Dec 2, 2019
TGK94 (All reviews)
The Fate series has gotten a bit... unwieldy over the years. It starts off fairly comprehensibly: a hit visual novel from 2004, a sequel, a prequel, and several anime adaptations. Fair enough. But as you move through the series’ fifteen-year history, things begin to get increasingly strange. A magical girl spinoff? A dungeon crawler RPG? A cash-cow-turn-based-strategy-visual-novel-hybrid-gacha mobile game? At times, it can seem as though TYPE-MOON and company are less interested in meaningfully progressing the series and more interested in pushing the boundaries of the time-money continuum. And then you come to perhaps the most seemingly egregious, the most apparently bizarre entry in the Fate series yet: the cooking spinoff. When I first heard that ufotable was animating Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan, I thought the concept was laughable. I couldn’t help but wonder, why would I want to watch the characters of this action series sit around peacefully and eat food together? Well, after watching the show, I realize how foolish I was. Now I can only retort with another question: why did I ever want to watch them do anything else?

Simply put, Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan is the Fate series at its comfiest. All your favorite characters (and Shirou) return from Fate/stay night but they’ve been smoothed out around the edges for the most blissful viewing experience possible. Lancer works as a fish salesman. Caster wants to be a good housewife for Kuzuki. Archer and Shirou share a friendly rivalry. Berserker does menial labor around the house. Seeing all these mortal enemies acting so congenially with one another was a bit jarring at first, but they quickly formed such a pleasant dynamic that I almost questioned why the original visual novel tasks them to fight in the first place. Who has time for violence when there’s so much tasty food to be eaten?

And there is indeed a tremendous amount of tasty food to be eaten. A typical episode of this show consists of Shirou and friends engaging in some wholesome pastime (cleaning the Tohsaka mansion, Christmas festivities at the Einsbern estate, etc.), until someone mentions that it might be time to eat. And then things start to heat up. The music swells, the kitchen utensils come out, and the cooking begins. These cooking scenes are everything you could reasonably want them to be: Shirou breaks down his process step by step and shows off a wide array of delectable ingredients while other characters sit by and watch in hungry reverence. At the end of a standard cooking sequence, we are left with a few deliciously rendered dishes and a specific enough list of ingredients and steps that viewers could conceivably replicate the dishes themselves. Neat!

(Full disclosure: I’m a terrible cook and have not tried to make any of the foods depicted in this anime. That said, if you are interested in replicating them, the last page of each chapter of the manga contains that chapter’s recipe clearly written out for your convenience.)

It would be a bit reductive, however, to say that this is a show strictly about cooking. If anything, Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan is “about” cooking in much the same way K-On! is “about” rock music—it drives the plot, sure, but it is more a vehicle for the laid back slice-of-life moments than it is the central appeal of the show. Perhaps other viewers will disagree, but for me seeing Shirou cook some mouthwatering food was not nearly as enjoyable as the scene of Saber happily eat it up that inevitably came afterwards. Granted, I’m kind of… in love with Saber so I might be slightly biased here. But that aside, it is definitely fair to say that if you, like me, enjoyed Fate/stay night but wished that it had more scenes of the cast screwing around and having a good time, then this is the show for you. At only twelve minutes an episode, we don’t get to see much of said good-time-having, but what we do get to see is downright delightful.

And what about aesthetics? As mentioned earlier, this show was animated by ufotable, but with the exception of the hilariously intense beach volleyball match in episode 7, Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan contains few of the sorts of detailed action sequences that this studio is known for. Still, they manage to bring the easygoing happenings of the manga to life effectively, and they do so in its own rather simplistic sketchy art-style rather than the glossier one associated with other entries of the Fate series. The character animation is not up to the standard of, say, a Kyoto Animation production, but it also doesn’t really have much reason to be. This is a mellower, smaller-scale production, and its simple art-style and animation fit this tone and scale.

A few brief notes about the audio: The voice cast returns from Fate/stay night and their performances here share in the mellowness of the animation. Noriaki Sugiyama, in particular, plays a much milder Shirou than he typically does, which was a great relief to me, as I usually find his performance somewhat grating. With regards to the music there is little to say—it is fittingly low-key, with the notable exception of the cooking sequences whose dramatic backing track give them an amusing sense of loftiness. And I suppose I would be amiss not to mention the opening song, which is so infectiously cheery that it is genuinely impossible to be sad while listening to it. That’s worth something, I’m sure.

Conclusion: Emiya-san Chi no Kyou no Gohan has wholesome happenings, tasty food, cute character interactions, and most importantly, lots of shots of Saber eating happily. So, while a cooking spinoff may seem like an odd direction for the Fate series to take, it manages to be a surprisingly satisfying experience. This show never aims high, and for that reason I feel uncomfortable rating it higher than a 7, but it does succeed admirably in its small-scale ambitions. Delightful stuff!