In Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ), modern chef Ken (Tamamori Yuta) is thrown back in time to Japan’s Warring States period (戦国時代 – sengoku jidai) in the 16th century, and loses all memory of his life in the Heisei era except the information related to his abilities (especially language and cooking) and some brief glimpses of his lifestyle and a mysterious woman. In this state, Ken quickly becomes the head chef to the leading warlord of the era – Oda Nobunaga (Oikawa Mitsuhiro). In a comical twist on history, Nobunaga deploys Ken to cook up victories when the use of armed force is insufficient or unwise.

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With Ken actually managing to win over hearts and minds with his cooking, it looks like he’s becoming a legitimate force in this era.

We rejoin his adventures in the midst of a military camp, where Ken is preparing a meal for everybody. His loyal companion Natsu (Shida Mirai) gives it a taste and is, as always, impressed.

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And the same goes for the Nobunaga’s commanders. I’m dying for one of them to say something like “this stuff’s okay, but I like what you served us yesterday better”. No such luck so far.

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Besides that, while Ken is portrayed as a brilliant and innovative cook, his range of cooking expertise is rather broad. Nobunaga’s requirement that he makes something new every time makes for a good story (it’s like A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, but with dishes instead of stories), but it hardly seems reasonable. But hey, given the premise, why am I trying to verisimilitude in this drama?

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In council with his leading officers, Nobunaga reveals his plan to go to the capital to speak to the Ashikaga shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki (Masana Bokuzo). Yoshiaki is the last Ashikaga shogun, and was installed by Nobunaga himself as a puppet (his father and brother had been previous shoguns, but they had lost Kyoto until Nobunaga reconquered the capital). Hideyoshi (Gori) is understandably worried about Nobunaga’s plan to go to the capital with minimal guard, since Yoshiaki might try something to remove his puppet status.

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Hideyoshi is also unhappy that Ken is assigned to go with Nobunaga, but Hideyoshi is not. When he’s reminded than Ken saved his life . . . well, there’s no point getting into the details of this scene. The point is that Nobunaga is taking a small retinue to the capital . . .

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. . . and that retinue definitely includes Ken.

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On the way, Mori Yoshinari (Ukaji Takashi) explains to Ken why he’s so loyal to Nobunaga.

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At the shogun’s castle, Natsu is nervous about the whole thing.

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Nobunaga meets the shogun privately and boasts that Ken can cook up a meal than anyone in the capital.

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The Ashikaga shogun is not amused.

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This boast leads the local chefs to act with hostility toward Ken, but we know he’s been under this sort of pressure before.

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In front of them, he tries to find a soy sauce substitute (since soy sauce had not reached Japan by the 16th century) in order to make teriyaki chicken.

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The result pleases the Ashikaga shogun . . .

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. . . who then demands that Ken join his kitchen.

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Nobunaga, of course, refuses.

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And it becomes quite clear that Nobunaga is using this refusal as a way of asserting his supremacy over the shogun. Clearly, leaving the shogun to his own whims seems to give him the impression that he actually runs the place, especially since he doesn’t have a clue about the real state of the country and his words still carries weight among many of the daimyo (feudal lords).

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Ken gets a little surprise after his day’s efforts, as Natsu decides to dress as a girl for once:

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It’s nothing permanent, though, since she still wants to become a blacksmith.

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There’s the usual misunderstanding where she thinks he’s making an advance when he’s actually not. I swear, though, it sure didn’t look like much of a mistake.

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Anyway, before the accident turned into something real, the shogun’s men entered and kidnapped Ken.

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The shogun was willing to make Ken an offer for employment, promising anything. After all, it’s no good having a disgruntled chef. Sure, you can execute them if they don’t do a good job, but you’ll also have to be paranoid about whether your meal has been poisoned, and that fear never helps the flavor.

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Nobunaga’s shinobi Kaede (Ashina Sei) comes to the rescue, and once she has control over the situation, Nobunaga enters, reclaiming Ken.

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Oh, and he also hurls a reminder at Yoshiaki.

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Back at Nobunaga’s home ground, he wants to secure the court loyalty, and that means a feast for the leading luminaries. Unexpectedly, the number of guests suddenly rises. The Nobunaga kitchen doesn’t even have enough plates.

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The Ashikaga shogun is attempting a subtle undermining of Nobunaga’s status with these unexpected guests. How will Ken deal with the dilemma?

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More importantly, how will Nobunaga finally show the shogun who’s boss?

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It was nice to see the Ashikaga shogun brought into the picture, further filling in the historical picture. However, I’m not sure I buy the depiction of him. After all, Nobunaga would soon drive him out of Kyoto altogether, at which point he became a Buddhist monk, a station in which he persisted for 24 years – including fifteen years after Nobunaga’s own death. In other words, he was more of a survivor as far as I can tell, and that’s not the sort of character we saw in this episode. I can’t imagine this guy becoming a monk.

I’m also surprised that we’ve apparently lost track of important characters that were introduced, but are otherwise out of the picture. Where is Mitsuhide (Inagaki Goro), who took an interest in Ken? Where is Mori Ranmaru (Nagase Ren), who is supposed to be ever at Nobunaga’s side, even as a child? I’m sure they will appear again, but I hope the series doesn’t take too long before furthering the development of those two characters. I especially hope the Mitsuhide line won’t be left for the last two episodes – a deplorable pattern in a lot of dramas where a compelling overarching plot is only hinted at until it is entirely dealt with in one or two episodes. It’s better to mix the plots more thoroughly.

Thanks to Super Saiyan for the subtitles.