Reviewby Rose Bridges,
Piacevole: My Italian Cooking
Episodes 1-12 Streaming
Morina Nanase is looking for a job when she just so happens to wander into an Italian trattoria. She has no cooking experience, but Morina loves Italian food, so she's ready to learn! Piacevole follows Morina's culinary adventures as she comes into her own as a chef, getting to know the colorful characters at Trattoria Festa and beyond.
I love a good cooking anime as much as the next food-loving otaku. Feature-length anime must manage to have their cake and eat it too by pleasing food lovers with delicious cooking scenes and recipes, but also working in a compelling story with sympathetic characters. There are anime that pull this balance off beautifully—like last year's Sweetness and Lightning—but more often, it feels like they're spread a little thin. Sometimes you wish you could get a bite-sized version that was just the cooking.
So on paper, Piacevole should be ideal. Each episode runs a tidy 4 minutes, not enough time for too many cooks to spoil the broth. It should be perfect for people who just want food, or workplace comedy, or character drama—not an unsavory, unbalanced mix. Unfortunately, Piacevole tries to do just that anyway. In a strange way, it turns out to be a strong argument for why other food shows need their 24-minute runtime.
I think what really makes this series frustrating is the comedy. "Italian cooking" as a premise should allow for some fresh jokes, since it's not a topic that's covered often by anime. To be fair, they do get in a few good gags. The best parts come from the trattoria's friendly rivalry with a traditional Japanese restaurant, which has its own cooking prodigy who despises Italian food. Her rant about "too much garlic" was not only funny, but helped this pasta-loving Italian-American understand why not everyone loves the cuisine. But outside of that cultural clash, Piacevole relies on lazy workplace comedy clichés. There are boob jokes about the busty manager, male chef Ei Oreki hitting on the girls, Morina and others looking frantic as they "try their best," and so on. I'm not expecting groundbreaking quips from a short anime, but it could try harder than this.
The characters are what save this series from being completely forgettable. They're still fairly shallow and archetypal, but Piacevole has affection for them that rubs off as you watch. I loved the child characters: the super-serious junior chef Maro and his aforementioned counterpoint at the Japanese restaurant, Sara. Since Morina is kind of a bland, optimistic everygirl, Piacevole slowly reveals Maro to be the true heart of the show. His observations about food are the most enlightening and sweetly funny parts of the show, and Piacevole seems to finally acknowledge his appeal by focusing on him in the last episode. This episode also develops one of the shallower adult characters, Ei, to teach Maro a lesson about not letting his ambitions consume him. The finale is a glimpse at what a better Piacevole might look like, if it focused a little more on character drama and less on repetitive, under-cooked gags.
As for the food, there isn't nearly as much focus on it as you'd hope from a short cooking series. The closest we get to actual recipes or step-by-step preparation is the ending theme, where SD versions of the characters prepare each episode's titular dish. Unfortunately, Crunchyroll doesn't translate the opening or ending theme songs. That's rarely an issue, but it stands out for this series, since it seems to deprive us of the series' biggest draw—a chance to actually make the delicious Italian food we see in each episode! The dishes are also the series' biggest visual strength, looking mouthwatering enough to make viewers want to learn to create them themselves. Narratively, the food takes a backseat to the uninteresting character relationships and humor, though. The beautiful food doesn't get enough screentime to justify the bland aesthetics and animation for everything else in Piacevole.
In the past year, we've seen quite a few shows that demonstrated the great potential of short runtimes, from Space Patrol Luluco to Please Tell Me! Galko-chan. Even more traditional gag-based series can find ways to be inventive and memorable, like Miss Bernard Said. I was hoping this series would follow that pattern, especially since its source manga does have a lot of fun with the restaurant aesthetic and format. Instead, Piacevole struggles to forge its own path, trying to be a 4-minute version of every feature-length cooking series you've seen. Its lack of focus doesn't allow any of these elements to work well, making you wish it could just marinate in one until it's cooked to perfection.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : C
Music : B-
+ Food porn for miles, child characters are likable and funny, a nice weekly dose if you find full-length cooking anime tiring
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