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AKA: 異世界食堂 (Isekai Shokudō)
Genre: Fantasy, Slice of Life.
Length: Television series, 12 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation. Also streaming on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: PG-13 (Some violence, mild fanservice, mature themes.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: GATE, Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Natsume Yuujinchou, Outbreak Company.
Notes: Based on the Japanese light novel series written by Junpei Inuzuka, with illustrations by Katsumi Enami, and published by the self-publishing website "Shōsetsuka ni Narō". (Translated as "Let's Become a Novelist".) There is also a manga illustrated by Takaaki Kugatsu, serialized in Young Gangan.
Rating:

Restaurant to Another World

Synopsis

There is a restaurant in Tokyo Shopping District named "Western Restaurant Nekoya" that's seemingly open six days a week. However, what the rest of the world doesn't know is that it is also open on Saturdays, but for a completely different clientel. On that day, secret doorways open all over this fantasy world, and whose existance has been noted by several of the people living there, who are now regulars at this cafe. One day, Aletta, a girl from the demon tribes, finds herself taking shelter there and, thinking she was dreaming, eats some food she found there. Although the owner of the cafe didn't really mind, the two nevertheless come to the arrangement that she'd work as a waitress on that seventh day.


Review

There is a lot to like about this show. I'm already a fan of the gentle slice-of-life approach to begin with, and the concept sounded interesting enough when I read about it. I had already watched other food-centric slice-of-life shows like Sweetness and Lighting, which took great delight in giving people a generally informative rundown on how to make simple meals and other fun stuff while also serving as an endearing look into the pairing of a father and daughter who had lost their wife/mother somewhat recently.

Now, I wasn't going to demand Restaurant to Another World to follow that show in its footsteps or anything, but it needs to be said that the two shows' approaches to food porn is very different. And, sadly, not necessarily in a good way.

That said, prepare yourself, because Aletta is going to charm your pants off. (Metaphorically, that is.) She's a young girl who, when you meet her, introduces herself as a young member of what makes up itself as the demon race of this world. Being a member of said race can mean many things, like various aspects of their biological nature both harmful and not. The harmful part is that they can have blood or other aspects of themselves that are poisonous, while the less so tend to manifest itself as visual cues, like scaly skin or other aspects. It's hard to say, because Aletta is, at least in this season, the only member of the demon race we meet, and her sole trait as a member of the demon race is a pair of black goat horns poking out from her sandy blonde hair.

As soon as we meet her, we also learn that she tried her luck in the human capital of this world. She had a job for a little while, which she kept by hiding her horns with a cap, but an accident quickly made sure she lost her job and her home. There might be a reason why the demon race is as distrusted as it is, but Restaurant to Another World is being quite tight-lipped on that front, so I'm pretty much left to wonder why someone so utterly kind, sweet and hardworking as Aletta would be ostracized from society like she is when she's essentially harmless. This puzzlement is shared by the master (whose name we never really learn), who hires her when he finds her sleeping in his cafe and learns a bit about her situation, and Aletta seems taken in by all this as if she had accidentally stumbled into some kind of paradise, which, given her lifestyle just before this, might not be far from the truth.

Despite saying that the demon race is basically hated and hounded by everyone, most of the attendants at Nekoya seems rather indifferent about her being a waitress there. Sarah Gold, an adventurer of sorts, is the only one who really comments on her being a demon girl at all, and she forgets that quickly enough once she gets a taste of the food at Nekoya. Part of that might be because the Red Queen, one of the six ancient dragons who's also a regular at Nekoya, cast something on Aletta that, given her dialogue, marked her a "dragon's treasure", and by that extent, the protection of being just that. How that gift works, though, is anybody's guess, because Sarah noted Aletta as one of the demon people after the Red Queen had cast her spell.

