NETFLIX AND FEAST: APPETIZING SERIES LIKE JAPANESE DRAMA MIDNIGHT DINER
A dive into cuisine and slice of life series
Midnight Diner (深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō) is a Japanese anthology television show directed by Joji Matsuoka and inspired by Yar Abe's manga of the same name. It follows the lives of the patrons of Meshiya, a late-night café in Tokyo's Shinjuku area, and its mysterious scarred cook identified only as "Master."
In Japan, the show was a hit, with five seasons released in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2019. TBS and MBS have produced two theatrical feature films to date: Midnight Diner (2014) and Midnight Diner 2 (2016). Netflix Japan released the fourth season, titled Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories in 2016.
South Korea has its own version titled Late Night Restaurant (Shimyashikdang) (2015) that has a quite similar concept with Midnight Diner.
What is Midnight Diner?
Midnight Diner takes place in the middle of the crowded and diversified nightlife of Shinjuku, Tokyo.
The show's lead actor, "The Master," is the owner, cook, and bartender of the unnamed diner that opens just from midnight to 7 a.m. While he has a limited menu, he is always willing to make any food a customer requests as long as he has the necessary ingredients.
The cafe is visited by a diverse group of clients, ranging from salarymen to yakuza and prostitutes, all of whom get along well. The tension between the characters sometimes occurs when they're inside the café.
In general, each episode revolves around a drama centered on a single customer. The plot presents the episode's characters, frequently using well-known stereotypes and cliches, before going into detail about their personal struggles. Master, despite his reserved demeanor, offers assistance and counsel.
The plot usually includes a philosophical life lesson, whether simple or complex, as part of the story. The stories are often amusing, but some do wander into a more dramatic area with sad endings.
Most episodes concentrate on a certain Japanese food, which is usually the favorite meal of the character shown in the episode. The meal also has a story connection, and the episode concludes with Master giving a quick tutorial of how to make the dish while a character from the show delivers verbal directions to the viewers.
Other food-related series to enjoy
If you are a comedy lover, you can try this series: Samurai Gourmet. It tells the story of a retired salaryman aged 60 who studies his neighborhood's cuisine that ended up bringing new meaning to him. In this new chapter of his life, he takes risks with the help of his imaginary partner, a samurai.
If comedy is not enough and you want a full package of comedy, suspense, and fantasy genre, you should check out this series, Mystic Pop-up Bar. It's about a young man with a special skill who starts working for a centuries-old bar owner who enters her customers' dreams to help solve their emotional problems.
More series include The Way of the Hot and Spicy or "Gekikaradou" in Japanese, a story about a man who got transferred to the sales promotion department in the Tokyo office and met his sales promotion chiefs who both really love spicy food. Soon he's beginning to enjoy spicy foods too.
Izakaya Bottakuri, adapted from a web novel with the same name, tells a story about a small bar located in downtown Tokyo called Bottakuri. The place is run by two beautiful sisters who inherited it from their late parents. It serves hearty food and sake. Regulars are usually come not only to eat and drink but to share their problems.
Last but not least, the Korean version of Let's Eat shares a story about four single people from different life backgrounds who enjoy living alone. However, they're annoyed by the fact that dining out is not designed for one. One of the fours request to start eating out together and so they ended up getting involved in each other's lives.
You can also watch the Thailand version of the series if you prefer more Southeast Asian-style cuisine.
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