When I initially created my watchlist for the Spring 2018 anime season, Rokuhōdō Yotsuiro Biyori was a series that I had a strong feeling I would adore, mostly from the beautiful aesthetics and traditional details highlighted in the PV. After watching the first episode or two, I am happy to say that this series will be my favourite tranquil title from the line-up.
Originally a manga written by Yū Shimizu, this seinen, slice-of-life serial is being adapted into an anime by studio Zexcs with direction from Tomomi Kamya. It revolves around a small, traditional Japanese-style café that is situated through a lovely garden pathway, laced with bamboo and plum blossom trees. Ran by four men who dress in yukata and have exquisitely polite mannerisms, the restaurant has a pleasantly inviting aura. All sorts of folks find themselves here, whether it is to share a delicious meal—with company or alone—or to find a quiet place to get some work done. The food served also consists of uniquely traditional Japanese-style dishes, such as manju omusubi (savoury confection with fish and rice, served with dashi) and sakuramochi (spring-time rice cake dessert, usually cherry blossom flavoured or designed, wrapped in shiso).
I am a huge sucker for slice-of-life, feel-good shows that unfold seemingly without any plot or cohesive storyline; a show about people and the lives they live. Rokuhōdō is such a show. In the pilot, we meet a young woman who is struggling to accomplish a work-related project. Arriving at the café for peace and quiet, she ends up just relaxing and enjoying herself. This leads her to realise a few things regarding her work. She leaves the café feeling refreshed and more motivated than ever. I loved watching that. I always find serials similar to this one to be inspiring and a fantastic way to unwind after a terrible day.
The vibrancy of the anime also makes it difficult to stay in a gruff mood as everything is so beautiful and serene. Bright, beautiful shades of green and soft, vivid splashes of pink and yellows instantly helped to calm my mind. It encompasses the seasonal aesthetic so breathtakingly. The animation style, while being somewhat average as a whole, has sections where specific details are showcased through careful design, such as the food (which looks so mouthwatering) or the scenery, that makes it feel so much better. It does all of this without feeling inconsistent; it just fits and flows.
The last bit of the old-time ambience is completed with the music. The score consists of a lovely combination of Japanese instruments, such as the shamisen, koto, and shakuhachi, as well as stringed Western instruments. Every note was perfectly in tune to the scenes, helping me become more invested in what was going on. Musical score is another thing that I absolutely adore in media, so when I hear something magical—even if its basic and simple—I know that my interest shall increase quite a lot.
If I could mention anything bad about the show based off the first episode it would be that this style of episodic storytelling may not be for every watcher. Each episode is distinct with a new set of customers for the restaurateurs to interact with and help, with new food, and new perspectives. If you are someone who appreciates more interconnected narratives, then you will not really find that here. The only real connection is watching how the men who run the place interact with one another, as well as how they keep creating fresh ideas to maintain their café. Also, not every situation will be complex or dramatic. The problems that most of the people have are very humdrum, like struggles with a work project. Personally, I love that kind of narrative, particularly in anime—this observation of the human psyche and human nature, it’s very Sōseki—but I can see how it ain’t everyone’s cup of chai.
Overall, I was delightfully pleased with Rokuhōdō Yotsuiro Biyori and I am looking forward to more of it, especially the food! Also, did I mention that the café has a small kitty who wears a red and white polka dot ascot-tie? SO CUTE!