Yotsuiro Biyori – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Our story takes place in Japanese Style Tea House “Rokuhoudou” which is quite popular due to the great efforts of Sui (shop manager in charge of tea), Gre (in charge of Latte Art), Tsubaki (in charge of desserts) and Tokitaka (in charge of the food). Not only do the excel in hospitality for their customers, but they also help out with their worries from time to time. A series of endearing stories that take place in this heartful restaurant. Who will be their customers today? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Too often Slice of Life anime cannot find that needed balance between a laid back atmosphere and maintaining a level of comedy or drama to keep their story engaging. Slice of Life can’t just be the average day to day all the time, otherwise the truth of the matter is they become boring, stilted, and altogether uninteresting save for generating a calm, easy going atmosphere for a very select kind of viewer. Yotsuiro Biyori seems a series that hasn’t found that needed balance.
This first episode is all about atmosphere. We follow around a young woman looking for a place to work, a relaxing environment to get lost in as she struggles with her job. She doesn’t seem to be a mainstay, or a reoccurring character, but rather the lens through which we get to know this restaurant setting and the four beautiful men who run it.
It doesn’t take long to see that Biyori has no drama, no conflict, and little comedy. We spend the first half of the episode mostly wallowing in the shop’s atmosphere with only the most minor of character flourishes to pepper an otherwise dull landscape. The woman comes in and sits down, largely resisting food save for the order of a latte. One gag sticks out, a joke about one of the character’s ability to draw a rabbit with cream in the girl’s latte, but it’s the only truly memorable aspect of these first ten minutes.
It’s only after these first ten, utterly boring, minutes that the show starts to actually exhibit personality. Namely this happens when we turn attention from our one off lady and to the men who actually run things. They go on errands, take breaks, and discuss stuff, leading to some actual characterization. We get a little bit more quirky, a little bit sillier, and the characters start to display their personalities in a stronger way. By then though it feels a little too late. First impressions are everything, or nearly anyway, and what personality is exhibited here still feels so much more mundane than it needs to be in order to offset the exceedingly dull start.
Outside of wallowing in the atmosphere, which is what the show returns to after its brief character skit, we’re periodically treated to displays of ‘food porn,’ showcases of beautiful food art that’ll likely have you wishing this tea shop and restaurant was just a block away. Anime’s recent obsession with food, and the success that’s had with audiences, is starting to go the same way as Mecha or Idols. It’s starting to show up everywhere, just like fan service can also eek its way into so many titles that don’t really need it. While the food does look good, and sort of helps to set the atmosphere, what the series really needs is character. Punchy dialogue, overtly interesting characters and something to really suck us in. We don’t need more attention thrown to the mundane, and by doing so only further hampers Yotsuiro Biyori’s ability to achieve the balance between easy going and traditional entertainment it so desperately needs.
Unforutantely Biyori never achieves that, and by episode’s end I think exists solely as an anime for viewers who are absolutely enthralled by that easy going atmosphere and need nothing else. There’s nothing else gripping to the series and Biyori feels like a Slice of Life series prepared to put people to sleep. Heck it even feels like a series half asleep itself.
Yotsuiro Biyori is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.