There are a couple of genres that I simply don’t touch anymore. Among them is what is more commonly referred to as the school life genre, for which I am brewing intense hatred just by it being so commonplace and boring at the same time. The second one is iyashikei. I’m not sure what shows even fall under it, but the genre degraded together with Junichi Satou’s brand of four-season delights. Imagine, that the trashiest school life summer show managed to press the right buttons for me, and that another, equally as unambitious from the plot description, now lulls me to sleep every week.
First, Hajimete no Gal. As a precursor I have to state that I like gyaru. I don’t mean the compensated-dating tainted subculture of the late 90s that made international headlines painting Japan as the most degenerate place on Earth. I’m talking about the version that the otaku patched to fit their own desires. Otaku are very much romantics at heart, myself included, it’s no wonder there are so many pure-hearted moe girls in anime and not that many slutty ones, as seen in shows like Scum’s Wish. Yame-san from Hajimete no Gal dresses and acts like a slut but in reality she’s just a nice girl with a tender heart. She’s sort of like the classic Shakugan no Shana tsundere archetype, except it doesn’t play too hard off the polarities of the condition. I forgot, it’s called gap moe. Observe how Yame-san is master of reading the atmosphere, yet giving off an aura of inaccessibility. Dressing up like someone from Geordie Shore is Yame’s armor. She needs it right now, in order to grow as a person.
I speculated this to be the schtick before the show hit the waves. Hajimete no Gal is capitalizing on years of gyaru manga tradition. I can confirm this to be a big trend in porno manga as well. However this show unfolds, my hats off to the producers for recognizing the growing interest in this fetish.
Second, Isekai Shokudou. It is my common grievance that too many shows get hyped as iyashikei these days. There’s a specific feeling associated with iyashikei, and I’d be hard-pressed to agree it’s all just about the sensations of an ephemeral, fleeting reality. This show is different from the happy fuwa-fuwa of drinking tea with your childhood friends on a hot summer day. The doors to the western restaurant Nekoya, every seven days they fill me with dread. In the show, customers sit down and marvel at the polished look of IKEA tables, lose their senses in the simplest of pasta dishes, and at the end leave with a big smile from receiving a cozy, personalized service. However, they never leave through the front door, and they never come back with an army, like a certain other world did in a certain other isekai show. Notice that the process of preparing their meals is concealed behind the kitchen door. They understand that sophisticated techniques and gadgetry had to be used to make their meals – signs of a great civilization. Had they tried looking through the kitchen door, they might see the stove or electric appliances and wonder too much. But us viewers should be feeling creeped out and guilty, because we know the price of this thing called progress.
Nekoya’s dishes are the best our civilization has to offer, even though its disappearing doors might be entrances to Hell itself. Every restaurant has its back-alley though, but I think we can all agree the customers don’t come to see that.
Both shows I highly recommend. (EDIT: Not really, I dropped both a few weeks in.)