In recent years, the ‘isekai’ genre of stories has seen a massive boom in popularity across Japanese media. Beginning with series such as Inu-Yasha, .hack, and Magic Knight Rayearth, these stories typically see a human from the ‘real’ world transported to a completely different fantasy world, stumbling into roles of heroism or danger in an attempt to find their way home.
In a natural evolution of the genre, contemporary isekai stories have begun to offer readers stories and settings that deviate from the standard “Hero’s Journey” format, such as the struggles of fast food employment seen in The Devil Is A Part Timer! or the challenges of feeling culturally out-of-place endured by Yuri Shibuya in Kyo Kara Maoh!
One such manga is Restaurant to Another World, a series which offers an enticing ‘foodie’ spin on the genre and will undoubtedly leave readers hungrier than they were when they started.
Based on the original light novel series by Junpei Inusuka, the manga adaptation of Restaurant to Another World focuses on a small, unimpressive store-front in Tokyo which houses The Western Restaurant Nekoya, a restaurant known for serving ‘Western’ styled cuisine with a Japanese-style twist.
Though ‘closed’ on weekends, every Saturday a magical door to another world manifests within the restaurant, opening the restaurant up to patrons of a fantasy world populated by elves, dragons, and demons.
Once Saturday ends, the door disappears, leaving hungry patrons to wait an entire week for it to once again appear and grant them entrance to the mysterious restaurant.
In the first volume of Restaurant to Another World, readers are introduced to a variety of interesting characters who find their way through the magical door.
A vegan elf who believes humans to be incapable of any culinary skill, a treasure hunter following in the footsteps of her mentor, and a shy, down on her luck demon girl who has suffered due to the fantasy land’s hatred of her kind are the ‘main’ customers in this volume, each of whose stories were entertaining and heartwarming in their own way.
While the demon girl, Aletta, finds employment at the restaurant and, according to all indications, will remain a principal member of the cast, the seemingly ‘one-shot’ appearances by the other customers is disappointing, as Inuzuka does a fantastic job of making each character unique and personable.
Given that The Western Restaurant Nekoya is the central setting and focus of the series, it should come as no surprise that a large amount of time is dedicated to mouth-watering depictions of the delicacies served up by Aletta and the Master.
From minced meat cutlets, to rice balls, to a simple morning breakfast, one dish is typically given center stage in a given chapter, allowing for vivid and lengthy descriptions of its qualities, such as smell, feeling, and flavor.
Thanks to artist Katsumi Enami (Baccano!, Star Ocean: The Last Hope), these illustrations look downright delicious and will undoubtedly spark a craving for at least one of the dishes featured (on a personal note, I’ve been craving minced meat cutlet for days now).
However, despite these points of praise, some readers may be disappointed by the general lack of any cohesive plot. While most of this first volume acts as expositional set-up, introducing the restaurant, the magic door, and Aletta, there is very little in the way of an overarching plot.
Most of the stories resolve within a few chapters and have little to no lasting impact on the series beyond setting the tone and expectations for future chapters, the only exception being Aletta’s hiring to the restaurant’s serving staff.
The ‘customer of the week’ format is absolutely fun, but the fact that many of these characters are so personable will lead many to hope that future volumes will introduce an actual narrative that will give them an opportunity to display their strengths and weaknesses (for example, this reviewer had hoped that Sarah Gold’s quest to find her father’s treasure would become the central plot point to the series).
Ultimately, Restaurant to Another World is an enjoyable, mouth-watering, and simply fun spin on the isekai genre, offering gorgeous food artwork and a cast of cute, loveable characters of whom some will no doubt end up on someone’s ‘waifu’ list.
There is little in the way of long-term plot, but that’s understandable for a series first volume, as authors and artists need time to introduce the reader to their unique creation.
Restaurant to Another World is definitely worth a read, and despite the a warranted hope that something more filling than ‘adventure of the week’ stories, will eventually be served, it can offer a light, fun read for any manga fan. Just make sure you’re not checking it out on an empty stomach.
- Cute characters
- Unique setting
- Mouth-watering artwork
- Not much in the way of an actual story