Of the many regulars at Nekoya, said Red Queen also marks herself as one of the special ones. Not only because her real form is that of a humongous red dragon, but in addition to granting some kind of protection to Aletta, she's also the one who recommends later addition, Kuro, to join Aletta in being a waitress for Nekoya. Kuro is another member of the dragon tribes, and an ancient dragon alongside Red Queen. However, since Kuro's dragon form is the aspect of death, her dragon form basically spread some kind of poison as she flew. Because of that, she decided to settle in on the moon, where as you might have guessed, another door appeared. Taking the shape of an elf girl, she enters the door out of curiosity, and shortly after accepts the Red Queen's recommendation.

From a worldbuilding standpoint, the show works quite well, a few minor nitpicks aside. Much like with GATE, the alternative world seems a bit of a mashup of more typical elements. Aside from humans, elves and the ancient dragons, this world also seems to have beast races, like lion men and lizard tribes. There are dwarves, mermaids and harpies too, naturally, and probably some other races I have forgotten about. And yes, there are also half-elves, though the show gets a bit weird about them. While I'm pretty sure the show pointed out that for half-elves to exist at all, a union between a human and an elf would be required, but from there, it works more like a randomized function, where you can have a whole family tree made up of nothing but human-looking characters, and then you'd suddenly have a half-elf born in the middle of it all. As is the case of Victoria Samanark, who just happen to be a half-elf with human parents AND siblings. We are, once again, informed that half-elves are also outcasts among society. Of course, Victoria herself is a very well-adjusted lady who are loved by her close family, and is even allowed to study under one of the great sages of the world. She is basically the same as Aletta in that we're told her kind are not welcome in human society, but nobody in the show itself seems to care that much about it, and certainly isn't giving her any trouble over it. But oh no, she is still unmarried at 30something (while looking like she's around 18-20), and will most likely remain so throughout her whole life, which means hundreds of years for half-elves. One would be tempted to think that the fact she's well-educated and just really smart altogether in addition to being gorgeous being what scares all the menfolk away, though the show doesn't really seem all that hung up on gender roles anyway, so pointy ears it is, I guess.

For all the characters we meet in Restaurant to Another World, the show sadly has a habit of being a bit one-note, and that's the biggest downside to it. Most, if not all, of the episodes tend to follow the same routine -- we are introduced to a character or two who enter the door to the restaurant, either because they already knew about it or because they happened to encounter it by chance and let their curiosity take over. Regardless of which, food is ordered, and we get a fairly boring rundown of how the indiviual components work together, making the meal. It doesn't work, sadly, because while Sweetness and Lightning gave its audience a lesson they can follow up on, Restaurant to Another World is trying to describe taste. This can only work if someone has actually had the items on the menu and happens to be a big enough food nerd to be able to relate to it, but for everyone else, it's just going to come across as meaningless blather. The fact that this show isn't the only one that does this doesn't help either. It has become a bit of a pet peeve of mine, actually, since I've long since ran out of fingers (and toes) to count the many times characters in shows have started going into bizarre details about things they're eating. It's so technical most of the time too, and the only time it really works is in the story arc centered around Princess Adelheid, who had been there as a child and ate some "clouds" (as she put it.) When we meet her as a young adult, she's suffering from some kind of illness that feels a bit reminiscent of depression, though never having suffered one, I can't really say for sure.

Furthermore, it takes away from time that could have been spent letting its varied cast bond over various meals in this restaurant. Aside from Aletta and later Kuro, as well as the aforementioned Red Queen, the many customers of Nekoya are gathered from all over this world, and very rarely do they talk to each other except to bicker over their favorite meals like a bunch of children. We do get some insight over some of the more fringe races, like Gaganpo, who is a member of the lizard people, a race that seems mostly portrayed as sort of a warrior tribe race of hunters and gatherers, where only the strongest are allowed to enter Nekoya and purchase takeaway for everyone else as a diversion from the fish and crocodile they otherwise dine on. Then there's Lionel, whom I'm sure you guessed is the lion guy, is more like a gladiator and mercenary who fights in battles and spends parts of his winnings on meals in Nekoya. Even Victoria, who studies magic, seems to focus hers on how to create food storage containers, like magical fridges or freezers. Which is understandable, don't get me wrong, but it creates this weird disconnect where everyone in this fantasy world are fascinated by the things they see and eat in Nekoya, a different world for all of them, while I sit here wanting to learn more about this fantasy world where most of the show takes place. But no, this show is all about the food, and you will not be permitted to forget it.

