Welcome to our 2017 Summer Anime Reviews. We’ll be tackling a few of the new shows airing this season in fairly brief reviews. The shows were selected by lottery, and these reviews will only cover the first episode of each series.
While cooking series have been around for a while, Shokugeki no Soma truly brought the genre into more mainstream focus. While I doubt this show will ever quite reach the levels of infamy of the juggernaut cooking battle show, Restaurant to Another World looks to be a relaxing peek at the more quiet aspects of cooking. The show seems like it’ll be focusing more on the peculiarities of its customers and world as opposed to its scrumptious dishes.
So, let’s take a tally. We’ve got a voluptuous dragon, a less voluptuous demon, a lizard man, super shiny food, and a cross-dimensional door that seems to appear whenever someone is hungry after midnight in the human world. Sure. Whatever. I won’t question it. It’s anime, after all. But yeah, the premise seems to be that there’s a Western-style restaurant for all sorts of non-human creatures, accessible through door-like portals that pop up all over the universe.
The first episode opens up with a kind of bizarre argument over what dish at the central restaurant goes best with rice. What starts as a simple debate between two customers turns into a full-blown murderous stare-down among the restaurant’s patrons. The silliness of the scene would likely have worked if the show actually took its own light-heartedness in stride. Instead, the entire tone of the show feels almost, well, relaxed. There are silly scenes, sad scenes, sexy scenes…but none of them really feel they reach their full potential because the show seems moderately unwilling to indulge in heightened emotions. Perhaps it’s keeping things tame to go for that “relaxing home” feeling, but it just makes a few scenes end up feeling artificial or forced when the tone won’t shift along with the content.
The owner of the restaurant, or He Who Must Apparently Not Be Named, is pretty much a blank slate. While that’s frustrating from a narrative standpoint, I’m expecting it to pan out well when such a grounded character is contrasted with the liveliness of his colorful patrons. Besides the owner of the restaurant, there’s Aletta, a demon girl who wanders into the restaurant one night. Her backstory is handled like the unloading of a dump truck – it just all pours out at once. She came to the capital to work, had her identity as a demon revealed, and now lives homeless and hungry in some old ruins. The nature in which her backstory is introduced makes it hard to really care about, but Aletta herself is an enjoyable presence. She’s jovial, compassionate, and maybe a little spacey, which is a relief when she’s viewed next to the owner. But if you’re not a fan of her personality, the show may strike out for you given the owner’s terse nature.
The show looks pretty, as one would hope for a show centered around food. If the morsels weren’t appealing-looking, the show would have a really hard time selling its premise to audiences and hooking them. There’s gorgeous beef stew, curry, rice, bacon, you name it. Everything looks delicious. While I’d love to get a strong narrative, or at least a poignant one, out of the show, I do hope we get to see a little more of the cooking process in the future. Right now it’s just BAM! BOOM! POOF! Food’s done. It’s up to the show whether it wants to focus on the restaurant or the food itself, but if it chooses the latter, it’s going to have to venture into more informative territory. Otherwise with the animation, the character designs can look a bit simplified at times, but for a show that’s not relying on flashiness, the visuals work well regardless.
As far as technical concerns go, I do have one. There are a few instances of dialogue or vocalizations where a character’s mouth doesn’t move. And that’s not even counting the rice-argument scene, where I think that was intentional. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but this is the kind of issue that is worrisome in a first episode, as first episodes are supposed to impress.
As a last note, it was quite interesting when the owner spoke with Aletta about working in the restaurant and had to constantly correct himself from using human-world terms instead of fantasy terms. There’s a clear divide in cultures within the show, and it’s a nice detail that the show takes time to actually illustrate that fact.
While this show didn’t blow me away, I’ll definitely be sticking around for more and see what it can serve up.