The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles
How would you rate episode 1 of
Ms. Koizumi loves ramen noodles ?
What is this?
Yuu Ohsawa is entranced by the beautiful new transfer student Koizumi. Cool and aloof, with flowing golden hair and pale skin, Koizumi seems utterly unapproachable - but when Yuu runs across Koizumi by chance after school, she discovers her new classmate's secret. Apparently Koizumi hides a burning passion for ramen, and spends all of her days scouting out and savoring the best ramen around. Learning Koizumi's secret doesn't seem to help Yuu get any closer to Koizumi, but Yuu is nothing if not persistent, and besides, ramen is delicious. Will Yuu joining Koizumi on her ramen adventures eventually thaw her classmate's cold heart? Well, probably not, but at least there'll be plenty of great ramen along the way. Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles is based on a 4-koma manga and streams on Crunchyroll, Wednesdays at 7:30 AM EST.
How was the first episode?
My first thought upon starting Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles was “oh dear, is this another short anime concept that's been somehow stretched to twenty minutes?” I mean, the title says the entire premise of the show, and that premise seems far more suited to three minute bites (like last season's Love is Like a Cocktail) than full episodes. This actual episode didn't really justify its own length, but it at least somewhat explain it. I can at least see what this show is trying to do.
The actual plot of this episode is basically non-existent. We're introduced to Yuu Ohsawa, a girl with a major crush on transfer student Aizawa, but no clear way of acting on that crush. Aizawa never willingly talks to anyone, and so it's only when Yuu coincidentally runs into her at a ramen stop after school that they meaningfully connect. But even then, “meaningfully connect” is pretty generous - Aizawa never demonstrates any interest in Yuu, and so the rest of the episode is consumed by Yuu perkily stalking Aizawa, and occasionally prompting her to ramble about ramen trivia. There's no chemistry between them, and basically no progression to their relationship. Yuu seems to mostly exist as a way to tether the audience and offer commentary on Aizawa's actions.
So if there's no chemistry and no narrative, what is Ms. Aizawa's appeal? Three things: looking at tasty bowls of ramen, looking at a cute girl rapturously devour that ramen, and listening to that girl ramble at length on the distinctions between different kinds of ramen. Ms. Aizawa is a mix of food porn, food-horny fanservice, and ramen trivia, and it's pretty much just passable in all three of those fields. The show's visual execution isn't really strong enough to sell the appeal of either Ms. Aizawa herself or the ramen's she's eating, so ultimately, this episode felt like nothing more than watching a girl who doesn't want to be talked to be pestered while eating lunch.
Outside of those three tentpole appeals, there's really not anything here. Ms. Aizawa lacks the ongoing narrative and character chemistry of a show like Gourmet Girl Graffiti, or the atmosphere and effective comedy of something like Dagashi Kashi, so even within its “food porn/trivia” subgenre, it's really not worth recommending. If you're a big fan of ramen and tend to enjoy food porn shows, it's maybe worth a look. Otherwise, this inoffensive little show is an easy skip.
How do you sell a show with two unlikable leads and a paper-thin plot stretched out into 23 minutes? Make it about food. Cooking manga has always been a thing - Ms. Koizumi loves ramen noodles is the latest, focusing strictly on tasty noodle soup. If you love ramen, and I mean really LOVE ramen, the first episode offers enough food porn of to whet your appetite.
I'm so hungry right now. But even if this show ignited my insatiable desire to gulp down flavorful broth, it wasn't enough to gloss over how much I disliked this show's leads. Koizumi herself is a type of kuudere, but the only thing she's dere for his noodles. This means she treats all the humans she comes into contact with like crap. Not in a malicious way, necessarily, but she is completely uninterested in any kind of human interaction and does absolutely nothing to hide it.
Yuu, who is infatuated with Koizumi, isn't any more likable but for the complete opposite reason. She's the textbook definition of a hanger-on. This is supposed to be endearing, like Yuu is an almost oblivious optimist that Koizumi won't be able to help warming up to over their shared lunch dates. I figured by the episode's end there'd at least be some kind of hint that Koizumi was enjoying Yuu's company, but that doesn't happen. Instead, she continues to make it clear she doesn't want her around and Yuu continues to be around anyway. They aren't a very likable duo.
The inter-character dynamics aren't appealing, but if you are a foodie and interested in learning about the variations of a specific style of Japanese staple cuisine, Ms. Koizumi loves ramen noodles has that in spades. It has less to offer as slice-of-life and I wouldn't recommend it for that but it did manage to hit just the right spot for my foodie needs.
