At the bottom floor of the building with a dog signboard, in the shopping district near the office street, there lies a cafeteria called "Youshoku no Nekoya," that has an illustration of a cat on the door. It's been open for fifty years and has satisfied various salarymen from nearby offices. Despite it being called a Western cuisine cafeteria, it also provides other varieties of menus. For the people of this certain world, it's their one-and-only special cafeteria.
There is, however, one secret to "Nekoya." The cafeteria is closed to the public every Saturday in order to make way for special guests. When a bell rings, customers from different places of birth and races appear who ask for mysterious and delicious dishes. They are actually the same dishes served to the salarymen, but these special guests find them to be more exotic than to what they are used to. As the cafeteria aims to serve masterpieces, it is usually referred as "Isekai Shokudou."
The isekai genre is really becoming a hot new trend of recent years. From RPG game settings to being reborn into a fantasy world, it’s a genre that has attracted a lot of attention. One of the biggest shows from last year, Re:Zero really took that to a darker side. It seems these days, isekai focuses too much on fantasy adventures – the typical story involving survival, battling monsters, or forming guilds. Any fan of open world and MMORPG games knows these formulas as they make up a good deal of the gaming market as well. Then, there’s Isekai Shokudou, a show that takes on
the isekai genre but formulates it into something much more different.
Also known as ‘Restaurant to Another World’, the series combines elements of fantasy, slice of life, and cooking. Coming into this show, I didn’t originally have high expectations. I would ask myself, “what’s so special about a show with cooking?” That was originally my first impression anyway as the first few episodes introduces the setting and characters. Make no mistake, the series’ title is what it is. The main setting takes place at a restaurant known as the “Yoshoku no Nekoya” (Western Cuisine Cat Restaurant). From the outside, it looks rather unremarkable. Still, it’s the inside that may surprise you especially with the delicious dishes it serves. More importantly are the characters that visits and work there.
This anime consists of a very small cast of main characters. It all begins when the owner of the shop discovers Aletta, a demon girl eating discreetly at his restaurant. Having being rejected by the human world, she finds work at Nekoya and serves as a valuable asset. Joining them is Kuro, a strange black-horned elf girl who serves as a waitress to pay off her bills. Although the show consists of a small character cast, the Red Queen is one other distinguishing character to take notice as she has her own personal reasons to visit Nekoya. With a cast this small, it feels like the show is taking a daring risk to craft any story. To be honest, this show doesn’t have much of a plot as each episode is like a story of its own. The main premise is how this special restaurant brings otherworldly customers on Saturdays each week. These characters ranges from elves, fairies, animal men, and even dragons. From my perspective, the show doesn’t really need to rely on a concrete plot as it demonstrates the ability to entertain with its slice of life content. It achieves this with character interactions between the staff and patrons. While these patrons usually possesses otherworldly features, they behave just like normal human beings. It also helps that the show takes time to get us to know these characters. Some episodes gives us insight about their background stories, the world they came from, and even their origins. As a show that relies much more on its characters than story, it gives more reasons for the audience to care about them.
Despite the show being very lighthearted, it still has some light drama such as fantasy discrimination. It’s why Aletta is ostracized from the human world in the first place. In addition, noble characters such as the half-elf Victoria forbids themselves to marry. On the other hand, dragons are (particularly the elder ones) are worshipped like Gods. To say the least, the cultural drama of the show is just enough to make it watchable but not enough to brew up a story.
Now, how can we forget about the food? After all, it’s what the patrons are there for in the first place. Believe me, this series really knows how to craft its dishes. There’s all sorts of food introduced ranging from meat cutlets, fried shrimp, spaghetti, tofu steak, sandwiches, curry, buns, etc. As you can see, the cuisine is diverse and often adapts with each episode’s style. Each episode has new types of characters coming so each it introduces new food on the menu. I’m also surprised by the realistic details of the food as it looks very credible. The coloring, texture, and context overall make the food very convincing. Add the patrons’ reactions and you’ll quickly understand why.
