Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu Volume 1
Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu is a charming, relaxing series about how good Japanese food is.
Adapted by Virginia Nitouhei from a light novel by Natsuya Semikawa and character designs by Kuriri, it’s the story of a time-traveling izakaya (Japanese tavern). Two German soldiers in a fictional medieval city stumble across a new pub with delicious chilled ale called “Whatsontapp”. The chef prepares something different every time, but it’s always what the audience loves but didn’t know they wanted.
The various food terms — and we get both Japanese and German terms, which feels entertainingly educational — are explained both in the story itself and in a glossary at the back. Soldiers eat oden, a warming boiled stew, or kara-age, fried chicken, while a devious tax collector is foiled by a homey, nostalgic spaghetti napolitan. My favorite was seeing a demanding young lady (and orphan) satisfied by a stewed tofu appetizer.
As characters explain the wonders of the restaurant and its food to each other, the reader also finds out how these items are assembled and how delicious they would taste. The faces are expressive and the food attractive and detailed. Much like in Food Wars, the amazing tastes cause the eaters to fantasize exaggerated images, but the ones here are more poetic — princesses or angels — less focused on nudity or body parts (thank goodness!). We don’t see recipes for the dishes, but they’re life-changing for the cast.
And those characters are more than just a role. Even in the short space of a chapter, they’re given purpose and personality, fleshing out their enjoyment of the meals. For example, it’s fun seeing European merchants in the middle ages trying raw sashimi for the first time, daring each other into it. There’s no explanation for how this magic happens, but I like the approach of people telling each other “you’ve got to try this amazing new place to eat!”
I haven’t seen manga from Udon Entertainment before, but it’s a nice presentation, in the slightly larger size, with French flaps and a few color pages at the start. It’s comfortable to read, both physically and mentally. A wonderful respite.