What They Say:
Welcome to Nekoya—a quaint little eatery that specializes in western-style cuisine. The diner gets decent local business from normal folk around town, but behind the scenes, it opens its doors to customers of a more unique, exotic variety. Every seven days, people and creatures, from different corners of another world, flock to the restaurant to munch on their favorite dishes. And despite the wide range of patrons, there’s always something delicious available—even for those with the most particular preferences and palates.
So, take a seat and get comfortable. We’ll make a regular out of you yet!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo with a new English language dub done in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works a decent blend of action and dialogue throughout it so that the various channels get well utilized for the most part. The stereo mix works the forward soundstage well for both dialogue and action effects with how everything moves back and forth at times while there are some good bits of placement and depth as well during the action. The 5.1 mix bumps everything up a bit and it feels like it has a touch more impact overall but also just a bit more clarity in the mix from the English side of it. Both tracks represent the show well and everything comes across clean and problem-free.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format with all the extras on the second disc. Animated by Silver Link, the series is one that has a lot of really good looking designs to it and some well-detailed backgrounds in addition to the character models and it certainly has some good color design going for it. The show also focuses well on its food design so that it stands out, making for some mouth-watering moments. The encoding brings it to life well in both the quieter scenes and the high motion pieces with the more fluid animation and the end result is a show that looks great and captures the original material well. It’s colorful, richly so in some areas considering the palette used, and the details hold up well throughout.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the case artwork. It does it with a bit more color and warmth because of the cardstock which is a nice plus. It’s a simple design as we get the brown framework around the core image, which I wish didn’t have that framing that darkens it all unnecessarily. The central image of a happy Aletta sampling some food with a good plate of food around her while in her work uniform sets a nice tone for it. It could be a standard kind of maid/waitress show if not for the other world point, which I wonder if some people would be able to read clearly based on the sideways thin font for it all. The back cover lays out a couple of nice shots of the food itself and a few from the series that highlights its strong set design. The summary is kept simple and that’s appropriate for a series like this. The extras are unlisted here but we do get a decent technical grid that breaks things down nicely with the Blu-ray discs enclosed. No show-related inserts are included but we do get a good bit for the reverse side with two more of the Japanese character covers used for it.
The menu design for this release was a bit of a disappointment even as it goes somewhat in-theme. With the potential to do a nice menu design for it, we basically get the cover of a menu book with the logo across the middle as well as the Japanese text for it. The little cat bit is nice along the top but it’s the only piece that really offers any personality. If anything, a series of clips from the show highlighting the food would have been nice, or some of the guests that come. But this is the minimal effort route, unfortunately. Submenus load quickly and easily and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
The extras for this release are pretty basic but always welcome as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a nice small set of promos and commercials that highlighted its original release.
Based on the novel series Isekai Shokudō by Junpei Inuzuka which began in 2013, Restaurant to Another World is a twelve-episode anime series that aired in the summer 2017 season. And took a couple of years to make its way out for a home video release, which surprised because it’s a charming little project. The original novel series has just five volumes to its name so it’s not extensive but it works well. It also spawned a four-volume manga series that wrapped up in 2019. The show itself comes from Silver Link for the production and saw the talented Masato Jinbo directing, which makes it pretty easy to get into as there’s an inviting easiness about it that I really do find quite charming. It’s got its moments where things go big for various reasons, but it’s otherwise a very quiet piece that takes you into its world and just lets you enjoy the journey.
The premise for the series is one that’s been done well before in that we’re introduced to a place that’s a portal to another world. Here, it’s a little restaurant in Tokyo called Nekoya where it opens on one day just for that special audience. While it serves its Tokyo residents most days, on this day it opens to this fantasy world where there are a really fun range of familiar types, such as elves and beastmen, mages, and warriors. And the opening episode focuses on a particular dragon that can turn into a woman for a bit with how she acquires her meal from there. The food from Nekoya is run in Western-style and the Japanese chef for it is a delight in how he deals with things, going for a serious and stern approach but one that’s still flexible and inviting, especially to the patrons. The restaurant is realized to be different and unique in this other world and has a kind of value placed upon it that in a way makes it feel like a neutral location.
Where things change, as they do with most series starts, is that the owner realizes he’s got an uninvited guest in his restaurant at one point. A young demon girl named Aletta had come in without his realizing it and fell asleep. While he could just escort her out, seeing her nearly naked, withdrawn, and likely not well-fed, he opts to take her in as an employee to help at the restaurant as a live-in type for when it opens to the other world. A lot of what I thought made the show work early on was watching her watching him and learning what to do, taking on the role and opportunity that she’d been given, and applying herself to it with an upbeat and positive approach that really resonated well. Aletta has her own voice to be sure and uses but there’s a kind of middle of the road approach she takes so that she doesn’t come across as meek and easy to take advantage of or loud and boisterous, causing problems with an attitude.
Once the basics are set up and the relationship put into place, the show really does go into a kind of episodic mode. There’s a lot of good stuff in using the chef and Aletta as our window into this world while also seeing things without them that take place in the other world. There’s a growth that comes from it and as someone who watches culinary travel shows, an enjoyment that comes from seeing people from the other world enjoying Western food and having a kind of sensory orgasm from it. But I also really enjoy watching the care and time put into the dishes and desserts themselves as well as how Aletta handles herself in the restaurant, taking on a greater role as time goes on and handling the customers and their needs. It is, again, simply charming as presented.
What the show does across its run is introduce and work through the various characters that come to visit, sometimes from the Earth side, sometimes from the other side. There are moments where characters come to learn about the food so they can expand its reach into this new world, and other times we get to see just how important it is to be chosen to go to Nekoya. The focus on one of the lizardmen and the thing they go through to do so is fun and it lets us get to know the way the world and different species work in a pretty organic way. With each episode being mostly split into two tales and providing continuity through the chef and Aletta, there are a lot of small stories to tell here that definitely engage well without overstaying its welcome. That’s a big point in its favor that helps a lot as you could have easily made this twice the length at half the time and it’d be just as enjoyable.
This is a really enjoyable slow-burn kind of series if you’re the type to enjoy that. I grew up playing fantasy games and reading fantasy books so something like this touches upon that old school stuff nicely with a twist as it leans into the modern cooking angle as well. Getting the various character stories, their love of Nekoya and how far they go to partake in it, are all enjoyable bits while also getting to enjoy the food porn that the show presents as well. It’s not a series that’s going to really wow in the way the big popular properties do but this is the kind of quality stuff I really enjoy sinking my teeth into and immersing myself in that world. That kind that you wish existed more easily to engage with. Funimation’s release is a little basic in some ways but it delivers a great looking show with a fun dub and all the things we want from a property.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Promo Videos, Commercials, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.