For a chain restaurant this isn’t too bad – Tokyo Seimenjo (the drama review)

It’s very odd to me how often ‘food’ is put as a genre, especially on MDL. What surprises me even more is that I’ve actually seen quite a few series that are all about food! Nonetheless, that is not the reason I started watching Tokyo Seimenjo. I was watching for one reason, and that was Yoshino Hokuto. Mostly to see if he would be able to land on his feet as a lead character without the usual LDH support, or not.

More on that in a minute. First, as always we have to talk about what exactly is Tokyo Seimenjo.

Tokyo Seimenjo is a standard franchise restaurant with normal goals of being quick, cheap, and delicious. Situated in a residential neighborhood, this particular store has a variety of regular customers but lacks direction without a manager and a regular staff quitting. The core part-time staff consists of Aoi Haruto (Yanagi Shuntaro) who is the lead of the part time staff, Midorikawa Yoshio (Okuno So) the dishwasher, Momota Rin (Akita Shiori) the cashier and the unofficial repair staff, and Kimoto Setsuko (Enoue Keiko) who manages noodle production. The unit has been uneasy about this lack of oversight, only for Akamatsu Kotaro (Yoshino Hokuto) a former hotelman, arriving as their new manager, an order directly from the parent company of Tokyo Seimenjo. Akamatsu does his best to lead by example, but fundamentally misses how chain of command in a restaurant works, embarrassing his co-workers at first but steadily winning them over with his odd ways.

I have to say that initially the first episode was a dud for me. The humor was more second hand embarrassment, if not downright cringe. Prim and proper Akamatsu had no idea what to do, and that was suppose to be hilarious. As someone whose been there done that as a part timer in food service, it was cringe and felt completely out of touch on the production staff’s part. It didn’t help that it was topped off as an inspo porn-esque message of ‘sometimes you need one person to change it up and make it better”! Cute in theory, and worked in terms of the customer response within the story but it’s that exact line of thinking that will get a part timer fired realistically.

Despite the first episode being a dud, I do in fact like to torture myself by continuing. And honestly, Tokyo Seimenjo managed to recover after this for me. There was a lot more care and consideration into walking the fine line of comedy, and just a bit of inspirational moments. Most of the inspirational moments only coming to fruition after a series of genuinely funny circumstances that led of to it, the focus being on the journey not the result.

I really appreciated that Tokyo Seimenjo, despite it’s tight cast and limited episodes did a lot to highlight the characters from the jump. Everyone has their reasons for being on a part-time basis, and the staff showed that. They each got their episode which explained in a simple manner, why they ended up there and their motivations for continuing and that’s enough for me. Episode 4 especially, was surprisingly touching more than anything, but also still funny. I appreciated that having Akamatsu being so formal really served a visual discrepancy that was regularly played off and enhanced the situation.

Also thank you to IrozukuSubs for providing an unofficial subtitles.

I do want to touch on Mr.Yoshino’s performance here as Akamatsu. I’ve seen him in all but two roles he’s gotten (as of writing), and admittedly this is his strongest showing as an actor yet. He didn’t carry the drama, but he did show that he can stand on his own without a senior actor at his company boosting him. Akamatsu was frustrating as he was endearing at times, and more importantly he was funny. He also played off his fellow cast members incredibly well, which is a pleasant touch.

I’d argue that the show was carried more by Yanagi Shuntaro as Aoi, who was the constant reality check of the show that kept it grounded. He was incredibly well nuanced, and you can tell that the rest of the supporting cast were more keen to match his energy and mood throughout. Not important to the story, but fun for me was Zin, from Hokuto’s musical group The Rampage, made his debut in a two minute cameo in episode 4. Nothing impressive in the slightest, but a fun Easter egg for fans of the music.

A few other points of the story, is that the big question of why Akamatsu was sent to Tokyo Seimenjo, wasn’t revealed right away. The story could have worked on the premise of ‘let’s see how balls to the walls we can go with a former hotelman being a udon restaurant manger’ without any explanation. Honestly, I would have been fine with that storyline as it was. The fact they wrote it in really subtly and only revealed in full at the end was a not unexpected, but still welcome surprise.

Please don’t ask why I think this is funny; I just do.

Most importantly, this is a comedy that got me laughing each and every episode. I’m going to tell you now that this show is probably not as funny as I find it. It’s more absurdist humor then anything, and I like that style of comedy personally. I think partly because I was laughing at the bizarre nature of Akamatsu – the fact of all things he rode to work was a moped, and any scene where he was riding it had me giggling for no reason, and his constant acknowledgement of ‘yes there is a problem and as manager I should fix it’ but then not doing so- those things got me good. Comedy is a very subjective thing, and I think that your mileage truly will vary with this one.

Overall, Tokyo Seimenjo isn’t the most impressive drama ever. I found that it was short, sweet and didn’t overstay it’s welcome while being a type of humor that I enjoy. The ending was a bit shoe horned, but they somehow managed to turn that into a joke too. Careful not to watch it on an empty stomach, as even chain restaurant meals can be mouth-watering in their own right. For an in-between ‘snack’ of a show, it’s not too bad. And with that, I’ll see you next time I pop up this month!

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