Part 2 of the Isekai Shokudo Guest Note series features Uesaka Sumire, voice of demon waitress Aletta and Ito Shizuka, voice of the Red (dragon) Queen.
‘Try your best to make it sound like you’re dying’ – What do those words mean?
Q: Episode one aired recently – please tell us what your impressions of it are.
Uesaka: [The episode shows how] Aletta loses her way and ends up at Nekoya; watching the anime made me feel even sorrier for her. Also, I was asked by the director to ‘try my best to make it sound like I’m dying’.
Ito: ‘Try your best’ to ‘die’ eh (laughs)
Uesaka: I was told, “You’re talking a lot but at the same time, you’re dying” (laughs). She was so hungry that she could drink a whole pot full of corn soup; her brain just stopped functioning – that was the extent of her hunger at the beginning. Unlike in the novels, Aletta is part of the anime’s storyline right from the start – and to me, that was a rather spectacular way to kick things off.
Ito: My first thought was ‘Oh, it’s begun. The ultimate foodporn show’ (laughs). Hearing the dialogue during recording sessions alone sets off one’s hunger pangs. We may not be able to see the completed visuals when we’re recording, but my stomach is already growling merely by listening to the conversations going on in the studio – they’ve got me eagerly anticipating what the finished product will turn out to be.
Q: In the previous column, leading man Suwabe (Junichi)-san described the series as ‘foodporn’ as well – is that the common view amongst the cast members?
Uesaka: Yes it is.
Ito: You’d most definitely be hungry after watching this anime!
Shocked by Aletta’s fanservice scenes!?
Q: What would you say was your favourite scene in episode 1?
Uesaka: The director says that ‘food is the star of this show’, but I would say that the comments and reactions of the individuals from alternate worlds who taste Nekoya’s food for the first time [are my favourite scenes]. They may not be familiar with the ingredients being used, yet they find the dish delicious. Plus you have Aletta, who’s survived ‘til now eating 1 Baron’s Fruit [note: potato] per day.
Ito: (in a sad voice) You poor, poor thing~.
Uesaka: And that is how she encountered corn soup and the Special Morning set at Nekoya. For episode 1 that was the big event – the saving of this girl’s life.
Q: It’s said to be a story about a restaurant near office blocks, yet the setting resembles the wartime era (laughs)
Uesaka: As Aletta is considered lowly-ranked and weak amongst the demons, it’s tough for her to live and to work. It’d be out of the question for her ever to be sitting next to the Red Queen, someone who’s at the top of the caste, like [I am] in this interview.
Ito: Sumire-chan and I aren’t like that though (laughs)
Uesaka: Also, the scene where Master asks [Aletta] to go take a shower was powerful. The grime was falling away in clumps. This is supposed to be foodporn but instead, you see such graphic images…
Q: Shower scenes tend to be fanservicey scenes though…
Ito: More dirt flies out than normal – that is the kind of fanservice you get (laughs)
Uesaka: I wonder how many months it’d been since she took a bath – I was taken aback.
Ito: When the characters’ perspectives are so different, it does make the series’ atmosphere seem otherworldly. But food holds such great charm – and you know it is true from seeing someone like the Red Queen or the others who are nicknamed the names of their favourite dishes, gushing about their favourite food. You’re able to comprehend how tasty the dish is just by hearing them describe it, and it whips your appetite up as well. Oh and by the way, after episode 1 recordings were done my cravings were so strong that I ran into a family restaurant and had some beef stew before moving onto my next work schedule.
Uesaka: Wow! You really do end up craving the food, don’t you?
Q: The series kicks off with a flashback to Master’s schooldays, where he’s in conversation with his grandfather, the previous Master.
Ito: When Master asks ‘We’re supposed to be a Western-style restaurant so why are we serving braised pork [buta no kakuni]?’ and the previous Master responds ‘It’s okay for an eatery to serve any kind of eats as long as it’s tasty’ – that was such a cool scene.
Uesaka: There are quite a few flashback scenes showing the exchanges between Master and his predecessor. There are also a few of the patrons whose parents were fans of Nekoya’s. Seeing such scenes made me wonder if there would be any customer coming in who’d request braised pork. I want to know the kind of braised pork [Master would] dish up, please show it in the anime!