Right off the bat, it's easy to see that Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles is a weird series, based on it's premise and execution alone. It should by all accounts be a series of shorts, given that its premise is exactly as complicated as its title would let on, and yet the weekly adventures of Koizumi (who does indeed love ramen) have been stretched out to fill a full half hour every week. The series is also a surprisingly horny show, featuring a main character, Yuu, who is in full on stalker-mode love with Koizumi, and scenes of ravenous ramen devouring that are full on erotic in their depictions of a pretty teenager loudly and enthusiastically slurping down her soup. It's all just so bizarre that it shouldn't really work, and yet somehow or another I found myself enjoying this premiere episode quite a bit.
To be clear, this is very much a guilty pleasure kind of enjoyment, hence my ambivalent score, but I can identify two things that make Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles such an improbable success for me, the first being that I'm a sucker for food porn and food factoids. Ramen is one of my favorite dishes to learn about and practice in my own humble kitchen, so a good portion of this series is essentially tailor made for me. I enjoyed the productions slavish attention to detail in reproducing the various kinds of ramen on display throughout the episode, and I appreciated all of Koizumi's trivia regarding the diverse manner of broth, noodles, vegetables, and sauces used in the different regional varieties of the dish. This is obviously material that will appeal to a very specific subset of anime fans out there, so if a deep dive in to the minutiae crafting Japanese soup doesn't sound like an inherently riveting experience to you, Ms. Koizumi might not be your entertainment of choice this season.
I will also admit to finding Yuu's misbegotten romantic antics to be funny and mostly charming, even if Yuu is clearly not taking Koizumi's hints at wanting to be left alone to eat ramen in peace. While she could definitely stand to tone down her “following Koizumi across town to invade her personal space” shenanigans, Yuu is just earnest and likable enough to not come across as creepy, especially since Koizumi clearly enjoys having the opportunity to educate a culinary philistine like Yuu. While I don't think Yuu's pining will be enough to satisfy anyone looking for a legitimately compelling relationship, it's enough to tie together the different ramen sketches, and to entertain while doing so. I could also do without the leerier shots of Koizumi slurping down her soup, which feel male-gazey enough so as to be out of place with the much tamer goings on of the rest of the show. Outside of its overly niche appeal and distracting fanservice, though, the biggest problem I can see this show running in to is not being able to fill out an entire season's worth of material. This first episode already felt like three short episodes stitched together, and while I can see that working just fine for a few weeks, I wonder if the show won't run out of steam before the season is fully completed.
Does Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles make for the greatest first impression? No, it doesn't, and I suspect I wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much myself if I also wasn't someone who professed an unreasonable love for cooking and eating ramen. Still, I did have a lot of fun with this premiere, in spite of myself, and I can imagine many others may find themselves in the exact same boat as me. Whether or not I will feel the same way about the series even a few weeks from now remains to be seen, but I would say that, for now, its worth at least checking out.
When I first heard about the premise for this series, I expected it to be a short, as I had trouble imagining how you could fill up whole episodes with just an exploration of a girl enjoying ramen – and yes, that's with factoring in the potential appeal of the fulfilled reaction of said girl to a tasty ramen dish. Even adding in that each episode is apparently going to feature multiple specific types of ramen and some background details about what goes into it and/or the best way to eat it doesn't change that impression, either. So what else is there to this series?
Apparently all of this is getting cast within the framework of a yuri romantic comedy, as I'm not buying for a second that Yuu purely has friendship in mind given the way she goes on about Koizumi's appearance. (Her friend's comment about her always liking cute girls is also telling here.) Though she's not forward about it, she pursue Koizumi with the style and diligence of a potential suitor. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, and her irrepressibly positive and friendly approach makes for a nice contrast to Koizumi's standoffish attitude, so I could see Yuu resolutely trying to break through Koizumi's social shell being a fitting complement to the exploration of the world of ramen. They even make a nice visual complement, too, with Koizumi's long hair and more girlish features specifically contrasting against Yuu's short hair and more tomboyish look. Yuu's two best friends, meanwhile, provide further personality and appearance variety, so this will be a suitably diverse quartet if the story eventually trends in that direction; that all four are prominently featured in the closer suggests that it will.
Whether or not that's going to be enough to hold interest is another story. I'm giving this one a lower rating not so much because there's anything actually wrong with it but because so far it's rather dull, and not even Yuu's bubbly personality can fully compensate for that. Of the three “cute girls do cute things” series to debut so far this season, this one has the least interesting premise by far, and animating over photos of actual ramen bowls in some cases just doesn't cut it given the potentially gorgeous scenery that its competitors offer. Koizumi being a little too standoffish doesn't help, either. This one could catch on if the character dynamics gain better traction, but right now the tease of yuri love interest isn't enough.
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