Restaurant to Another World – Anime Preview
Synopsis: There is a certain restaurant in the first basement level of a multi-tenant building in one corner of a shopping street near the office district. The historical 70-year-old restaurant, marked by a sign with a picture of a cat, is called “Western Cuisine Nekoya.” This restaurant looks completely normal through the week, but on Saturdays, it opens in secret exclusively to some very unique guests. During these hours, doors in various areas of a parallel world open to allow customers of many different races and cultures into the restaurant. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Restaurant is the first show this season to visually pop. It features vibrant colors, classic, yet appealing fantasy character designs and some quality ‘food porn’ that looks absolutely delicious.
Linny: The story and narrative style feels a little disjointed so far. The episode opens with a voice over conversation between two unseen men (who are identified through a photo later) but the exact significance of their conversation is vague. Then later on, the episode features a powerful dragon lady who keeps speaking in veiled sentences ever so often that will ultimately make you wonder exactly what she means with any of them.
Tom: Despite the art, and ignoring the oddities in storytelling for a moment, it’s another slow start of the season. We spend half the episode teasing a mere whiff of Restaurant’s other worldly concept. As Linny mentioned, there’s a disjointed element to it all as we sort of dance around the show’s concept. But this approach to introducing the show’s basic premise generates a lack of narrative. Since the show doesn’t want to spell itself out yet we’re left with smaller events and minor interactions that are dragged out. It’s only in the second half of the episode that things pick up, and not by much. Part of the trouble is how straight Restaurant wants to play itself. It’s not to say that Restaurant needs a gaggle of quirky characters and comedy, although it does list itself as a comedic series, but it needs more personality, more unique traits and reactions to its events.
Linny: In parts the animation and logic don’t always feel strong, particularly in regards to Aletta, our newly hired waitress character. First off, while the cook does offer her employment, a shower and even new clothes, he seems perfectly content to banish her back to sleeping in a broken down roofless ruin when not working. This is probably overthinking but it does seem rather cruel and illogical that she be forced to go back and sleep on a bale of straw in a ruin right after all the wonderful things she’s given. And then there’s the fact that in trying to establish her tragic back story, the show makes her cap magically sail off her head for no good reason other than to push the story forward. There’s no animated wind or gust that forces the hat off and this is while she is bending to pick up a fork. You’d think she’d have tested the hat for security and fit before using it to hide her very important secret.
Tom: The big seller here really is the food. The show makes such a fuss over the cooking of this other worldly restaurant, and downplays so much else, that it’s very clear Restaurant to Another World is centered on attracting that particular niche demographic interested in seeing delicious cooking animated and depicted with the utmost flare.
Linny: Character wise the show doesn’t do the best job of making its potential characters feel unique or defined. Aletta comes off as your typical innocent small town girl with big dreams of making it in the city all while having to deal with a secret that could cause her trouble. Tenshu, our main character, gets even less defining traits other than the fact that he is a good enough cook to command respect even among all sorts of monsters and nice enough to hire a homeless and hungry girl instead of chewing her out for sneaking in and eating all his prepped food.
Tom: It’s hard to discuss the characters too much because, like a number of anime this season, Restaurant is focused more so on introducing its core concept rather than the cast. There’s maybe three characters with major screen time here and none are defined to any significant degree. Tenshu, the chef of the restaurant and his newly hired waitress, Aretta, are the most ‘explored.’ Linny discussed the two main stays, but there’s also Aka no Joou, a seductive dragon woman that can change beyond her human and bestial form. She features quite a bit through this episode, but remains mysterious enough that besides the sexualization of her design, and the spectacle of her dragon form, she fails to leave much of a mark.
Linny: Anime is notorious for making food look appealing and Restaurant to Another World does not disappoint. Unfortunately when it comes to characters and plot, the premiere hasn’t done an amazing job on making itself and its cast stand out to irresistible degrees. But it has done enough to potentially entice viewers who are intrigued by the concept, and if it manages to make its story more coherent and cast more appealing in the coming episodes, it could still emerge a worthwhile watch. For now though, based on its first episode, I personally wouldn’t get my hopes too high.
Tom: Restaurant to Another World, much like Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, feels like a series that could really grow from its first episode. It’s a lame duck opening, but it feels like there’s hidden potential beneath that. While its porn-like, food artwork is likely to impress that niche audience, it needs a bit more to become an overall crowd pleasure. If it can turn things around and really define its leads with discernible, memorable personalities, it could easily become a stand out for the season.
Restaurant to Another World is available for streaming via Crunchyroll