If one was to mix Spirited Away with Ratatouille, you might end up with 2018’s Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits.
Produced by Gonzo, Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi is a 26 episode anime series adapted from Midori Yuma’s light novel series of the same name that began publication in 2015, now amounting to 11 volumes. None of the light novel volumes have made it State side as of yet, but the 6 volume manga (Viz Media) is coming along steadily.
Kakuriyo tells the story of Aoi Tsubaki, a college age woman raised by her recently deceased grandfather. She can see Ayakashi, otherworldly spirits. Taught by her grandfather to cook, and being gifted at it, Aoi often feeds the small Ayakashi she encounters (like Kappa) partly because she can see them, but largely because when she was abandoned by her mother as a child, an enigmatic Ayakashi fed her, keeping her alive long enough to be found and sent to an orphanage, where she was kept until her grandfather collected her.
She hates the thought of going hungry, for herself, anyone, or anything.
The day after her grandfather’s funeral, while passing a shrine on her way to college, a masked and finely robed Ayakashi tells Aoi he’s hungry, she begrudgingly gives up her Bento lunch as the Ayakashi is rather insistent, and she doesn’t want him making ‘lunch’ of someone instead.
On her way back from classes, Aoi passes the shrine again, finding her empty Bento on the temple stairs with a written on cloth, and beautiful hairpin left behind, she realizes that it is a thank you reward, but the writing on the cloth is a spell, transporting her off into Kakuriyo (The Hidden Realm).
Arriving at Tenjin-ya, an inn for the spirits, Aoi finds a ghastly reception of masked individuals awaiting her, as well as the Ayakashi she’d fed from before. He runs the place. An Ogre God named Odonna, he informs Aoi that the time has come for her to repay her grandfather’s debt. Aoi not in the know of any debt, Odonna explains to her that her grandfather, Shiro Tsubaki, had incurred a sizable tally of unpaid damages over numerous trips to Kakuriyo through out his years. By offering his granddaughter up as collateral, Shiro got off Scott-free, and she is to marry Odonna forthwith.
Aoi protests for obvious reasons, in spite of seeing Odonna’s handsome features once his mask comes off, and offers to indenture herself instead until the outstanding balance is resolved. A shape shifting fox Ayakashi named Ginji takes to Aoi right away, aiding her installment at a vacant building on Tenjin-ya premises that used to be a restaurant. Aoi resurrects it as a restaurant of her own, and the story gets well underway from there.
The first half of the series is Aoi adapting to the wild world around her, overcoming the prejudices of the Ayakashi at Tenjin-ya through sheer force of character, and her cooking, which the Ayakashi find delectable. She soon finds herself as the conduit of communication, as well as confidant to many of the Ayakashi, resolving their personal issues through food and conversation. Meanwhile, she tries to ascertain the identity of the Ayakashi that fed her when she was starving to death as a child, suspecting it to be Odonna, or Ginji.
The second half resets her uphill struggles when she is abducted from Tenjin-ya by the staff of a rival inn when they come to collect Ginji for a special ceremony he is obligated to attend.
Highly romantic, if not melodramatic at times, with a bevy of pretty boy characters and elegant looking women, Kakuriyo is transparently Shojo at least from a stylistic view point, but its strong focus on food paired with Gonzo’s exceptional animation values makes it feel a bit more adventurous, especially once intrigues between the inns kick in.
The anime makes the viewer hungry, the dishes shown to be made by Aoi are pure food porn, and the great visuals as well as soap opera delaying tactics keep the viewer binge watching episode after episode. Kakuriyo also sports some excellent OP themes that seem a little too spirited (no pun intended) for the generally soft, slow drive of the series.
The first half’s Tomoshibi no manimani (I believe this translates as ‘At the Mercy of Lamp Light’) by Nao Toyama goes between tender soft verse and fast frenetic chorus.
…the second half’s Utsushiyo no Yume (Dream of the Underworld or Dream of the Temporal World, I think) by Nano is a pulse pounding anthem worthy of any Shonen series.
The Music videos are pretty awesome too, actually!
Tomoshibi no manimani, Nao Toyama
Utsushiyo no Yume, Nano
Licensed by Funimation for release here in the US of A, say what you will of their dubbing, I found it solid enough, some of the performances from the cast were reminiscent of Last Exile’s (2003) even, causing me to check the credits on IMDB and being surprised not to find Johnny Young Bosch, Crispen Freemen or Michelle Ruff listed there. I was unfamiliar with Emily Neves (Aoi Tsubaki) until now, but felt her vocal performance here was strong enough to carry the main character through all 26 episodes convincingly.
Kakuriyo may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is too neatly prepared to leave a bad one behind. It wines and dines like an impassioned paramour. Allow yourself to experience its full course. Find it streaming on Crunchyroll, or acquire a physical release from Funimation in Blu-Ray format through online or brick n’ mortar retailers.