A Well-Ordered Restaurant
For anyone that knows anything about Japanese literature, Kenji Miyazawa is probably the equivilent of Charles Dickens. A country bohemian from the Japanese countryside who wrote during the 1920's, Miyazawa wrote many stories, and there have been several anime adaptions: Night on the Galactic Railroad was animated in 1983 (with all the characters mysteriously being in cat form) and released by Central Park Media in 1993. Gauche the Cellist was animated a few years ago as well, and Group TAC animated his life story, Kenji's Spring, in 1997, which was licensed by Mixx (who has yet to do anything with it besides badly dub it and retitle it "Spring & Chaos"). Kodansha USA has released some of his short stories in English form, and Stone Bridge Press released Night on the Galactic Railroad (albeit hacked to death) as "Milky Way Railroad."
Finally, Tadanari Okamoto's short rework of Miyazawa's short story (published here as "Restaurant of Many Orders") is seen in America as part of a compilation of fairly rare Japanese animated shorts on display at several film school venues across the country, sponsored by The Japan Foundation. At 19 minutes in duration, this animated short (photographed entirely in sepiatone) takes a rather dark approach to this tale that was originally written for children.
The story involves two young British hunters (one made out to be a bit overweight in this version) who, upon getting lost in the woods, discover a strange restaurant While the original story was only a few pages long, this film manages to stretch the plot by adding lots of elements and plot turns that weren't in the story at all. Most of these aren't improvements, but rather seem out of place in the story. For instance, when the two seem like they might be eaten by the beasts that have come to dinner, the beasts do a dance! Huh?? (There seem to be a bit more of these add-ons at the end... I'm assuming that this part was done after the director's death and others working on the project took over.)
Despite that issue, A Well-Ordered Restaurant is quite an achievement in terms of both animation quality and the original story. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning what else Japan has to offer besides the usual anime fare.
Overall (sub) : B
+ Classic story, beautiful art.
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