So, let’s kick off the first drama season of 2013, shall we?

In Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ), young chef Ken (Tamamori Yuta) is catapulted back in time to the Sengoku Jidai – Japan’s Warring States Period. There, he eventually becomes the chef to Oda Nobunaga, the most powerful man of the period until Tokugawa finally reunited the country. If that sounds like a ridiculous premise, hold that thought, because sometimes, dramas manage to pull off the strangest ideas.

The show begins with flashes of memory, as we see Ken cooking, and a woman enjoying the meal.

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Then his eyes open to a completely different world – a dangerous world where people with swords are chasing after him out of some misunderstanding.

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He’s pulled aside by someone dressed like him, and that’s when we find out he doesn’t remember who he is. The other chef tells him he’s Ken and that he’s from the Heisei period . . .

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. . . right before dying.

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Ken has to jump off a cliff and into a river to escape this fellow:

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Washed ashore unconscious, he’s rescued by a girl pretending to be a boy named Natsu (Shida Mirai) who wants to become the top blacksmith. She’s gathering sand, which is required for her work, when she sees him on the shore and tries to help him.

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She’s not exactly enamored with him, but rather understandably curious.

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Still trying to figure things out in the absence of much of his memory, he decides he at least knows something about eel.

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When they reach Natsu’s house, it hits him. She used a different word for eel – one they used in the Sengoku Jidai. That starts him babbling about a time slip. He remembers that he was in a much more advanced society – you know, one where people weren’t running around with swords slaughtering people.

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She wisely recommends an alternate story – that he’s from a village called Heisei, and that he’s lost his memory (mostly true).

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With the fight that Ken escaped looking like it has a victor . . .

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. . . one soldier (Kinoshita Tokichiro Hideyoshi played by Gori) stumbles Natsu’s house and demands food. Now, I had to admit that I was surprised when I found out that this was supposed to be Hideyoshi. After all, Hideyoshi takes over after Nobunaga dies, and while I know he started out in humble beginnings, this portrayal was a bit too goofy. I thought Hideyoshi was typically well-respected.

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He doesn’t find anything to his tastes, but does spot the eel. Natsu has no clue how to cook it, but after a flash of memory, Ken decides that he might:

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And voilà!

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Hideyoshi isn’t so sure about this, so he has Natsu taste it first to check for poison.

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After she decides that it’s not only safe, but delicious, he gives it a try and agrees. But then the ruffians chasing him barge in.

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They’re rescued by none other than Oda Nobunaga (Oikawa Mitsuhiro) and his fellow warriors.

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Ken apparently doesn’t know how to talk to a warlord, because he quickly draws Nobunaga’s ire. Natsu has to plead for him, and she eventually gets Hideyoshi to confirm that Ken’s cooking is superb.

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This is going to be one of those tense relationships, isn’t it?

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Nobunaga takes Ken captive, but leaves Natsu behind. So, she decides to try to sneak into Nobunaga’s castle. Needless to say, she’s quickly discovered by Kaede (Ashina Sei), Nobunaga’s top shinobi.

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In prison, Ken meets a man (Inagaki Goro) who wonders whether he’s here to assassinate Nobunaga. In a panic to deny it, Ken says that he’s from the future and mentions time slips again. It’s not quite clear how the man takes all this.

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We find out a bit later in the episode that he’s Akechi Mitsuhide, the man who will eventually betray Nobunaga and be responsible for his death.

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That’s in sixteen years, though. For now, Nobunaga is still in ascendancy.

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Natsu once again pleads for Nobunaga to give Ken a chance to prove his skills.

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And, being a man who enjoys a good competition, Nobunaga decides to pit Ken against his own head cook (Kitaro). The one who loses dies.

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Ken certainly has confidence when it comes to cooking, despite not knowing anything about himself.

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I don’t think the result of this particular match-up should come as much of a spoiler.

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But will Ken be the cause of the death of the head cook?

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If he isn’t, doesn’t that mean that he’s once again defying the will of Nobunaga?

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This will not be the only test Nobunaga thinks up for this chef from the future.

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The other challenge has to do with the arrival of Luis Frois, a Jesuit whose intentions are not clearly known. Hideyoshi wonders if the Portuguese who Frois represents are intent on taking over Japan.

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This episode took me by surprise, because they’re playing it absolutely straight. There’s very little by way of comedy. Rather, this story seems to be about the tension between a warlord and a young man who, being from a free society in the future, can’t bring himself to be properly deferential. One suspects that Ken will often find Nobunaga’s sword at his throat, the way he’s going. Oh, and there’s also mouth-watering cuisine, of course – always a plus on Japanese TV.

The acting is so far reasonably good, with Tamamori-kun and Oikawa-san doing excellently in the two lead roles, and the supporting cast tolerable. I’m still a bit iffy about Gori-san playing Hideyoshi. I hope he develops into the brilliant Hideyoshi as the series proceeds, because at this point it is hard to see the personality of the shrewd negotiator in this character. Shida Mirai-san carries the burden of most of the comic relief in this episode. Natsu doesn’t appear to have an independent identity, though. Right from the start, she acts like Ken’s sidekick, and that limits what Shida-san can do in the role.

Anyway, this was a good start to the season, with nicely paced opening episode. I look forward to how they proceed with it, especially since they seem intent on bringing in the actual historical characters, and I love history.

Thanks to Super Saiyan for the excellent subtitles.