Isekai Izakaya

Genre(s): Food, Isekai

Age-Appropriateness: 8+

Platforms: Crunchyroll

Episodes: 24 fifteen-minute episodes

TheAwersome Rating: 8.4 / 10 (If you know, you know)

Premise: Izakaya “Nobu” is a modest establishment, staffed by only two people: master, Nobuyuki Yazawa, and server, Shinobu Senke. Despite its humble appearance, its entrance is mysteriously connected to an ancient city from another world: “Aitheria.” Nobu’s patrons consist of lazy palace guards, incognito clergymen, and the Waterworks Guildmaster – not your average clientele! But once they enter Nobu’s doors, they are greeted with the finest alcohol and dishes the likes of which they’ve never seen. The patrons leave their troubles at the door as they experience the delightful cuisine of Japan.

TheAwersome’s Thoughts: This started out pretty simple and I thought it was going to be like an expanded Wakakozake where it just goes into detail on some various Japanese pub foods. And at the beginning, that’s how it was: we’d get a new customer from various walks of life experiencing a somewhat staple Japanese dish for the first time and get to see their reactions to it. But as the series continued, it went beyond the food and into the atmosphere and family that small “Mom and Pop” restaurants can create. The relationship between store owners and regulars, regulars and newcomers, the small feuds about what the “best” item on the menu is, etc. The respect and reverence for the establishment as an oasis and escape from life’s troubles, a place where everybody knows your name.

TLDR: Another cozy food anime that centers on the unique joys and experience that only a small establishment can bring.

Note: An Izakaya is a Japanese bar/restaurant where one typically has the intention of staying for a while. They don’t typically have the “divey” atmosphere one associates with a pub or bar, but frequently feature grilled or fried food that’s prepared in view of the customers. Not full-on hibachi style where it’s done at your table, but the kitchen just isn’t in a separated back room.

An interesting thing about the format of this show is that the actual anime content of each episode is more accurately twelve minutes. The remaining three minutes of each episode are live-action “Nobu plus” segments. These alternate between having a chef make an “at home” version of a dish that was presented in that episode or having someone take us to an IRL Izakaya or restaurant in Japan that specializes in a dish that was featured in the episode. It was neat to see the different ways some of these dishes could be approximated, though often times we found ourselves wishing they’d just give an actual recipe than the highly substituted version.

Back in the first few years of our marriage, Harbour and I started and ran a mocktail (non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks) business. For a large part of that time, we partnered up with a small restaurant that had three, sometimes four people that ran the whole thing. We were there with them three to four nights a week for the entire shift, so we got a very good taste of the magic that a small “hole-in-the-wall” establishment can bring. The relationship that forms between regulars and the staff, regulars and other regulars, is something special and unique to places like that, and not easy to find outside of it.

While it’s obviously stressful and it prohibits one from having a conventional social life, it becomes its own magnificent, though sometimes dysfunctional, family. People from walks of life that would ordinarily never interact with one another come to know those special secrets and intricacies of one another’s life that they won’t even tell their family. What starts as an appreciation of great food becomes a deep bond to staff, patrons, tradition, and the culture that gets set forth. I could tell you more about the intricacies of the love lives and family drama of the head chef than I could about my own sister for crying out loud.  

And that entire atmosphere, tight bond and love was portrayed so acutely and accurately in Isekai Izakaya that we found ourselves getting emotional and nostalgic on multiple occasions. While it isn’t something I’d want to do for my entire life, it is something that we both treasure deeply and managed to change a lot of our outlooks on life.  

I will say this much, so advertisers take note. In my 30 years of seeing beer commercials shoved down my throat nonstop, I have never once in my life ever thought “Oh my gosh that sounds/looks like something I want.” Until I watched this show. It has never looked so appealing, refreshing, and satisfying as it does in this show, so if you’re trying to be sober and wanting to avoid temptation, maybe pass on this one. For the record, I’ve still never had beer and don’t ever plan to, but it was interesting that this is the first time it’s ever looked enjoyable.

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