The first Midnight Diner movie gives the impression of three independent TV episodes chained together. That said, it does reveal a side of the Master not seen in the drama series.
Midnight Diner 2015 (深夜食堂) Synopsis
Resembling the TV series, the first Midnight Diner movie is an anthology of three independent stories, interconnected by an unexpected event at the Diner.
- Neapolitan: Tamako finds comfort in the Master’s sizzling Spaghetti Neapolitan hotplate after she is left out of her lover’s will.
- Grated Rice: A homeless young lady from Niigata forms a curious bond with the Master. Their relationship brings out a fatherly side of Master never before seen.
- Curry Rice: Akemi volunteers for relief efforts after the Tohoku Earthquake, and unexpectedly lands herself in a terrible emotional crisis.
The Urn (The Framing Story): As the owner of a popular eatery, the Master is familiar with diners leaving behind belongings. However, what is found one evening leaves even him unsettled and hapless.
Like many international viewers, my first taste of Shinya Shokudou was Netflix’s Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories.
I deeply enjoyed that series, the result of which I greatly looked forward to last year’s season 2. Curiously, though, I never did properly scour the Net for information on the series. And so other than discovering the Manga, I didn’t know there were three earlier series made for Japanese television, as well as two Japanese movies.
This first movie, released in 2015, near entirely follows the storytelling format of the series, with a framing tale connecting everything as well as deeper characterizations thanks to the longer run-time. While I found all four stories less impactful or quirky when compared to the ones in the series, they nonetheless exhibit an elegant deftness of touch throughout. One that encourages deeper reflection of the subject matters involved.
It was also great seeing Kobayashi Kaoru’s Master outside of the diner, both literally and figuratively. He remains as enigmatic as ever but fresh sides of him are still revealed. In this anthology, he is at least not just a sympathetic ear who occasionally offers advice. His involvement in two of the stories is far deeper.
As for the stories, my favourite, so to speak, would be Curry Rice. Having done volunteer work for a few years, I feel this story explores a side of volunteerism that too many people are uncomfortable to discuss. For some viewers, this story might come across as unfair, or worse, dramatically judgemental. However, I feel the movie does its part in advocating an objective examination of the subject involved. In our complex modern world, one really cannot deny the possibility of such misinterpretations happening.
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