How alternate world dwellers view modern-day Japan; the enjoyment of seeing how magic & swords become useless
Q: What are your impressions of the series after reading the original novels, and now that you’re actually acting in the anime?
Uesaka: ‘Another World’ is part of the series’ title – to Aletta and Red Queen, Nekoya is part of ‘another world’. Rather than having modern Japanese people being shocked when they go to alternate worlds, we have people from different worlds reacting to Japanese culture – I think that’s interesting to see.
Also, the cast list is really amazing; all manners of wise men, swordsmen, big-time merchants etc coming from other worlds – you get a profound sense of who your customers are. Listening to the noise [in the restaurant] alone gives you such a feeling. Everyone is equal in this restaurant and it is heart-warming to see people coming together to eat, and sometimes fight over delicious meals. It is rare to have a series focusing on alternate worlds that does not feature swords and magic powers (laughs).
Ito: That’s so true. Instead, we have fire and kitchen knives (laughs). When I’m reading the novels, the ‘sizzling’ feeling (working up an appetite) comes across easily and it makes my stomach growl. I can’t imagine how dangerous the anime will be now that we’ll have the accompanying visuals.
The Red Queen is a dragon and in upcoming episodes we’ll see a variety of different customers turning up; it makes me think, ‘Is this gonna be OK?’ (laughs). Individuals of opposing types and from different backgrounds will gather, sharing interesting conversations – from a casual chat it’ll turn into a heated debate about their favourite dishes. To see how Nekoya brings people together in such a way makes me wish I could go there at least once in my life.
The cuteness of Aletta’s way of eating. The mystery of her maid outfit?
Q: What are your impressions of your respective characters? Let’s talk about Aletta first.
Uesaka: Aletta used to work at an inn but once her identity as a demon was exposed, she was fired from her job. Thrown into such a situation, the Master decides to take her in and that was how she came to work at Nekoya. In a foreign land, working her hardest to commit those unfamiliar dishes to memory. The way she eats is cute too. With her little likes and dislikes.
Ito: It puts a smile on your face seeing how she’s so emotional whenever she eats something delicious. Makes you think ‘Ah, she’s so cute. I’ve got to protect her’ (laughs)
Uesaka: The maid outfit really suits her as well. I think it’s the Master who prepared the maid outfit for her…including the camisole. Master seems to be a bit stiff so I do wonder whether he would like such frilly things.
Ito: Was it leftover from his grandfather’s time, or is it a preference of the current Master’s? (laughs). It’s interesting to imagine him weighing up his choices, thinking ‘this would be perfect for our waitresses!’
Uesaka: The inner thoughts of the Master are not easily revealed. In Aletta’s case you have her monologues and her changing facial expressions. Someday, I’d like to ask Aletta where she gets her clothes from. The relationship between [Aletta and Master] is just right – not too familiar and not too distant. Not just as employer and part-timer, but like family. There may not be anything that binds them together, yet he will take care of her for life. That is something that I feel is comforting for Aletta.
The scene where the Red Queen licks the beef stew is filled with love!?
Q: Now, how about the Red Queen?
Ito: As a queen she’s dignified, but once a week she will turn reticent when eating Nekoya’s beef stew. The way she tastes the beef stew is portrayed as such – first, she’ll have some at the restaurant and then she’ll get a pot of stew for takeaway, and end up licking it all night long (laughs). I try to put all my love into the acting out of the tasting of the stew, making it seem as luscious as possible.
Q: She enters Nekoya in her human form, wearing a dress, but she’s normally a dragon.
Ito: She has a huge body and it’s strange to see the contrast between her size and that of the pot of stew. She towers over the entire pot, licking the contents with her tongue.
Uesaka: She’s cute. I doubt that there are many such cute dragons around. I wonder whether her neck hurts though?
Ito: It’d probably be soft, don’t you think? (laughs). She’s imposing and has a slightly arrogant air to her, yet she bows down at the feet of Master’s beef stew. In the final scene, she’s flying above the skies thinking, ‘I must protect [Nekoya]’.
