Photo courtesy Netflix
Photo courtesy Netflix

Better than: Every Anthony Bourdain food show

Not as good as: Food Wars

You May Also Like: Chef’s Table

Netflix has been releasing some amazing material recently, especially from overseas. International movies and television shows have been flooding Netflix for the last year in particular, and I think we are all the better for it. One example of a high quality international television import is Samurai Gourmet. The Japanese show is based on a manga of the same name about a newly retired man, Takeshi Kasumi (Naoto Takenaka), who feels like a “masterless samurai.” He tries to live his life and solve simple problems as he imagines a samurai would have done. Rude waitress? Slice her cigarette with your sword. Want a beer in the middle of the day? Chug it down with a messy slurp! The series follows as he explores his new world of freedom and defying social conventions.

The real star of the show is the beautiful scenery of Japan. Samurai Gourmet takes place in what I would call suburban Japan — no neon lights or bullet trains — sort of the Japanese equivalent to Waterloo. The greenery and architecture, even in the most common of areas, is stunning. Watching this show will definitely give you an itch to drain your savings and visit a Japanese park for a picnic.

Speaking of picnic, food is another prominent star in this rookie show. Close up zooms and other cinematographic choices help the viewer really imagine that the meals on the screen are in front of them. Some scenes make you expect to feel the steam from the bowls of ramen. If you’re not familiar with Japanese food, seeing the cooking techniques and ingredients will be interesting and educational. If you are familiar, the cooking scenes will have you salivating in seconds.

Kasumi himself is an amiable and simple protagonist. He isn’t mean or rude or very funny or very much of anything. But this actually helps his little stories progress because he is the perfect “everyman” character on which silly tragedies befall. He usually begins his daily quest for significance by trying to do something he thinks is useful, like taking up a hobby, and he always diverts into making an excuse to get something to eat. He either has a funny journey along the way to food, or he has a strange encounter while eating food — a simple but timeless plot.

This new offering from Netflix is perfect for anyone looking for a show to entertain them but not work their brains too hard with confusing plots or dozens of characters. It’s 20 minutes of a nice older man looking for food, getting food and enjoying food — universally satisfying! Don’t let the fact that it’s subtitled scare you away. The language is slow and clear enough that processing the text and watching the actors is no trouble.

I guarantee if you grab a friend, some quality takeout, and throw this on while you eat, you’ll be craving second helpings of Samurai Gourmet!

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