Thursday, March 9, 2017

What You're Missing: WakakoZaké

Why you might like WakakoZaké ワカコ酒 (Wakako Zake).  There are actually plenty of reviews of this title out there now, but I hope to spread the word that this one is indeed worth it.

When in the course of human events, sometimes we find our own tastes have changed, and something else is required to reach expected levels of enjoyment.  Much as once you reach a certain age jazz music stops sounding like shit and you can't really listen to Blink 182 anymore, sometimes you can't really enjoy an anime series where "high school students do X," or "giant robots, giant giants, too-many ninjas, giant ninja boobies, etc" or just about any stuff that you really need to be in high school to like.  So if you find yourself in such a situation, if you actually like Yokohama Shopping Log (go google it, I know you're gonna), then the series Wakako Zaké is going to be something you probably will enjoy.

In this Mameshiba for the real world, we follow Wakako Murasaki, a single working woman in Tokyo who takes joy in the little things of small eating establishments and the pairing of their specialties with the perfect accompanying libations.  The small moments of decision and quiet reflections featured, undertaken by one living all alone in a big city and after working in a world where your efforts might be futile, culminate in finding that singular space and time when everything comes together for a feeling that can only be depicted as; "Pushuuuuu~ :) "

For anyone who has an interest in slice-of-life type stories or is interested in Japanese cuisine, this is going to be a fun watch for you.  There's really no story line here, and the episodes simply revolve around whatever Wakako decides to order that day.  The episodes themselves are quite short, and clock in at something like two minutes each. Much like the moment of zen (or "pushuuuuu~" as one might put it) they are fleeting, and so the value they bring to your day is all the more important.

One of the reasons I can personally connect with this is that when I lived in Tokyo, I did exactly this kind of thing, looking for out-of the-way places in the middle of Shinjuku and ordering something more indigenous.  There are a few tricks to finding a good place like this.
1) Are they insanely crowded at lunch?  Then it's good stuff.
2) When you go in there, is everyone eating the same thing despite an extensive menu?  Hint; Order that.
3) Does the place not have a menu and only serve one dish for lunch and one for dinner?  That's gonna be a good place.
4) Does it smell so good it makes you feel like you haven't eaten in 3 days? That's the place.
That's pretty much it, in terms of picking a spot. When you're on vacation try it out.  But a few things you should know:
-No big groups.  Seriously these places aren't built for that.
-They're not gonna speak English so don't expect them to.
-If it's crowded, eat everything on your plate and leave immediately. Not kidding, some places have rules like this posted on their walls.
-Cash only.
Happy Hunting.

Never know what you'll find.  (Photo courtesy of ME bitches!)

The ultra simplistic style of character design is actually helpful for this series.  The simple facial features and expressions create the perfect canvas to convey feelings and sensations that can't be explicitly articulated with dialogue alone.  There's something a certain kind of face says that no amount of words in the world could ever hope to.  It is momentary, vaporous, and fleeting; qualities without which would make this series just a boring food-show and not something much, much more.

 A thousand words.

Losing some of this quality, but no less enjoyable is the live action version of this show.  I don't know if it was because it just performed better, or because it's much cheaper to make, but the live action version seems to have more episodes.  To any otaku out there who would normally eschew live-action fare, I would say that if you like the animated version of this, then the live-action is most certainly worth a shot. 

Wakako Zaké

So when the Sword Art is offline, when you really don't care what's going on in Ouran High School or whatever, and when you're out of episodes of Dragon Maid to watch, go sit down with some edamame and some Junmai Ginjo, fire up the Crunchyroll, and sit back to enjoy an anime about the little things that make life worth living.  Wakako Zaké

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