Q: Episode 1’s closing scene seemed like it was hinting at a celestial being the mastermind of the story.
Ito: [The Red Queen’s] an important character after all. She’s the Guardian (laughs)
Uesaka: She tries to be considerate by not entering the restaurant when other patrons are around; she’s respectful and is a quietly attentive queen, in my opinion. The one thing that piques my curiosity is whether or not she shares her stew with her attendant Balrog?
Ito: C’mon, there’s no way I would share with anyone else.
Uesaka: It’s definitely hard to give up the things you love, isn’t it? (laughs). From time to time you can see some human elements in her character, which makes her adorable. But I wonder if Aletta is aware of the Red Queen’s true identity? We haven’t seen anything on that for the moment…Since the Red Queen tops the pyramid and is on a completely different level from Aletta…
Ito: That’s right (laughs)
Uesaka: Aletta started out life as plankton after all (laughs). If not for her great luck, she would probably never have been able to meet, let alone speak to someone like that.
Ito: Aletta is someone who’s indispensable to Nekoya after all.
Uesaka: Thankfully. If the Red Queen set her mind to it, she could send Aletta flying.
Ito: If she put her mind to it. With a simple wave of her hand. But she wouldn’t do such a thing (laughs)
An open and broadminded Master. I’d like to see him get agitated
Q: What do you think of Master?
Uesaka: I think Master is the coolest character in this series; his passion for cooking is amazing. Also, the fact that he remains composed no matter what type of customer walks through his doors. Since he inherited the restaurant from his predecessor, I would suppose that he’s equipped with mental fortitude and approachability? I’ve love to at least once, see a scene where he gets upset.
Q: Perhaps the most surprising scene in episode 1 would be when he steps on a sleeping Aletta in the darkness?
Uesaka: That may have been the most animated he will ever get (laughs). You wouldn’t normally expect an illegal intruder after all. It was so mysterious that I’d love to ask him just what was going through his mind at that moment.
Ito: I think he’s very open-minded and non-judgemental as well. He takes Aletta in and accepts each and every customer [as they are]. He’s never fazed by anything and his dishes are undeniably delicious. He’s a good man. I want a guy like him at home (laughs).
What you would cook for someone who’s at the depth of their hunger
Q: What would you cook for someone who was at the greatest depth of their hunger like Aletta?
Uesaka: Hmm~. If it was a person who was really hungry then their stomach probably wouldn’t be able to take solid foods.
Ito: We’d have to start with liquids. Isn’t that the case? (laughs)
Uesaka: I think we’d have to go with an IV drip first. I’m sure people already know the kind of dishes I can cook…so maybe raw egg on freshly boiled rice [tamago kake gohan].
Ito: I get that!
Uesaka: When your stomach’s empty you feel like gobbling everything up. I like to put chili oil in as well – it always stirs up the appetite so I think it’s something that’s fail-safe. You can dish it up quickly as well so it’s good for people who need to eat immediately.
Ito: I don’t put anything extra in, but I prefer to have my white rice cooked in a claypot. I really love my white rice, I can eat about 3 potfuls. But I’d get fat so I don’t (laughs). I love it so much I’d gladly do a white rice party where I’d just cook white rice in a claypot and eat as much as I wanted to – it’d be so tasty I could just drink it in.
Q: You give off the impression of someone who would own an expensive rice cooker.
Ito: Those expensive rice cookers cost way too much for me, but I do have a pretty good one, perhaps 1 rank lower. After all, I love eating tasty rice.
Uesaka: Earthen pots are good too. For scorched rice and so on.
Ito: I would like to cook rice in an earthen pot but [it’s not an option] for someone who has so little free time like me…if only I could spare the time.
What I wish to transform into depends on the situation!?
Q: The Red Queen transforms into a human when she visits Nekoya – if you were able to transform, what would you like to transform into?
Uesaka: (They) appear in this show as well – lately, I’ve been quite curious about Lizardmen [appears in episode 4].
Uesaka: I think he’s cute. I want to live with the Lizardman.
Ito: What kind of life? I can’t imagine. What do you find charming [about Lizardman]?