Adapted by Silver Link, the anime has a colorful vibe and solid visual quality with its character designs. The fantasy elements is very evident with the otherworldly characters and their different worlds. By character designs, they reflect on high fantasy traits such as with elf’s ears, demon’s horns, animalistic features of the animal men, etc. It’s very stylistic as the show makes them look convincingly as possible. The restaurant itself doesn’t look very remarkable as it has a very simple design, both inside and outside. There’s minimal fan service in this show as it really relies much more on the food to catch a viewer’s attention. Overall though, I think Silver Link got their point across when decorating the colorful style of the anime.
I can’t say for a fact that the soundtrack of the show will be memorable. It’s mostly lighthearted and hardly noticeable most of the time. What did take my notice is the voice acting especially with Kuro. She’s perhaps the most unique character in the show as she communicates telepathically with others. She also has a stoic personality so stepping into the shoes of such a character is never easy. Thankfully, her role in the show is memorable for those traits thanks to the modern talents of Saori Oonishi.
To be fair, Isekai Shokudou really lacks in storytelling and if you’re seeking a colorful plot, then look elsewhere. Almost every episode feels the same and doesn’t make much attempt to change despite different characters being featured. It’s also a show that can hardly make anyone laugh as its comedy side feels stale. However, I would say this show is recommendable especially if you’re more interested in a slice of life-fantasy anime. Every episode itself has a story and brings together characters to create something worth to talk about. The cooking elements is well-detailed and really offer an interesting side to culinary arts. This is a show that I didn’t regret watching as story isn’t always what matters on the menu.
"When a strange door appears in front us, we should enter it with curious expectations, but I bet you, it won't be a restaurant."
The restaurant "Youshoku no Nekoya" is known for the different dishes from the menu, but in this case, it is also known by the irregular persons that visit it on the Satur day.
A magical door appears every seven days in different fantasy worlds allowing dragons, elf, dwarfs, human heroes and a select diverse group of lucky creatures to vist a restaurant from other world and taste all flavors that can not be found in their lands.
Your first impression could be
"the story is weak and lacks action." However, the story doesn't need action, fights, war, etc. The story's strength is in the attention to the details of the dishes, the feelings about the dishes, the taste, the flavors, the texture, and the background of the restaurant visitors.
For me, it was nice seeing how the fantastic characters converged on a simple restaurant and they were able to create a small background of each one with some few minor stories or plot lines.
The story has lots of characters, but they are unique and different. We can see some differences between each other. They like different dishes, they look different, and they came from different worlds. The design of each character varies. For example, there is a lion beast, and you could end seeing some drunk dwarf. The only relation that they have is a restaurant door even if they are from the same world. When they enter it, they are prepared for the worst, but they understand that is a place with fantastic food and different clients. It was excellent seeing that if a character goes to other "areas" or another kingdom, it could meet characters from the restaurant. That attention to the details of the writers is the strength of the show, call me silly, but that's how a great story is done.
There isn't a principal character. Perhaps, the human Chef and the two waitresses (demon and dragon) are the most important characters for the story. They received a bit more background than the general characters. They share the same feelings towards the restaurant, the food and they enjoy working there.
The sound mix is good. We aren't going to complain about it. The OP song "One In A Billion," is amazing. You will have that rhythm and lyrics inside your head for some hours.
The art is great. I thought with the constant character changes the art could have a degradation of quality but no. The art and design use a vast color palette, lighting, and differs on the locations. The details of each character even if it appears a couple of minutes was outstanding and focus on the origin of the character. Those details, the combination of few plotlines, and a small story creates a character background. (Hope that the people from TROYCA and Re: Creators learn something from this animation. You can build a character with motion and few plot lines, lesson learned).
Finally, the story could be boring to several spectators seeking action, but this anime isn't for everyone. Also, it isn't bad changing the genre from time to time and relax a bit while you enjoy some different short stories connected with the restaurant. I will recommend this show but with a small advice, do not expect fights, wars, etc. The animation focuses on the dishes and their description, the feeling from each character towards a different flavor and savor.
Isekai is a very tiresome genre. Quite honestly with all of the new 'transporting to a new world' adding only one or two arbitrary things in order to make it unique, the concept just appears...lazy. So, now we're gonna transport a restaurant to another world. And...it's actually pretty good. Huh.
