Kakuriyo hits a lot of the key points for me in terms of a series that I know I’m going to be interested in long-term. It has a focus on youkai, and as you probably know by now, I will forever be drawn to series that use concepts of mythology and the supernatural. But it keeps going further, by blending this youkai base with concepts of cooking and romance. In essence, it becomes its own weird isekai/cooking genre, with similarities to say Restaurant to Another World where the main character is forced to cook for youkai and other interesting characters with the romance integrated into the main plotline but not overshadowing it. I have to say at the end of watching the last cour, I do find myself liking the series as a whole and might pursue looking into the manga since the volumes are just starting to publish here in the US. However, I do have certain problems with the series, but those mainly focus on the quality of animation.
The second cour of Kakuriyo picks right up where the first cour ended, and while I only went up to episode 12 in the last review, I would say the second cour starts around episode 14. It’s within these first couple episodes that we see the beginning of the second major story arc with the arrival of the head of the competing Southern inn Orio-ya, Ranmaru. We met some of the employees of this inn before in the last cour, but it is here that it is revealed that Ginji’s status as a Tenjin-ya employee is only temporary, and he called back to Orio-ya to complete a special “ceremony”. In an effort to prevent this from happening and convince him to come back, Aoi threatens Ranmaru and Ougon-douji and is promptly kidnapped and taken with them to Orio-ya where her struggles begin anew.
One of the first parts I noticed about the new cour is the new opening. The new song is titled “A Dream of the Temporal World” (or Utsushiyo no Yome) by Nano. I loved the first opening song for the way it blended traditional and modern sounds and instruments. This second opening is much the same, living up to the previous feel of the first one with the heavy use of traditional instruments throughout the song while keeping it light and energetic throughout. It makes for a pretty great opening for the series, especially when you consider the content of the series as whole: Aoi’s new life in a more traditional world of ayakashi with her more modern ideals challenging and blending with their ideals and world. We get that sense of blending through the opening song, creating a great tone right at the start of the episode.
One of the biggest issues I have with the series as a whole is the animation quality. Studio Gonzo’s quality can honestly vary widely throughout the series, and I found that some of these lower quality moments were bad enough that they started breaking my immersion in the story. I feel like anime has always had problems with crowd and background character animation. A lot of the time it’s done using 3D that looks too stiff or isn’t blended correctly with the surrounding light and shading of the scene. I saw the same 3D animation issues in this Kakuriyo as well. The few background characters Aoi would walk past on her way through the market areas were all 3D animated, and they all stood out like a sore thumb. Their movements were stiff and awkward and their bodies just generally stood out from the surrounding 2D animation.
Another complaint I had was the quality of the facial animations for all the characters. There were a lot of times when I felt that the expressions on characters were kind of bland, especially in highly emotional scenes. It creates this weird conflict between the expressiveness in the character’s voice as the voice actor is obviously trying to portray the character’s emotions through their dialogue, and the characters facial expressions that just seem to be lacking the same emotional punch. Bland expressions in moments of high tension just bring down the general feel of a scene. I also saw problems with the mouth-flap animations that created another layer of awkwardness for dialogue delivery and the character’s expression. Now not all mouth flaps match dialogue fully, and I get that, but here it seems like the animation itself just wound up looking awkward on the face. Being just slightly off-center or the shape of the mouth itself being a little off. It’s a bit of a nit-picky issue for me, but it becomes another aspect that can occasionally break immersion.
I think the founding theme of Kakuriyo really comes through in this arc. Like I mentioned at the start, the series itself is pretty much an isekai story wherein Aoi is transported to a new world and must make a place for herself there. She is first transported to Tenjin-ya where she struggles to keep Moonflower open and cook interesting food for the guests of the inn. In this cour, she is again transported to a new place, effectively starting the whole process over again with Orio-ya. The main driving theme of the series is the importance of cooking and proving your worth through the skills that you know or have acquired. Aoi proves her worth to Tenjin-ya by pleasing important customers with her cooking and tenacity in the face of adversity. Now she has to start all over again at Orio-ya, proving that she can stand up for herself and she’s useful through her cooking abilities.
The importance of food and of sharing food comes into focus here as well. It becomes apparent just how important eating and cooking together can be for relationships in general. Take the conflict between Matsuba and Hatori. It starts with an argument over food and the feelings of nostalgia that food has the ability to induce. They each have different memories of the same dish because different people originally cooked it for them. Matsuba associates this dish with his mother and Hatori with his mother. That dish is a reflection of each of their relationships with their mothers and thus becomes a point of high tension that eventually gets Hatori thrown out of the family. It’s only through Aoi making them realize through her food that these feelings father and son are having are the same that they can begin to reconcile. Eating the meal together, feeling and talking about the nostalgia it brings out in them, and finding a new way of relating to each other is the power of food and cooking that the series is trying to express here.
We get a similar feeling of importance from cooking and how it relates to relationships in the interactions between Odanna and Aoi. Their relationship is more on the romantic side, but the concept is the same: the act of cooking together and sharing a meal is integral to a relationship. We see the growth of their relationship and of Odanna’s character through how they both interact together around food. Odanna comes to be jealous of Aoi and Ginji’s relationship because he gets to help her out in the kitchen at Moonflower. So at the first chance he gets, he jumps on helping her cook for Matsuba and Hatori. He sees cooking as an integral part of her life, something that is truly important to her, and he wants to be part of that, to understand it better. I really think that’s a great bit of character growth for him to have, especially because their relationship started with him kidnapping her. We see his pride lessen and his relationship with Aoi grow through her gifts of food and his contributions to her making food (ie. buying groceries for her, taking her to different markets, and allowing her to cook to her heart’s content in Moonflower and Orio-ya). It’s through these actions that we can see Odanna starting to consider himself more equal to Aoi than above her.
However, her relationship with food becomes this cour’s biggest conflict. Aoi’s relationship with cooking is one that is integral to her self worth. She questions what her worth as a person would be if not for her skills in cooking, and therein lies the opportunity to test that. What happens when Aoi loses that ability? Through the conniving nature of Raiju, Aoi loses her sense of taste, obviously an important sense to have when you’re cooking. She begins to question her worth as a person, as we begin to see that her relationship with cooking and food could possibly be construed as unhealthy. But I think this process and conflict is an integral one for Aoi’s growth as a character, as she figures out the other ways she can help besides food and realizes she can always fall back on the support of those around her in her times of need.
Kakuriyo has a lot of interesting themes and discussions around our relationship to food and how cooking and food in general play an important role in interpersonal relationships. I feel like I’ve let myself go on for a bit too long here and missed a couple other points I was going to make, so maybe in the future I’ll revisit this idea and do a longer post sometime. But it’s safe to say that I do love this series despite its flaws and I’m interested to see where the story will go from here if I wind up picking up the manga. Please let me know what you thought of the series in the comments below and include who your favorite ayakashi was! I really loved the puppy and kit forms of Ranmaru and Ginji.
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