And of course, once you start wondering how that door works, that's another thing you will never have properly explained. The doors, wherever they appear, all lead to Nekoya, but there are several of them in this alternative world. This lead to me wondering how they worked if... say, two doors were opened simultaneously on the other side. Would they both fade into existence in the cafe? If one opens, would the other doors merely fade out for a little bit? And how can the door apparently know who enters and exits, since everyone who enters the door from a place will exit out the very same place when they leave. Even if the same person uses a different door later, said door will apparently know to send them back to where they came from. The restaurant often has several guests at once, so it's not a case of which time to enter either. Once these thoughts started entering my mind, they just wouldn't leave, so if I just planted this conundrum into your head, then... uh, my apologies.

Restaurant to Another World had potential to be a really interesting show, but its almost single-minded purpose simply doesn't have the appeal to keep me interested -- once the characters started droning about the food they were eating, I merely tuned them out. It's a bit self-indulgent, to be honest, and drags down what is otherwise a lovely show with an interesting cast I would have liked knowing more about. Hell, I would have liked knowing more about the master's former master, but Restaurant to Another World is being fairly tight-lipped about that too.

This leaves me with the eye candy, and the show does at least deliver there. As a food porn show, the meals themselves do at least look rather delicious, without the pretentiousness that tend to follow high-class establisments. The scenery porn is pretty well done too. Aside from Nekoya looking like a rather cozy place, the enviroments in the alternative world are generally fairly well done, the only downside being that a lot of the buildings -- the ones built with wood in particular -- looking a bit flat. There is a bit of variety of scenery, though, like the elven village, to the forests and islands and even mountains, so you'll never get bored of that, at least.

The character designs lean towards the realistic side too. The master looks like a man in his twenties, while Aletta can be anywhere in the 16-20 range if I judge her looks by human standards. (The show doesn't really say much about the demon race, certainly not their average life span.) The show isn't rife with fanservice, but it's got its fair share. There is a short shower scene with Aletta, where she marvels over the wonders about... well, showers, as well as liquid soap. Kuro makes her arrival to the restaurant stark naked -- mostly played out comedically due to her complete lack of embarrassment -- while Red Queen also needs to wait until she's changed into a human before she can dress like one, though she does so in her own volcano lair being attended by her Balrog butler. Her scene is perhaps the only one that's directly sexual, as she has an impressive figure, to say the least.

I'm not sure how to peg the animation quality. Restaurant to Another World is a fairly quiet show, so people basically stand or sit and talk a lot, and while there are action scenes, they are few and far between. Most of them are decently animated, though, and while there are hints at the show being cheap on occasion -- oddly cheaply drawn characters or weirdly flat backgrounds -- it's not really a big problem. For the most part, the show looks nice, so consider my complaints mostly nitpicks if you like.

In the end, I mostly enjoyed my stint with Restaurant to Another World. If I sound disappointed, then that is just because I hoped for a bit more, or in the case of the food worship, a bit less. I would also have liked a better balance between all the different elements about this show, and certainly less of it being all secretive about itself. Maybe a second season could amend that? One can only hope.

An "almost four". A lot of great potential here that was lost among the almost manical focus on the content of meals, which sadly wasn't enough to carry the show by itself.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: The show doesn't make a secret out of the fact that a lot of people in this fantasy world live and die by the sword (or whichever other weapons said characters use) in addition to the context of racial hatred, which, while not explained to any sort of extent, is still portrayed as quite prevalent. That, and Lionel jams his humongous sword through the neck of a Manticore (I think?), while Sarah is seen killing several members of some sort of Goblin-like race.

But before all that, you get to see a naked Red Queen, having just transformed from her dragon self, which is the closest this show gets to sexual material. Aletta in the shower and Kuro entering the restaurant naked is a bit less so, but still worth mentioning.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Restaurant to Another World © 2017 Silver Link.
 
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