Story: There are legends of a strange door that appears all over the world on the day of Satur known as "Western Restaurant Nekoya". Within the door lies an establishment that takes in gold and silver coins in exchange for food not seen or known to others. Marvels like curry, parfaits, and natto that people have
never seen before. It is a gift, a strange magical occurrence wrought about by fate. At least that's how I expect someone from the 'other world' to explain whatever's happening.
With the plot point of an oak door inexplicably showing up in random places all over a fantasy world really never being touched on in the series, ever, the plot of Isekai Shokudou focuses primarily on the stories of its patrons as we're shown their dining experience in the restaurant and get a glimpse at what this 'other world' is like. In essence, the entire show is centered around world building with the restaurant being the centerpiece that draws in all of these beings from all walks of life to come and tell their story and reaction to the food.
And that's it. That is literally the entire show in a nutshell. The show's simplistic nature is definitely its one and only strong point because each week brings about something new for the audience to watch due to vast variety of characters that come in through the restaurant's hallowed door. It's a story that could be regarded as boring to some, but ultimately is a relaxed experience that didn't need to be high octane due to how well its formula worked, despite the formula being incredibly stale.
+ Simple story
+ Tons of worldbuilding
- Can be boring for some
Characters: The nameless chef simply known as 'Master' is really just a figurehead to the whole thing. Rarely does the show ever focus on him, and when it does, is very little that it's clear that we're only getting a small sample of something that could be developed more. The amount of detail he gets is ok, and it does actually explain the inexplicable door if you infer enough liberties, but selfishly speaking, I would like a little more detail.
Despite that slight problem, the rest of the cast is rich and vibrant with a whole host of fantasy beings eating in a place that has a menu somehow large and diverse enough to satisfy and feed the desires of so many different patrons. (All prepared and cooked by only one guy no less.) While remembering everyone's names is virtually impossible, the one takeaway is the audience coming out of every episode having heard a new story or event involving the restaurant. Each A part and B part of an episode focuses on someone different, thus making the formulaic setup for the show all the more enjoyable because in one episode, you could be seeing a treasure hunter reminisce about her grandfather, and in another, you're watching lizardmen do a ritual. As a result, every episode feels fresh and different, making the viewer coming back wanting seconds to know who's gonna show up in the next episode.
+ Very good side cast
+/- Wish the master got more attention
Art: Produced by Silver Link, Isekai Shokudou has a bright and glossy look to it with rich and bright colors to accentuate the entirety of the show's fantasy image. Despite that, movement is rather limited in this show, as the calmer feel of the show seemed to divert all of the budget from animating movement to the quality of the characters and backgrounds. Not to say that's a bad thing, but it's the show itself seems to have an overall lack of character movement because you're basically watching a bunch of people and creatures eat rice omelettes and curry, so anything beyond brisk walks and sitting down is too much to be expected.
Also the food. It is very high quality. It also makes me hungry.
+ High quality, clean art
Sound: Both the show's OP and ED compliment the two combined aspects of the show's centerpiece: the fantasy element and the homely element. "One In A Billion" is an energetic, bright piece that evokes the show's fantasy feel and the kind of wonderment that these beings have when they embark on a journey into a strange place they've never been to.
In contrast, "Chiisana Hitotsubu", the show's ED, is a somber piece with a soft piano beat as a sort of cap off to the visual meal that the show presents. It's a satisfying piece that has its merits present with how, like many, the restaurant's regulars have attachments to the foods that they order when they visit.
+ Good, satisfying tracks
Personal Enjoyment: Despite this being one of the shortest reviews I've written in recent years because the show is so easy to explain, Isekai Shokudou really isn't something that I can really detail without meticulously picking apart and explaining the twenty four to twenty six individual stories that the show features. It's such a simple yet flexible concept that I can't help but want more. It's relaxing, it's satisfying, it may be formulaic, but it's still good.
What did I like about this anime?
Honestly, the lizardmen one is probably my favorite of the bunch. Iunno, it's just really amusing to see how they created an entirely new ritual for the arrival of the door. Also Lionel's was pretty satisfying too.
