The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide
Restaurant to Another World
How would you rate episode 1 of
Restaurant to Another World ?
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How was the first episode?
Restaurant to Another World has one of those wonderfully absurd premises you only tend to get in anime. Instead of starring a young, bright-eyed boy who's transferred to a fantasy world, this one focuses on an entire restaurant. Every evening, it seems that a normal Japanese cook and his whole restaurant are blessed with a portal to various fantasy realms, where ogres, demons, and even dragon queens bump shoulders and enjoy a hearty meal.
The inherent comedy of Restaurant to Another World's premise makes the first half of this episode a unique treat. The opening minutes are the joke of the premise at its best, as a wizard, scarred warrior, and other fantasy archetypes all feud over the best meal to eat with white rice. It's comedy that doesn't require an explanation, contrasting the mundane details of cooking with the heightened absurdity of fantasy characters to arrive at something truly special.
The rest of the episode unfortunately doesn't live up to that opening, though it's still entertaining in its own way. Restaurant to Another World's lackadaisical pacing is both strength and weakness here. On the one hand, the low-key tone of the restaurant creates a solid sense of atmosphere, and also offers a natural comic contrast with the melodramatic nature of the restaurant's patrons. On the other hand, very slow sequences of a dragon queen enjoying beef stew or new waitress Aletta sneaking into the restaurant don't really offer much to sink your teeth into. Coupled with the too-long exposition covering Aletta's backstory, it ultimately feels like this episode stretches maybe fifteen minutes of content into a full episode.
That said, the base mechanics of this story are strong enough for me to definitely want to give it another episode. This is clearly the kind of show that will get better once it sinks into its comfort zone, offering consistent food porn, a light dusting of regular fanservice, and a generally charming setup for deadpan fantasy comedy. The show looks good, and I already like all three of the central characters introduced so far. If it keeps offering gags like a giant dragon lapping up beef stew like a contented cat, I'll be happy to stick around.
This is one of those cases where I wasn't the least bit enthused by the premise of the show only to fall hard for it. In large part that's because I love the way the concept is depicted: after midnight in our world, a door to the Nekoya restaurant appears in other worlds, allowing a variety of fantasy creatures and adventurers to come in and have a hot meal that doesn't consist of the high fantasy staples of hearty stew, sharp cheese, and crusty bread. It also means that a wizard, a lizard warrior, a lion man, and a barbarian can all argue over what meat goes best with rice.
There's a whimsy to this show that still somehow feels very much grounded in the basics of home cooking. It makes for an interesting meld of subject matter, driven home by the entrance of Aletta, the demon girl who discovers the door to Nekoya in the ruin where she's camping out. When Aletta is discovered by the chef and he hears her (clunky explication-heavy) story, he immediately offers her a job, and then he has to reframe all of the employment information in fantasy terms – 10,000 yen becomes ten silver coins, etc. Not only does it say a lot about how comfortable the chef is with the dual nature of his establishment, it also gives us a reference for how things balance out between the two worlds, although I have to wonder if the currency exchange is the same for all of the fantasy realms or if he recognizes Aletta's specific one.
By far the most interesting character to me at this point is the dragon, who can transform into a beautiful lady. She considers the restaurant her “treasure,” equating it with her gold coins and gems, and when she wants her beef stew, no one else is allowed in the establishment. (And my favorite scene has to be her in dragon form lapping at a stewpot. I don't know why.) When she realizes that Aletta has been added to the employment roster, I was a bit afraid that she'd react poorly and demand that this interloper be removed. To my delight, instead she took Aletta under her wing, declaring her part of the treasure, and casting a protective spell. This says a lot about the dragon herself: unlike many of her treasure-hording kind, she's willing to share as long as her wishes are respected, and she understands that Aletta needs to be accepted at Nekoya. Or she just sees having a waitress as a bonus, like a second jewel in the crown. Whichever it is, it speaks to the potential inventiveness of the world-building, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes when we add in new people and possible new worlds.
When you think about it, a restaurant is the perfect establishment to have linking worlds and cultures. After all, everyone needs to eat, and in many cultures food is how people show care. Let's see how Nekoya and its draconic patron help to bring worlds together.
Well, that was certainly a relaxing experience. Plenty of shows introduce an element of the fantastic or supernatural into an ordinary setting (heck, this is the second series to do that today), but few are so casual in their approach as the first episode of Restaurant to Another World. Instead of having some ordinary doofus freak out over discovering a restaurant where wizards and monsters show up after hours, it presents the situation as being perfectly normal for everyone involved. By doing away with the usual “fish out of water” protagonist, it's able to jump straight into its idea of business as usual.
The first scene, which features some sword-and-sorcery warriors arguing with a couple of beastmen, might be the least effective of the bunch. Their debate over what goes best with white rice is a little too eager to emphasize the “fantasy people visiting our world” angle, and some of the dialogue ends up feeling artificial as a result. For my money, the scene that follows it is a much more natural execution of the basic premise. There's something wonderfully bizarre about a dragon queen dressing up to visit the restaurant, and having her order “the usual” in such a casual manner lets us know that she's a regular customer in a more subtle way. The restaurant's unnamed owner is a strong and welcome presence throughout, and I love the fact that he doesn't think twice about dealing with his otherworldly customers.
