Isekai Izakaya is Cool Japan Propaganda
Isekai Izakaya is less of an anime and more of animated infomercial – and a good part of it isn’t even animated. For better or worse, though, that live-action cooking show segment at the end of the episode was probably the most entertaining thing about it, if only because the chef’s enthusiasm looked more authentic than any of the reactions shown in the anime itself.
Let’s face it – the food that Hans was eating in that first episode wasn’t exactly exciting. It’s one thing to drool over the exquisite and creative dishes shown in something like, say, Food Wars! – quite another to have an orgasm over eating radishes and soybeans from a pod. Those are snack food, and aren’t even considered the culinary highlights of an izakaya, anyway. The over-the-top reactions from the first-time izakaya visitor very quickly strained disbelief.
The self-congratulatory tone of this entire episode wore me out. Although I’ve enjoyed eating in an izakaya before, none of this episode rang true to my own experiences because it was more concerned with selling the exoticism of Japanese cuisine than portraying the atmosphere of an izakaya. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this show was partially funded by the Japanese government as a Cool Japan initiative, as if there was any doubt that this show is propaganda.
Don’t expect much in the way of characters or plot, either. Like last year’s Restaurant to Another World, Isekai Izakaya is more about the food than the story, and the characters serve only as mouthpieces to the lavish descriptions of the dishes. This is only further accentuated by the text that appears onscreen that literally repeats what the characters are saying. This combined with the live-action segment makes Isekai Izakaya feel more like a regular Japanese live-action cooking show than an anime, which is interesting in concept but dull in practice. Isekai Izakaya makes no use of its “isekai” setting except to make its characters ignorant and astounded by Japanese food.
To make matters worse, even the way this show has been distributed involves a whole lot of self-congratulatory nonsense. Bilibili is streaming the show across all of Asia, while only offering subtitles in simplified Chinese. The press release I received triumphantly declared that the show would be streamed to “1.3 billion people around the world”, but how many people in Asia would actually be able to watch it? If Isekai Izakaya had been a better/more hyped up show, I imagine that its streaming situation would piss off a lot of people.
This is one of those things that makes me cynical about Cool Japan. Due to its content and distribution, Isekai Izakaya probably won’t reach or influence many people, but its existence is worth noting anyway as an example of what government and corporate bodies try to do with anime to make themselves look more accomplished. Don’t overlook this case entirely, as it could have implications for how anime gets produced and distributed in future.