This month Secret House of Anime will be looking at cooking shows. Cooking anime series have been a major part of the anime industry for a long time and have taken many forms. While cooking based shows are not as widespread as other genres of anime, such as sports or magical girl shows, cooking still has been a major theme for many great shows. Whether cooking anime is primarily focusing on the food, drink, or its characters, cooking anime tends to feature interesting and often delicious mouth water recipes. For those who are fans of food or cooking, there are so many amazing cooking shows to see, covering nearly every element of food and drink preparation.
Cooking papa: Not all cooking anime are portrayed as fast paced competitions or shows about learning to be amazing chef. This is evident by the show Cooking Papa a family slice of life and light comedy show. Cooking Papa follows a working family, where the Japanese traditions of cooking are subverted. In Japan traditionally, the wife typically provides meals for the family, but in Cooking Papa this is subverted. The father of the family Kazumi Araiwa cooks well and is the one who cooks for the family. This becomes a source of both pride and embarrassment for Araiwa who often passes off his great cooking at the office as his wife Nijiko cooking. Cooking Papa is a great early example of anime series featuring male chefs, such as Sweetness and Lightning.
Mister Ajikko: Mister Ajikko is one of the first food competition anime series and remains one of the best. The show combines the Shonen focus on children adventure, with the fierce competition of cooking tournament style show. Mister Ajikko stars the boy Ajikko a young cooking prodigy who is carrying on his father’s legacy, with the help of his mother and relatives. Throughout the show he is placed in intense cooking contests to help his restaurant and the local neighbourhood. This attracts the eye of a major cooking group lead by Japan’s most famous chef and restaurant critic. The show is jam packed with cooking action, but it is the period where Ajikko struggles, and must use his wits and skills to improve that is most thrilling. This show helped to influence and establish the tropes of the tournament style cooking show used by shows such as Chūka Ichiban! and Food Wars, and also remains one of the best food-based competition shows.
Oishinbo: Oishinbo is a classic and one of the first major food-based series in Japan, remaining popular to this day in both Japan and the United States. Oishinbo focuses on reporter Shiro Yamaoka who is tasked with the creation of the “Ultimate menu,” for his newspaper. Yamaoka is an excellent chef and food critic despite his sarcastic and slacker attitude. This series has a straightforward feel but contains a lot of details about food and food preparation. With 136 episodes, a long running manga series, and several OAV’s and movies this show has clearly has shown lasting power and earned its place among some of the most important cooking series.
Chūka Ichiban!: Chūka Ichiban! Is another important landmark in the cooking tournament genre. This work features Mao the son of a legendary Szechuan style chef Pai, who is training to one day carry on his mother famous cooking legacy. What sets Chūka Ichiban! apart from other shows of its kind is it’s setting of ancient China. This show draws upon China’s deep regional cooking traditions to create show based entirely on Chinese cooking, while balancing action with Shonen style drama and comedy.
Yakitate Japan: Yakitate Japan is a cooking show all about bread. Featuring Azuma, a teen with the special talent for making bread known as the “Hands of the Sun,” this show focuses on Azuma’s hope to create a uniquely Japanese style bread and to earn his place in the famous Japanese bakery Pantasia. This show combines a tournament style, with over the top themes of Shonen comedy and odd character design. With an unusual theme of cooking bread and strange characters this series stands out as wacky and memorable.
Bartender: Bartender is all about making drinks and helping people. It stands out as a series that focuses primarily on relaxing and how people can be helped with their problems through cocktails. This show features Ryuu Sasakura the bartender for the special bar Eden Hall, a bar designed to help those with problems find respite. The series frequently focuses on a variety of perspectives and is convincing in its portrayal of the power of drinks. Even if you have never drunk alcohol or stopped drinking a long time ago like me, this series still feels powerful and enchanting.
Ristorante Paradiso: Ristorante Paradiso is very different from many of the shows on this list, in that it focuses primarily around the characters rather than the food. This series stars Nicolette who at first wants revenge on her estranged mother but ends up being swept up by the older glasses wearing servers and chefs of the restaurant Casetta dell’Orso, a restaurant that her mother frequents also frequents. Another distinguishing factor of this series is how well preserves the character driven emotions and the unique designs of the original manga series created by Natsume Ono. Complex and emotional this show is nice break from food anime based around cooking and competition.
Yumeiro Patissiere: While many great cooking series combine cooking with Shonen elements, there are few great Shoujo series that also feature food. One of the best of these is Yumeiro Patissiere where Ichigo Amano a beginner chef with amazing tasting abilities is placed in a top-level cooking class with a group of cooking “princes.” Determined to succeed she works hard with the help of magical fairies to become a great chef. This series is wonderfully sweet and can be enjoyed by all ages.
Toriko: Toriko is a Shonen show all about hunting and cooking fantasy food. Unlike most cooking shows, Toriko is aimed at the fantastic and not base on real dishes. Toriko is instead primarily about the hunting of fantastical and monstrous creatures to cook. Toriko himself is a muscularly Shonen hero with more in common with heroes from other Shonen shows like Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball and One Piece, then other cooking leads. Despite this, for Shonen fans this show is a blast and is often unfairly over shadowed by other Shonen works.
Food Wars: I know I’ve talked a lot about the Food War manga and series in previous posts here (http://teens.santaclaritalibrary.com/2018/05/08/secret-house-of-anime-shonen/) and here (http://teens.santaclaritalibrary.com/2018/04/30/namis-review-corner-april-2018/ ), but it is a show that can’t be left out of this category and needs to be mentioned. One of the most recent and influential cooking shows of all time, Food Wars features a combination of modern Shonen and tournament style features. With a great variety of characters both in personality and design, and an amazing variety of delicious foods this shows stands out as one of the best food-based anime series. As previously mentioned Food Wars stars the teenager Soma as he battles along with his friends to become the best chef he can, while remaining humbled and helpful to those around him. Food Wars currently is the top selling food-based anime in the United States, and it’s easy to see how it’s refinement of cooking into a battle has made it a fan favourite.
Sweetness and Lightning: Sweetness and Lightning is another amazing Shoujo style title that focuses on defying traditional Japanese gender norms. After the death of his wife, Kouhei Inuzuka is left to care for his young daughter Tsumugi, despite having little experience in cooking nutritious meals. Things being to change, however when he accepts the help of his student Kotori Iida, whose mother owns a family restaurant and is often out for dinner leaving her alone. Kouhei comes to learn through his experiences at the restaurant about cooking and the importance of fresh meals with the family; through his experiences cooking at the restaurant and providing Kotori with company. Sweetness and Lightning is a very sweet series about people helping each other, and about seeing the value in things people often take for granted. It stands out as another wonderful series focused on single (or mostly single) parenting such as Usagi Drop, Wolf Children, and My Neighbor Totoro. (Special thanks to Breana Ceballos for reminding me to include this important series)
Honourable mention: Silver spoon: While not primarily based upon food, I feel it would be wrong to not mention Silver Spoon. In Silver Spoon Yuugo Hachiken enrolls in a farm school to get away from the stress of his daily city life, but quickly finds that this style of school is far from easy. What really makes this show stand out as a food show is its explanation of farming and how food is developed. Particularly noteworthy is the episode where the students of school decide to make pizza from scratch and then gather and cook pizza together as a team. Silver Spoon is a pleasant comedy show that is notable for its interesting characters and discussion of farming, a topic rarely focused on in anime and manga.