Isekai stories come in all kinds of types and flavors, as well as garnering all kinds of responses from fans. For those not in the know, isekai is where people from one world (usually modern Japan) are transported either into a video game world, fantasy world, or into the past. The genre has seen such hits as SAO, Reincarnated as a Slime, Rising of the Shield Hero, and so on. I’m sure you’ve heard of a lot of these as the genre is quickly becoming one of the most popular in anime, manga, and light novels. However, the series I’ll be talking about today is one that I think falls under a story-type not often explored in isekai series: the otherworldly restaurant. We’ve seen a few series explore this plot like Restaurant to Another World which had a light novel, manga, and anime series that gained a lot of popularity. Our manga today, Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu takes a similar look at how a restaurant with connections to modern Japan can bring new food and cuisine to a medieval world where gourmet food is few and far between. Udon Entertainment has given me the chance to review this manga for you, as well as offer a coupon for their store, so look to the bottom of the review for that!
Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu is a manga that focuses on the mysterious pub Izakaya Nobu that appeared in a medieval German-inspired town to the astonishment and curiosity of the people living there. It is especially attractive to the many city guards who are looking for a warm place to relax after their shift and enjoy some alcohol and good food. Once there, they’re met with the strangest food cooked by Chief Nobu that warms their bodies and relaxes their souls. The first volume contains five stories, showing how the different recipes from Modern Japan can influence the people of this medieval town. The manga is based off of a light novel from Natsuya Semikawa, with character designs by Kukuri, and the manga adaptation by Virginia Nitouhei.
One of the most important parts of any food-related manga is the art surrounding making the food, presenting the food, and the character’s reactions to eating the food. I think Nitouhei did a great job in capturing these three aspects in their adaptation of this story. In general, their art is very good at capturing expressions and displaying the story and character’s reactions through the panel design of each page. I especially love the chapter with the tax collector and his reaction to eating Napolitan for the first time. This one reminded me a lot of some of the reactions in Food Wars where the character’s reaction is very over-the-top that it adds a sort of comedic element to the whole story and changes your view of the character. Seeing the Tax Collector go from a very stern-faced man who is so sure of himself, to flying through the galaxy in ecstasy at the taste of this dish was just so entertaining.
In terms of the quality of food illustrations, I think it’s very hard to create mouth-watering art of food in black and white. Color is definitely a limiting factor when it comes to adding details to food to make them more appealing. I think in this area, anime adaptations are the place to go if you really want some food porn. However, I do think that Nitouhei has done a great job in adding as much detail as they could to make the food a main focus throughout the manga, but I think the more powerful focus is the expressions of the characters enjoying said food. I did enjoy the close-ups of each dish though. I thought they captured both the detail that a chef puts into plating and the quality of the ingredients used. In the Napolitan chapter, it felt like you could really tell that the pasta was cooked al dente by how thick the noodles were. In the sashimi chapter, I thought you could definitely tell that the fish was super fresh from the shine that was added to the edges. Nitouhei was definitely trying with the medium they were given to create detailed images of the food.
One thing I’m a little confused about is the world in which we are thrown into. I felt that not enough was done to really give us a sense of where we are except for the use of German throughout and the comparison of food. This gives us some idea of the culture and the times. We know the town is either medieval German in nature or a fantasy world based on Germanic culture. We know that it’s the type of town and times that have trouble getting high-quality food or that high-quality ingredients are usually only for the wealthy. What I want to know is the level of fantasy we’re dealing with here. So far, I’m not seeing much except for the portal to the izakaya. Other than that, it just seems as though we are transported to the past. With a series like Restaurant to Another World, we knew right away that we would be dealing with all sorts of fantasy creatures and environments. Here, I’m not quite sure what makes the world unique.
Otherwise, I do think that this manga has the potential to offer some really nice feel-good stories. There is one chapter in this volume that follows the orphaned daughter of two nobles who has a very specific idea of what food she wants to eat. Her Uncle and current guardian takes her to the izakaya and we see this very prim and proper girl transform into the young girl who we see was maybe forced to grow up too fast. At the izakaya she finds a new way to enjoy food that takes her back to being the child underneath the noble exterior. I also love the story progression of the tax collector chapter where his food takes him back to his childhood, a time that was much simpler for him. This revelation of the happiness he experienced during that simpler time makes him turn over a new leaf and begin donating his money rather than hoarding it.
The strength of an isekai story focused on introducing new food to a world that has never experienced these dishes before can bring a new appreciation for the food readers commonly see around them. By having a chef from modern Japan or the modern world in general create our most common dishes for an audience with no experience with them, we see through their new eyes these foods we may have taken for granted. This is the strength of creating this kind of situation so that the authors can impart new ways of looking at things through fresh eyes while also telling a story about the impact and importance of food.
I hope you found this review interesting. If you’ve had the chance to read Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu, let me know what you thought in the comments below.
Bloom Review readers can also use the discount code SHOPBLOOM at the Udon Entertainment store to get $5 off a $25 order.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress for all Bloom Reviews content updates and news!
If you like what I do, consider supporting me on Ko-fi or Patreon.