Uesaka: The look in his eyes. The Lizardman in this show is called Gaganpo and he’s very charming plus the language spoken in his world is different from that of this world…
Ito: I want to be something that can fly in the sky. Dragons are cool, as are big birds like hawks or eagles. If I was a weak animal I’d easily fall prey to other creatures (laughs). On fine days I see birds soaring freely in the sky and I find myself thinking, ‘That’s nice. I wish I could throw everything away and go fly high in the sky’.
Uesaka: What have you been through?
Ito: I want to forget all the hardships and be like a bird flying like the wind (laughs).
When you open the door – where would you want to be connected to?
Q: In alternate worlds, there is a strange door that leads to Nekoya – if you were to open a door to arrive at some other place, where would you like it to lead to?
Uesaka: I wonder what would be a nice place… To go to Russia I’d have to apply for a visa and that’s hard so yeah, I’d choose Russia. It’d be illegal entry though (laughs)
Ito: I like the tropics, so I’d like to be able to go to the tropical beaches whenever I liked, having a drink in my swimsuit.
Uesaka: That sounds good.
Any objection to Ito-san’s dish name that she wants to be called by’?
Q: Like in the series, what dish, if any, would you like to adopt as your nickname?
Uesaka: Would that mean my favourite dish? I guess I’d be omurice. I love it and often go to omurice restaurants.
Q: What type of omurice do you like?
Uesaka: If I had to describe it, it’d be an omurice where the rice seeps out fluffily once you sink a knife through its centre; I love fluffy and moist things. Omurice goes well with anything – cream, beef, tomato, Japanese flavours, which is what makes it a versatile dish. I think I might have the confidence to contribute to the debates that go on in Nekoya about favourite dishes.
Ito: I want to say cooked white rice but people might think I’m like someone stuck in the Edo period and I’d have to answer everything with a resounding ‘Heyo!!’ when they call out to me (laughs). I like kneaded powdery types of food as well, so something like gnocchi might do.
Uesaka: That’s cute.
Ito: It just popped into my brain but gnocchi does sound cute. I want to massage it over and over. Chikuwabu might be nice too. But chikuwabu’s more of an ingredient rather than food (laughs).
Q: So now, try calling each other those names.
Uesaka: Gnocchi ❤
Ito: Omurice ❤
Uesaka: But you don’t feel like a gnocchi.
Ito: Shall I be ‘White Rice’ then?
Uesaka: That sounds a lot cooler (laughs)
Ito: I don’t mind being called that. So okay, I’ll be ‘White Rice’ (laughs)
Finding Uesaka-san’s likeness at a store [she] would like to work at!?
Q: Aletta is a waitress in Nekoya. Are there any restaurants or stores you would like to work at?
Uesaka: If I wasn’t a seiyuu I’d love to work in a second-hand bookstore. I adore the old bookshops in Jimbocho; it seems like fun to help out one of the shop owners there.
Uesaka: I’d be able to read books continuously, at a leisurely and carefree pace.
Ito: I think I’d be unsuited towards working in the food & beverage industry.
Uesaka: Why is that so?
Ito: ‘cos it seems like I’d mess up & break the plates. I like selling things and making recommendations to customers, so perhaps I’d work at an electronic appliances store.
Uesaka: Like [selling] rice cookers.
Ito: Yeah. I tend to want to buy the latest house gadgets myself so I’d love to recommend them to people. I want people to tell me ‘that [appliance] you recommended was great’.
Q: So maybe it’s time to be a seiyuu for home appliances.
Ito: That would be great, wouldn’t it!
In the studio, endless cooking discussions
Q: What’s the atmosphere like during recording?
Uesaka: Every week, we’re provided with the dishes featured in the episode as part of our catered meals so when break time comes around we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get a taste. It gets pretty lively, similar to how Nekoya is. The food is just so tasty every time though that I get a little worried wondering, ‘Is this is all OK?’
Ito: Are you worried about somebody’s pocket?
Q: By the way, what was the food served during recordings for episode 1?
Ito: It was a curry bread kind of thing, but a beef stew version. That was all that I got to try.
Uesaka: For episode 2 we were served fried prawn [ebifurai] sandwich and minced meat cutlet [menchi katsu] sandwich.