What didn't I like about this anime?
I wish Kuro was given the time of day. She shows up so late in the series and really doesn't make as much of an impact as her coworker does. (Granted Aletta did have more time.) I just wish we got more with her because she was too amusing to not have more of. Also a number of the later stories aren't as well written as some of the earlier ones. Also I wish the show gave us at least one scene with all of the regulars showing up at once and rambunctiously associating with one another. Cause the restaurant always looks so empty with the show having only the featured character story be the only patron in the restaurant at one time.
Would I recommend this anime?
If you want something healing, Isekai Shokudou is a great fit. Again, the show is very formulaic. Week after week it's the same thing. But every story is different and there's a sense of progression as more and more regulars enter the establishment and start sitting among the new arrivals. It's the kind of storyline leaving you hungry for more with each new episode that really makes the show interesting and fun to watch.
Isekai Shokudou is a special anime, is not an anime you would expect to have an epic story or something like that. It is just relaxing, like any other Slice of Life should be... Well, it doesn't exactly have the tag of Slice of Life, but pretty much feels like its meant to be taken as such. So if you are here expecting an epic story or a really meaningful anime, you will only get dissapointed. Now, if what you want is something different than your usual Harem, Ecchi, Generic Anime, or something not as lewd as Shokugeki no Souma, this anime will be
a good ride for you. It still has some sort of fanservice, but not as invasive as other shows.
TL;DR Overall Section
Don't expect much from the story, the only thing you need to know is that there is a door that leads to a restaurant, a door that connects other worlds and that only opens once each 7 days (in the day of "Satur"). But, even if there isn't much of a story, the world building of this anime is pretty exquisite, each episode you will get to know about the different races that lives on the other world, featuring Sirens, Beastmans, Princesses, Elves, Dragons, Mermaids, Lizardmans, or just any other kind of adventurer that finds the door. Its like the kind of "rest area" you will find when you play an RPG game, its serves no purpose over the story but to let you rest and buy things for your journey (in this case food) overall, due to the lack of a significant plot, the story goes by 5/10
The strongest point of the art on an anime like this, are the dishes, how tasty they look, how appealing they look, and the impact it does when a customer eats it. But not only that, as for the world building, there are some places on the other world that are pretty beautiful for the eye to look at (this is were the "relaxing" part comes into play) so meanwhile you hear a fitting soundtrack and beautiful landscapes, you will probably find yourself eating something (I admit, this show can make someone hungry lol) while hearing how the characters are reacting to the occasion. What gives me more curiosity is the moon of the other world, which its quite shattered and looks like something bad happened there. Overall the art goes by 8/10
Both OP and ED are okay overall. I like the voice acting in general, I didn't find myself hating a character over its Seiyuu or any other kind of annoying sound, the soundtrack does a decent job portraying the landscapes that we get to see when we are exploring into the character's past that comes from the other world. I find myself at ease when hearing to the OST of this anime, so the Sound department goes by 7/10
There aren't that much of significant character development, the characters are there and serves for world building while they are being introduced to the restaurant. Maybe the most mysterious character is this "Wilhelm" which is the one that founded the restaurant. Aside of that, Aletta and Kuro are very likable characters. Aletta is a low-tier demon that always wanted to be useful on whatever she finds for a job, sadly, demons aren't that well received on the other world, but thanks to this restaurant, she finds more confidence for herself and starts having a good time on the other world. As for Kuro, she is one of the dragons that lives on the other world, she is introduced a bit late in the show, but she is still an important character, she's commanded by the red dragon to protect the restaurant from bad people. She's very skilled in a certain amount of areas, like speaking to the mind of the customers or having strong resistance to curses, so she pretty much is a good addition to the restaurant, since she can do both, protect the restaurant, and customer service. Overall for the characters, 7/10 might be good
So again, if you are into this slice of life kind of anime, you will surely enjoy this anime for what it has to offer, there isn't much, but quite enough. As enjoyment value, a 8/10 will do the job for those that looks for something different rather than the usual you can get to see on a season
Overall 7/10: Relaxing, nice world building, gorgeous landscapes and food, and a nice character cast.