Restaurant to Another World
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Restaurant to Another World ?
It's nice to know that Aletta and I have the same basic theory when it comes to eating cookies – five at a time is a good number. More importantly, the introduction of cookies this week marks the first time that any of Nekoya's otherworldly customers have tasted something besides their favorite dishes – when Aletta introduces Sarah's younger sister to the treat, Sarah also agrees to try them. What's more interesting, however, is that this is not Aletta's first time eating something new. Likely because she's an employee rather than a customer, Aletta has experienced a variety of dishes at Nekoya; the cookies are simply the first thing she's shared with an outsider. Of course, we do know that potatoes with butter are her go-to food (she talks about making them in her second job as Sarah's new housekeeper), but now she's officially become Nekoya's ambassador of cuisine, an otherworlder who encourages others to try something new.
This actually makes sense when you consider her character. As a societal outcast due to her heritage, marked clearly by her horns, Aletta is already used to living differently from her fellow townsfolk. Having previously been starving, she's also more likely to be willing to eat anything that comes her way, not having been in a position to be picky. Now that she's becoming more comfortable interacting with others, she's willing to share what she's discovered rather than playing it safe.
That's where this episode really shines, showing us that Aletta has come a long way from the scared, starved girl we met back when the series began. When we first saw her, she was slowly dying from hunger and exposure in the hollowed-out shell of an abandoned building, rejected so much by society that she was no longer even trying to make a place for herself. The owner helped her not just by feeding her and giving her a job, but by simply accepting Aletta for who she was rather than judging her by her horns. Her uniform is her mark of self-confidence and acceptance, and her interactions with customers who don't judge her or belittle her helps give her invisible armor that she can wear back out into her world. Even being able to help train Kuro is a boost to the confidence she lacked before, and we can really see all of that bearing fruit in this episode. Not only is she out there looking for a second job, but she's also gone to an employment agency and applies for the post without her cap covering her horns. She didn't know Sarah was her potential employer, she just felt confident enough to take a chance.
It feels significant that the Aletta half of the episode is more like the Aletta three-quarters. The first bit of the episode is much more typical, although I have to admit that I'd watch a show about the dragon-legged mermaid and the fisherman's adorable adventures. To a degree, their discovery of hamburger steak is the most “Japanese” of the food moments, as the taste of the burgersteak makes the young fisherman want rice, when many westerners would want some kind of potato with it. (And here I have to admit that the only “hamburger steak” I've ever seen is in a TV dinner, where it comes with mashed “potatoes.”) This is also the less visually impressive part of the episode, with one scene showing very clearly that the boy has his shoes off above the waterline, while in the next he's half in the water with shoes on.
Restaurant to Another World may not quite be living up to its potential, but this episode's Aletta plotline does show that it's been quietly building her character and the story of Nekoya's influence on the other world. This may turn out to be a show that's better in retrospect or binge-watched. I'm beginning to suspect that the novels may have a lot more of these little world-and-character-building details that are getting lost in the anime adaptation.
Restaurant to Another World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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