Isekai Shokudo, Shokugeki no Soma, and Rispara: A Three-Course Meal of Food, Character, and Narrative

In my youth, food was always hugely important to my friends and family. Food wasn’t just something you brought to a family reunion or put on the dinner table. It was a way that you connected with one another – a cornerstone of life, physically and socially. Even though I don’t dabble to an intense degree in the cooking arts, it’s because of these early experiences that I’ve always held a vested interest in food and how it connects things and people, and that carried over into my taste in anime. Food holds a solid place in a lot of anime these days (just ask any schoolgirl that’s running late on her first day), but shows that revolve specifically around food aren’t exactly common. That being said, some of the few shows that do focus on food hold a special place in my heart for the fascinating ways that they present food, and for how they give food a central role in their narratives. Here, I’m going to look at just three food-centric shows – Isekai Shokudou, Shokugeki no Soma, and Ristorante Paradiso – and dive into the vastly different ways in which they use food for narrative purposes.

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Princess Principal Episode 9 – Trans-Cultural Connection

As previous history with Princess Principal has indicated thus far, the show has kept consistent with its character explorations with each passing episode, especially if we consider the bombshell that episode eight was. Episode nine chooses to focus once again on the combat expert and resident Nihonjin of the spies, Chise. We already had a pretty solid episode of development dedicated to her earlier in the season, wherein which she faced off with and slayed her father-turned-traitor, and we saw a distinctly human side of her by the end of it. That episode focused somewhat on integrating her into the team, and in many ways, this episode is largely the same, thematically. However, we learn far more about Chise in relation to her Japanese pride and heritage, and how that comes into play with her work as a spy. In a way, though, this episode serves as a deep dive into the character of Princess, as well, using the events of last week as a frame of reference.

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Princess Principal Episode 6 – Somber Shifts

God, what a bummer of an episode.

This episode of Princess Principal, Case 18 – Rouge Morgue, is by all regards a fantastic episode, but is by far the heaviest that we have seen thus far. It follows in the footsteps of episodes 3 and 5, in which we got to know Beatrice and Chise through their own focused episodes, respectively, and this time, our sights are set on Dorothy. Unlike the other character-centric episodes so far, however, this one has little high-octane action, if any, and instead hones in on story. What also sets this episode apart, however, is how decidedly somber it is, and how tonally different it seems to be from the previous episodes. Personally, however, I believe that this brief departure from the show’s established norm makes for a solid, deeply interesting episode, dealing with love, betrayal, and ultimately, death.

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Princess Principal Episode 3 — Ties that Bind

In a development that I have found not at all surprising, Princess Principal episode three serves as yet another thrilling romp through steampunk London with our spy ladies, and it most certainly does not disappoint in any aspect that the previous episodes have lead me to expect. Its quality has remained one of the most consistent among this season’s offerings, and it certainly does not leave me at the end of the episode feeling lacking. Rather, episode three follows a pattern episodes one and two have set in place for us, and it goes to town. Or the sky, rather.

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Country Roads, Take Me Home – Sakura Quest and Making Home Where You Are

As the Spring 2017 season comes to a close, Sakura Quest continues through into the Summer season, I could not be more pleased with any other shows this season getting this chance. As the spiritual successor to P.A. Works’ prior working shows Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako, it feels pretty strongly as though it is living up to that legacy, with a stunning cast of characters and the endearing town of Manoyama. While I love the journey that the show has taken us on thus far, something that has really struck me about the show is its treatment of employment in urban and rural spheres, and how an unstable job market and idealized perceptions of the city and the country affect these employment opportunities. Yoshino’s perspective initially is quite simple: she was, by all accounts, born and raised in a rural town, and as soon as she could, she shot off to Tokyo, the land of big dreams, in search of that certain something that rural towns just couldn’t quite do. Even at the risk of not having a job, Yoshino is of the mind that she will never go back to her hometown, even if she were to have a stable, guaranteed job there. The country just doesn’t have the same spark as the city, or there aren’t the kind of job opportunities that someone like Yoshino in her generation would want to take on for a career. In many ways, these ideas that Yoshino has, as well as being a student fresh out of college that can’t seem to find a job for the life of her, speak to me as a reflection of a several-years-younger General Tofu.

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SukaSuka Episode 10 – Ancient History, Recent Developments

I think that at this point in the season, I’ve become attuned to the fact that SukaSuka is a show where it feels like, and often is the case that surprisingly little happens with each passing episode. The show often manages to delve deep into some worldbuilding, or some deep discussions between characters, but often, much of what passes the time for each episode comes across as being interesting, but ultimately inconsequential with regards to the rest of the show. Although it does still dabble in some of these issues, episode 10 is different. Episode 10 has a lot to say, and what it does say at its crucial points are important. In ways that some prior episodes did not quite reach, it manages to give us the drama, the heartfelt, touching moments, and meaningful worldbuilding that some of the earliest episodes used to inspire such faith in the show in me.

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SukaSuka Episode 7 – Go Home and Be a Family Man

Episode 7 of SukaSuka has most definitely calmed down from the dramatic, lore-filled rollercoaster that episode 6 was. In one respect, this is certainly a good thing, as the previous episode encountered a few hiccups in character motivation and narrative direction, among other things. Episode 7 returns to a very relaxed pace for SukaSuka, somewhat reminiscent of the beginning episodes of the show in how it goes about giving us some information about the world. Frankly, we learn quite a bit of pertinent information here through means that seem quite conversationally natural, and we do have some satisfying emotional payoffs in this piece, as well. At the same time, though, it feels as though we fall into some really odd places with regards to Chtholly’s own sense of self-worth, which once again leaves me feeling like this episode is a bit of a mixed bag.

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