Ito: Wow that sounds good! I should stop by for a bite every week (laughs)
Uesaka: I feel blessed. Very much so.
Ito: We also talk about the dishes that are featured every week. The director will start things off by talking about what he likes, and the discussion will get livelier from there… (laughs). It’s a peaceful recording studio where the staff and cast are all thinking about food.
Uesaka: During today’s recording I was shocked to hear someone say ‘I don’t like this dish that much’.
Ito: Yeah and everyone was trying to impress upon him that ‘if you eat a tasty one you’ll surely change your mind’.
The highlights of the anime, as recommended by the 2
Q: Please tell us what is attractive about this series, and what we should look forward to in the future.
Uesaka: After watching each episode you will go to sleep filled with happiness as well as hunger. You’ll probably feel like eating the dish so if you live near a convenience store, do be careful. That is the extent of the passion that’s being poured into the food – from the slightly differing viewpoints of [people from] alternate worlds; you might be able to discover fresh new charms in Japanese-style Western food. Different customers drop by every episode and sometimes they gather together – each one of them has their own story to tell, so please look forward to them.
Also, when you see Aletta in episode 1 she might seem like a bit of a klutz but she’s a hard worker and you’ll get to see how she becomes a capable girl – please watch over her warmly.
Q: You can find out next week’s dish on the official website so why not find the resolve to prepare the dish [to eat while watching]?
Uesaka: Good idea. It’d be nice to eat while watching the anime. Have a bit of a greedy feast in the middle of the night (laughs)
Ito: That sounds good, but the food Master prepares will stir up your appetite so I think it’s better for you to eat it after you’ve seen the episode. For example, you might have bought a minced meat cutlet beforehand only to discover after watching Master prepare it that what you got was not quite what was in the anime and regret it, thinking ‘I should’ve gotten a better one!’.
Uesaka: In that case, why not make the dish yourself?
Ito: You may be right. I might make it alongside the Master. It’d be fine to make it the following day too.
Uesaka: I wish they’d put the Master’s recipe up on the website.
Ito: That would be great! People who don’t normally cook for themselves might even be inspired to try it out.
Q: Seeing how a group of individuals gather together in the restaurant, watching the drama unfold each week – I thought that it somewhat feels like a Showa-era drama.
Uesaka: That’s true. But that may be completely different from what I’m imagining. Something along the lines of the Takakura Ken movies of old, featuring these lively pubs – you’ll have Ken-san, fresh out of prison, in a dilemma over beer and pork cutlet bowl [katsudon]. He only has enough money for one or the other, not both.
Q: Ah, my own image was a TV drama made for home viewing…
Uesaka: I can only see it as a yakuza story*…
*the word used is 任侠物 (ninkyōmono), a film sub-genre regarding yakuza – similar to mobster stories. ‘ninkyō’ means ‘chivalrous’, a reference to how the protagonists were of honourable ilk, like Robin Hood.
Ito: (laughs) It would have its charms as an ensemble movie though, don’t you think?
Uesaka: The character in the spotlight changes depending on the dish that’s being featured, and it’s interesting to see how that character would then be weaved into subsequent stories featuring other different characters.
From Nekoya – sharing the delicious bliss with others!
Q: Lastly, please leave a message for everyone.
Uesaka: Isekai Shokudo is a series overflowing with happiness; the kind of work you can watch with confidence that nobody will get hurt. It’d be great if you could make the same dish [as in every episode], though store-bought food would be fine too. But hmm, beef stew seems tough to make. Would you need a pressure cooker?
Ito: You’d need to start preparing a day earlier.
Uesaka: It would turn out to be meltingly tender beef stew in that case. Anyhow, the dishes look delicious plus Aletta is cute from top to bottom so do please love the show. It comes in an omnibus format so even if you miss an episode you won’t be left behind. Please relax, have fun, allow us to accompany your days – and look forward to this series once in every 7 days.
Ito: What is there left for me to say, coming after Sumire-chan’s comments? Thanks for the food? (laughs). There is no doubt that you’ll be left with blissful feelings if you watch this series. All of you who like to eat, or those of you who like to cook – please drop by Nekoya. We too, will share our delightful deliciousness with you.