A Few Suggested Movies and Series With Common Themes: Food and The Human Condition
If you're looking for stories about food and the joys and suffering of dealing with human society, then here are a few suggestions.
Sometimes you watch something, and you're immediately reminded of another show or movie that you've watched in the past. That's exactly what happened to me the other day. I started rewatching one of my favorite Japanese dramas recently, and it reminded me of a few other shows and a movie. If any of my readers have seen one of these productions, I'd whole heartedly suggest the others.
The show is Midnight Diner; it's a TV series that takes place in Tokyo, centered around a diner that opens late at night. It's largely episodic and each episode showcases a different story, usually introducing new characters. There are however repeat characters, and we often learn more about their own backstory as the show progresses.
The series is based on a manga, which was later picked up by Netflix. All together there are 5 seasons with a total of 50 episodes. The shoe was popular enough to spawn a few derivative works, including Late Night Restaurant, a Korean drama based on the original manga. Until the other day, I didn't actually watch the older episodes. I'm not sure if I missed them or they weren't available on Netflix at the time. But the early episodes are just as great as the later ones. The one thing I didn't like about the second season is that they cut out the amazing opening theme for some reason.
Midnight Diner reminded me of a few other series, Izakaya Nobu and Isekai Shokudō , as well as the movie Tokyo Godfathers. They all have their own unique style of storytelling, and they're far from cookie cutter replicas of each other, but they all share enough with each other to suggest any one of them to someone who likes the others.
Izakaya Nobu & Isekai Shokudō
Both Izakaya Nobu and Isekai Shokudō are fantasy series centering around restaurants that serve patrons in another world, while Midnight Diner takes place in modern Tokyo. The common thread between these two series and Midnight Diner is primarily the way we get to learn about the lives of the patrons as they come and go. The chefs that run both diners (izakaya) in both Izakaya Nobu and Isekai Shokudō are very similar in some ways to the "Master" who runs the Midnight Dinner.
One episode of both Midnight Diner and Izakaya Nobu that to me at least had a lot in common was episode 4 of Midnight Diner, Potato Salad, and episode 5 of Izakaya Nobu, Shinobu’s Special Napolitan. There are many differences between the two episodes, which makes sense. Izakaya Nobu is more cheerful. But they both deal with family and regret.
Izakaya Nobu and Isekai Shokudō are far more whimsical and are more appropriate for people of all ages than Midnight Diner might be. Both of these anime take place in fantasy worlds and center on people of these other worlds experiencing modern food, often expressing the kind of over dramatic reaction that's common in Japanese animation focusing on food. If you're looking for an anime to watch with the family, either of these two are good options. Isekai Shokudō has more fantasy elements in it as well, in the sense that there are fantasy creatures such as elves, mermaids, etc. Izakaya Nobu largely focuses around human characters.
Midnight Diner does have many uplifting moments and we do see happy endings in at least some episodes, but much of its episodes are more poignant and melancholy, which leads me to my final suggestion: Tokyo Godfathers, directed by the late Satoshi Kon, who also directed Paprika. Tokyo Godfathers is a Christmas story focused on a group of social outcasts who find an abandoned baby. As they try to care for the baby, we learn more about each person's backstory. It's a very emotional story, with plenty of humor, but also quite a bit of sadness. It's full of characters that you can feel sympathy for, and anger towards, often at the same time, which is part of what makes the movie so great.
Tokyo Godfather and Midnight Diner both focus heavily on the human condition. They also tend to deal with adult subjects, so they're probably not appropriate for younger audiences. Violence, sex, and other themes are common in both. Midnight Diner includes characters who engage in various kinds of sex work, and discussions of criminal activity. Still they're really wonderful productions and are both worth watching.