Apr 17, 2017

[TV] Samurai Gourmet

Given how much we had enjoyed Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, we were a lot more open to jumping into Samurai Gourmet when it showed up as available in the Philippines. It once again involved two things that I love - Japanese culture and food. So yeah was totally game to check out he show.

The title alone was pretty intriguing - why would a gourmet be a samurai or vice-versa? What marries these two different worlds in a show? How does a samurai show his enjoyment for good food? Who is this old man in the poster?

But of course the only way to answer these questions is to watch the show and not waste time with reviews. And thus we dove right in and enjoyed what we found there.

Synopsis: Samurai Gourmet is a Netflix TV series based on the manga Manga-han Nobushi no Gourmet created by Masayuki Kusumi and Shigeru Tsuchiyama. This is a new adaptation that is different from the long-running Kodoku no Gourmet live-action series in Japan.

Takashi (Naoto Takenaka) is 60 year old salary man who finally faces retirement. At first he's confused about what he should do with his life but in time he develops a new routine together with his wife (Honami Suzuki). And one of his little indulgences is exploring different eateries and enjoying the food - and the beer - at a time when he'd normally be working.

While at these different cafes and restaurants or even just walking around, he'd encounter other people involved in this or that bit of little personal drama. But Takashi is a timid man who'd normally mind his own business and so he tends to remain silent through other people's drama even when it's directed  at him. And so he starts to imagine what a samurai of old (Tetsuji Tamayama) would do in such situations and he comes to learn things from his imaginary samurai.

What I Liked: The whole notion of seeking wisdom from one's inner samurai is certainly a compelling enough idea and it does make for some great scenes. The shift from modern to medieval Japan is practically seamless at times and is quite well done since even the other patrons at the restaurant tend to shift into their medieval counterparts. 

There's an elegance tot he storytelling here that may often come across as being overly simple. But in truth there's a lot of depth to the story and it masterfully touches on the sort of things you think about in your twilight years and your priorities shift in a specific way. Thus what may seem mundane for the young can be quite the adventure later on in life.

What Could Have Been Better: The show does have some odd pacing moments that feel slower than it maybe needs to be. It's not a deal-breaker or anything and probably a matter of preference effort for some people but the many good moments also have their share of awkwardly spaced out ones.

I also kind of wish there was more samurai across the stories to really push things more. I don't think we need to set half the show in medieval Japan, but it would have been nice to see some sort of progression over the course of the show with Takashi's inner samurai coming out more and more as he gains new confidence and drive to deal with things in a more direct manner.

TL;DR: There's an odd sense of delight that Samurai Gourmet inspires in you when you really get into the show. It's doesn't have a complex story and it works well with the episodic format with each episode being its own story with some good food, too. Thus the show gets a pleasant 4 dishes prepared with both skill and love out of a possible 5.

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