Otherworldly Izakaya [Nobu], Vol. 1

By Natsuya Semikawa and Virginia Nitouhei. Released in Japan as “Isekai Izakaya “Nobu”” by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Ace. Released in North America by Udon Entertainment. Translated by Caleb D. Cook.

There’s a small subset of isekai series that seem to involve a restaurant that is modern Japanese and yet caters to fantasy characters. This one is particularly odd in several ways, though. It’s based on a light novel series, which makes sense if you think of it as an isekai manga but no sense whatsoever if you think of it in its real genre, which is a “everyone enjoys food and describes it” manga. (I’m not sure it’s technically a foodie manga as there are no recipes. You aren’t supposed to make these yourself.) That said, if you DO see it as an isekai manga, it’s probably one of the few I’ve seen shown almost entirely from the POV of the existing fantasy characters. The “Chief” and Shinobu are the staff of the izakaya in question, and by the end of the first book we know the same thing about them which we knew at the start – nothing. It’s about the fantasy cast, and food.

Even the isekai part of the series is a bit vague. The plot involves this izakaya (think pub) in a side street of a medieval town, which gets traffic at first mostly from the guards who are exhausted after a day’s work (just like real izakayas). They are poleaxed by things like cold beer, oden, etc. – basic Japanese pub fare. It becomes somewhat clear as the book progresses that the izakaya has a “back area” that is connected to modern-day Japan, where Shinobu and the Chief get ingredients and (presumably) live. In other words, they are the ones who are transported to another world. But, as I said earlier, this is a series about the food and the people eating it. boisterous guards, their grumpy captain, an uptight tax collector (who is not Gustav St. Germain from Baccano!, but happens to look just like him), and a spoiled rich girl wander in, think they’re not going to like the food, and like the food.

In the end, you have to think of the series as a food manga to really appreciate it. The attention given to the food is, of course, excellent, and the characters make you really want to dig in. As I said earlier, Shinobu is the waitress girl on the cover, and she’s bright and helpful and that’s about it – likewise, Chief is straightforward and somewhat stoic. There’s some sort of language barrier that isn’t quite made clear – Shinobu using untranslated Japanese at times (particularly her long, drawn-out “haaaaaiiii!”) is meant to show this, but she can also clearly communicate with everyone. The other very odd thing about this isekai is that, as far as I can tell, there’s no magic or fantasy in this world whatsoever. It’s in some sort of German medieval world, but the only isekai think is the Japanese pub. It’s a very odd combination, but the relaxed mood and food descriptions in this volume means I’ll be coming back for more. And hopefully getting at least some backstory for our staff.

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