Do you like food? Do you like cooking? Do you like fantasy? Well, how about a series about a special little place that serves food to fantasy races? From Yen Press, the manga adaptation of the light novel series, Restaurant to Another World, has arrived. Is it good?
According to the official description provided by Yen Press:
By all appearances, Western Restaurant Nekoya is a normal restaurant serving normal people-but unbeknownst to the regulars, it also attracts an alternative clientele. Every Saturday, all manner of fantastical beings come to dine, and what is familiar fare to humans can be downright exotic for visitors from beyond. To these customers, Nekoya is known by a different name: Restaurant to Another World.
In the world of manga, there are many series with a focus on cooking. There are series like Oishinbo and Food Wars!, which keeps things at least somewhat grounded, and then there are series like Toriko and Delicious in Dungeon, where the food and cooking are more fantastical. Restaurant to Another World takes more of a mixture of both. It has the fantastical element in its world and characters, but the recipes, food, and cooking are all realistic.
The first volume presents that idea fairly well. The whole premise is about characters from a fantasy world experiencing the cooking of “our” world. The series introduces the new character of the chapter, what they’re looking for, and their experience with the food. The story favors the emotions and feelings one gets from eating there and how it affects them. As such, more than other cooking series, Restaurant to Another World puts heart and soul foremost, and it works really well in that area.
There’s little story or detail beyond the bare essentials. It details the taste and appearance of the food, but never the cooking process itself. The backstory for the owner and chef is not explored in the first volume, letting the place and his actions speak for themselves. The storytelling is episodic for the most part, focusing on one new customer and what they want. The series can be rather wordy — it is a light novel adaptation after all, but it never comes across as overwhelming like Food Wars!. As a result of all of this, the first volume presents a relaxing, sweet tale that’s not heavy on the details.
Problems arise, however, in the characters. While the customers are all interesting for one reason or another, they come and go quickly. The two main characters of the manga are the owner and Aletta. The owner is never named, mostly referred to as the “Master”, and is rather dull. He’s the good-natured guy everyone likes, who enjoys helping people out and is able to tell exactly what they need. He leaves little to no impression otherwise, unfortunately.
Aletta is a different story. Aletta is a child of demons who lost her parents and has been searching for a way to survive ever since. Due to a centuries-long war in which demons lost, Aletta has experienced nothing but hardship and hatred. That changed when she found the Master, who has granted her a job and a place to get food from. The volume mostly centers around her and how she deals with her new job. She is very likable and sympathetic, trying her best to make this new job work. It should be interesting to see what happens to her from here on out.
The artwork in this book is just all right. It gets the job done and there are really no glaring faults, but its style and look are reminiscent of a lot of other manga adaptations of light novels. It doesn’t really do much artistically to stand out and that feeling extends into the manga. As a result, it just overall doesn’t feel particularly engaging. The only part that really stood out was the food, which looks absolutely delicious and mouth-watering. It’s very well detailed, and the manga drives home how tasty it is in how it focuses on people chewing and reacting to what they eat. The most important part of a food manga is, at least, captured very well.
Restaurant to Another World Vol. 1 is a relaxing, soul-soothing experience. While its art is just okay, its writing and story bring a gentle, welcoming tale that’s easy to read and enjoy. It doesn’t bog the reader down in detail and preparation like other cooking series, more often letting the characters’ feelings and emotions speak for themselves. Definitely one of more pleasant, down-to-earth series despite its fantastical elements.