Netflix’s original series Samurai Gourmet begins on Takeshi Kasumi’s first day of retirement where he wakes up late one fine morning, panics to get ready, and then asks his wife why she didn’t wake him, only to remember that this is his first day of retirement. Left restless in an introspective limbo that often comes with retirement, Takeshi looks to the lifestyle and taste of the samurai in order to end his newfound ennui. This light-hearted tale intertwines the mindset of a samurai, as envisioned by Takeshi, and a sweet flavor of comedy. In character-defining moments of choice, Takeshi imagines the Wandering Samurai and what he would do in situations he finds himself in, whether that be standing up to an awful hostess or having a heart-to-heart with a spoiled, yet beloved niece over yakiniku, he invokes the spirit of his samurai.
Each of these food-oriented moments helps weave together a show about reclaiming one’s life after a long and formative phase of its ends. Takeshi seems to develop a sudden admiration of the cooking and eating process, simple and complex alike. In the pilot episode he finds that he just really wants a beer at this little restaurant where he first imagines the samurai he wants to embody in his modern life; he has been liberated from his “working man spirit,” but even now he feels guilty because it isn’t right to drink as you work. He tells himself that if he were a samurai, he would drink anytime he wanted to, and then he has a slightly comical decision-making vision of samurai in the restaurant, convincing him to drink the damn beer already!
He sees age-old tradition in Japanese cuisine staples, uniqueness in regional dishes, and comfort and quality in a homemade meal made by his sweet wife. He sees the life each ingredient had before it became sustenance and part of a sensory experience, such as the silvery sea-swimming fish and the flavor of the sun that dried it the days before he ate it on the sparkling seaside.
The former corporate man now has time to slow down and live another life; his story focuses on the little things that make us human, things that convince us of reality, and though they seem mundane, they are important. The world seems to slow and rest on the moment, yet seems to be strangely aware of tomorrow. In this case, it is living in the experience of preparing and eating a meal (and most definitely not posting about it on Instagram), and how it is a daily ritual and necessity as much as it is a particular experience, one that Takeshi Kasumi is on a quest to know.
The show is based on the Japanese manga Manga Nobushi-no-Gourmet.
Its time commitment is only 1 season of 12 episodes, no more than 30 minutes each. It features Naoto Takenaka (Shall We Dance?, Shinjuku Incident) as Takeshi Kasumi.
Available on Netflix
Why It’s Worth the Binge: Great live action adaption of the manga, charming lead character, retirement only promises another beginning, lighthearted plot with deeper themes, insight to Japanese cuisine