The episode's second half introduces the demon girl Aletta, and while her backstory is nothing new for the fantasy genre, it provides a useful excuse to have her start working at the restaurant. Her tale of woe isn't as emotional as it could have been, but her breakfast with the owner does plenty to create the obligatory moment of warm, fuzzy feelings. Honestly, I'm more interested in the way Restaurant to Another World seems to be purposely gathering characters from different walks of life. I'm curious to see what will happen when the demon waitress meets the dragon queen, especially since visiting Nekoya seems to level the playing field between different fantasy social classes.
Restaurant to Another World's approach is a bit unusual and its pacing isn't exactly thrilling, so I don't see it working for everyone. If you can accept that it's more about atmosphere than pure entertainment, however, it looks like there should plenty to like about it. The premise gives it a chance to tell the stories of familiar fantasy characters in a more casual setting, and the conversations they have with one another could certainly prove to be fascinating. I took a shot in the dark when I picked this as one of my most anticipated shows of the season, so I'm glad to see that it's already living up to its potential.
There wasn't much that I was even mildly looking forward to this season, but the premise behind this light novel adaptation piqued my interest as much as anything. I'm happy to say that its debut doesn't disappoint; in fact, if anything it exceeded my expectations, to the point that it is almost certainly going to be one of the new series that I follow this season. And I don't normally do these restaurant-centered titles.
This is also a case where you don't want to go by pedigree. Director/writer Masato Jinbo's other directorial efforts include the likes of Chaos;Child, Shomin Sample, and most of the Fate/kalied liner Prisma Illya franchise, and the only way in which this series even slightly resembles any of those is in its one significant fan service scene. (The camera gives loving attention to a dragon when she turns into a sultry, voluptuous human form.) While the concept isn't entirely original, it's nonetheless a great one: on one day of the week a certain restaurant is only open to visitors from other worlds. What isn't clear at this point is whether the interdimensional door to this restaurant only opens into different places in a single world or whether it opens into a myriad of different worlds, and likewise, nothing in the first episode gives even the faintest insight into how this all came to be or if there's a guiding intelligence behind whom the door appears to. Also unclear at this point is whether there's going to be an ongoing storyline or if this is just going to be one of these series which deals with the stories of the featured visitors of each episode. What is clear is that this is definitely a series for foodies, as it makes a point to show off its recipes.
Honestly, though, I don't think it matters because the first episode lays a firm foundation for whatever comes. The notion of a samurai, a wizard, a barbarian, and a lizard man all being cowed into behaving themselves in a modern-day restaurant because the owner/operator threatens not to cook for them again is a rather amusing one, as is the notion that the restaurant is regarded as a “treasure” by an elder dragon who revels in its beef stew. We don't find out much of anything about the owner/operator, who isn't even named, but this episode is much more Aletta's story anyway. She's what would be called a tiefling in certain fantasy RPG settings: part-human and part-demon, with her demon side only showing in her horns. It's hard not to end up rooting for her, as her heritage has put her in a difficult position in her world, but she should make a nice fit as the waitress for the restaurant's otherworldly days. An unexpectedly neat touch is that the dragon, rather than seeing the new girl as a romantic rival, regards her as a new addition to her treasure and so puts Aletta under her blessing. If I had to point to a single moment where I fell in love with this series, that would be it.
The one complaint I have so far is that the writing gets more than a little info-dumpy in the way it has Aletta describe her situation. Otherwise this is a strong, charming start to what could be one of the season's surprise hits.
Now this is just the kind of isekai show I can get behind. I honestly don't have too much interest in any more stories about self-insert protagonists going to a fantasy land to meet their waifus (Re:Zero being the notable exception), but I love it when stories take the “parallel fantasy world” trope and do something a little different with it. Amagi Brilliant Park is a great example of that, using the backdrop of a magical kingdom full of fantasy creatures and combining it with the unique premise of having its characters manage a theme park. Restaurant to Another World feels like something of a spiritual cousin to Amagi in that way, as it uses its roster of fairly generic fantasy creatures and frames them around the workplace setting of running a restaurant. It's also just an excellent opening episode overall, a standout opening volley amidst a crowd of otherwise humdrum premieres.
What I loved the most about this episode was the confidence in its storytelling. The opening acts didn't contain any laborious info-dumps or ham-fisted narration spelling everything out for the audience- we simply watched the action unfold and saw for ourselves how an otherwise ordinary restaurant also does business with clientele of a more “Dungeons and Dragons” nature. We don't even get a concrete setup for the show's plot until halfway through when Aletta arrives, and I mean that as a compliment. So many anime these days feel desperate to frontload their shows with exposition, and it can be positively exhausting as a viewer. Restaurant to Another World takes its time to organically dish out its information, dealing out characters and bits of world building piece by piece, as one might consume a multi-course meal.
The only part of the episode that feels a bit forced is Aletta's introduction, and though her monologuing her life's story makes a little bit of sense since she's been caught squatting in the Master's kitchen, I wouldn't have minded if some of the details regarding demons and the prejudice they face in Aletta's world was saved for later. Still, it's hard to complain when Aletta is such a likeable character; she comes off earnest and cute without feeling pandering. The only other character we really get to know is the dragon who frequents the Nekoyama for its beef stew, and while I found the fanservice surrounding her buxom human form a bit distracting, it wasn't offensive or tasteless.
This is a show that probably won't be for everyone. It's pacing could be described as a bit laconic, and the Master is a cipher of a man, so if you aren't attached to Aletta by the end of the episode you might be feeling a bit cold. Still, this is a lovingly animated and wonderfully executed introduction to this world, and I suspect I won't be alone in wanting to spend even more time with it. If only it didn't make me feel so darned hungry!
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