra‘s anime on the horizon, there couldn’t possibly be any surprises could there? Guess again. An adaptation for Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan, a light-hearted manga dedicated to all of the times Emiya has cooked for Saber, is now a webseries. While it sounds completely shameless to give Fate a cooking spin-off with the advent of Shokugeki no Souma and other popular food anime, this anime is starting out on the right foot by offering a surprising amount of panache and effort within such a short time frame.
From the first episode, the production is on-point as Ufotable is able to pull off a minimalistic approach efficiently. The animation isn’t meant to be “Unlimited Budget Works”, but combines the polish they put into their Fate adaptations with a warm, stenciled aesthetic that works well with Emiya-san‘s slice-of-life trappings. The toastier color palette and the character designs (just take a look at their eyes!) compliment the show’s tone as well as set itself apart from the other Fate spin-offs as a comfy anime that isn’t defined by chibi antics or moe eroticism. The music has some effort to it as well with opening and ending sequences that sound as good as they look. Apron Boy and Collage don’t come off like the throwaway songs they could’ve been, as the former has a nice swing to it, and the latter revels in the mellow feel of the show that matches perfectly with the watercolor artwork of the ED.
The premise sounds cash-grabby, but it does work within the confines of the series well by showing us why Emiya is considered to be such a good cook, and how Saber’s newfound love of food emerged from eating what Emiya serves her. Whether any of this fits in the Fate/Stay Night timeline or if this series is it’s own thing is speculative, but it does give us a feel for what daily domestic life would be like with Saber and Emiya living together as she bonds with Emiya, Taiga, and Illya. Additionally, we see how much Saber learns in her interactions with Emiya and his friends as she picks up on New Years traditions like making Osechi boxes and huddling under the kotatsu from Taiga. The calmer moments of the initial “Fate” route showed Saber learning about the world around her as Emiya took her in during the Holy Grail War, so it is nice to see how everything would’ve played out had he summoned her in more peaceful times.
The anime’s greatest asset is that it doesn’t cut corners with how Emiya prepares every meal. It’s not like those show’s where we only see “why” they love something, but never “how” they express this love. When Emiya’s cooking, he breaks down a step-by-step process on how to make it. It was astounding to see Emiya go through the recipe for the food he’s making, delving into every single detail except for the measurements. In the first episode, the focus is on Toshikoshi Soba, a soup made to ring in the New Year. Anecdotally, I recently tried it in my travels last month, and the broth is absolutely something you need to try if you haven’t given it a shot. Fortunately enough, Emiya gives an accurate breakdown of the steps it takes to prepare Toshikoshi Soba from creating the broth as a fusion of a soy sauce broth and a dashi stock to frying up shrimp tempura after properly cleaning it, and finishing it off with rinsed soba noodles and the toppings that make it a complete package.
They could have easily made Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan in half-measures, slapping together a cheaply made series that some Fate fans would still eat up regardless. But the attention to detail, the effort put into the production, and the fanservice they have for the character’s we’ve gotten attached to during Fate/Stay Night go above and beyond to make for a fun, lighthearted series that has respect for its cast and the art of cooking. Sadly, this anime is slated to be a once-a-month web series, so we won’t be seeing another episode til next February. However, I’ll be anticipating the next episode’s release now that I know how well-done this offering has been. And with Fate/Extra coming soon, we have much more Fate on the horizon to look forward to this year.
ED: 「コラージュ」 (Collage) by Sangatsu no Phantasia