Welcome, all, again. Today I return to a series which I mentioned briefly several weeks ago, Restaurant to Another World. Any readers here who are also familiar with my reviews on 918thefan.com or in crunchyroll.com‘s previous incarnation of the Takeout newsletter will recognize that I am a huge fan of food-based anime. I just can’t seem to help it! I spent years in the food service industry, and was a cook (Mess Specialist, back then) in the Navy. Cooking is for me as enjoyable and rewarding a creative process as is writing. And while I no longer cook professionally, I do still prepare meals at the request of friends or family. Sharing food is to share something of ourselves–little wonder that so many holidays the world over are celebrated with ritual feasts!
Restaurant to Another World in its turn celebrates this tendency we share to bond over food. And while diners might share the experience of both food and companionship during a meal, there exists a most special connection between diner and cook. After all, cooking is not done in a void, but rather with the intention of providing someone with sustenance (often both physical and emotional). A meal is both gift and contract, the ultimate expression of the cook’s response to the trust s/he is shown by those awaiting food. Cooking is caring, and the master of Western Restaurant Nekoya cares deeply!
Located in an undisclosed Tokyo shopping district, Western Restaurant Nekoya offers dishes both foreign and familiar to Japanese diners. But on Saturdays, while closed in the mundane world, this restaurant is accessible to beings from another realm by means of multiple free-standing appearances of its entry door. And over the years many different types of beings have entered those doors, from Elves to lizardmen, mermaids to dragons. In fact, while operating in this magical realm, the restaurant is under the auspices and personal protection of the “Red Queen,” one of that world’s six ancient dragons. She personally recommends a second of their number, Kuro, for a job as waitress–just what every customer wants, Death incarnate waiting the table!
And this show focuses upon the establishment’s customers, each episode offering vignettes usually involving one or more of them. Even Aletta, the proprietor’s first hire in the magical realm, began as a diner, if an unorthodox one. Homeless and hungry, she stumbled through a particularly early doorway appearance, gobbling down some leftover food before falling asleep on the floor. When the proprietor came into the kitchen, he found a rather ragged-looking Demon girl sleeping amidst the evidence of her petty theft. Upon waking her and learning of her dismal circumstances, he offers Aletta weekly work as a waitress for both pay and meals, giving her life some much-needed stability. He would eventually likewise hire Kuro so that she could earn the restaurant food she craves.
And so it goes. Customers are introduced, given a backstory, and thereafter linked to favorite menu items. We listen to their discussions, watch their interactions, and in so doing gradually learn more about them and their world. Food creates companionship, which then sometimes creates more concrete relationships. Imagine Sweetness and Lightning‘s deft approach being distilled through Soma’s Restaurant Yukihira (Food Wars!)–all while serving denizens of GATE‘s Special Region! Yeah, something like that. Just remember that this series is character-oriented rather than character-driven; story-driven is completely out of the question. So enjoy it for what it is, a quiet and meandering contemplation of the restorative and embracive qualities of food prepared and served as meals. Order up!