Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ) begins with recently-escaped Ken (Tamamori Yuta) facing a sword:

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Fortunately, it’s a friendly sword held by Nobunaga’s right-hand shinobi Kaede (Ashina Sei), who came to save Ken as a promise to Natsu (Shida Mirai).

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And he looks like he could do with the extra protection, as rogues/bandits quickly surround them, planning to take Kaede as a prisoner and kill Ken. Their initial approach catches Kaede by surprise and she gets cut on her leg.

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Fortunately, that’s not enough to keep her from wiping the floor with these assailants:

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But the exertion just makes the wound worse, and it doesn’t look like she’s ready for a repeat performance after the bad guys flee

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Meanwhile, Nobunaga (Oikawa Mitsuhiro) prepares for battle . . .

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. . . as does his adversary (and former friend) Azai Nagamasa:

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But for now, Ken has to figure out how to help Kaede.

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Well . . . he’s a cook, right? He finds some ingredients at a village that has been abandoned ahead of the battle (war is a lot like a hurricane – the best thing to do is board everything up and get out of town).

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The food looks decent, and the viewer gets a strong sense that Kaede usually doesn’t get food made expressly for her.

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Ken confirms that he can’t remember anything about his past (though he does remember a woman co-worker named Youko he had some sort of relationship with and doesn’t mention this). Kaede says not remembering is probably best – giving a glimpse of her own painful past.

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Ken makes the mistake of trying to pat Kaede to comfort her – she doesn’t like that. But it looks like he’s otherwise gotten through Kaede’s icy exterior. Looks like Natsu is not going to be the only woman in Ken’s Sengoku life.

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When they return to Nobunaga’s camp, Natsu is thrilled to see Ken, but also thanks Kaede for bringing him back.

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For his part, Nobunaga chastises Ken and Kaede for taking so long (well, what did Ken expect from the warlord – a hug?).

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Then he asks Ken to cook something delicious – for the enemy soldiers. If you can’t figure out what Nobunaga’s plan is, don’t worry, they don’t keep us in much suspense.

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After a brief bit where we see Mori Yoshinari (Ukaji Takashi) and Hideyoshi (Gori) relieved that Ken is back . . .

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. . . Ken gets cooking, getting all the meat together he can.

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As he explains, most of Nobunaga’s army are professionals – seasoned warriors who have been fighting for years. Azai Nagamasa’s force is more recently recruited – they’re farmers. There’s a discipline gap there.

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The farmers are running on adrenaline. The smell of delicious meat carried by the wind will get their stomach growling and snap them back into reality – the reality in which they’re not really warriors and really want to go home alive.

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It’s a sneaky trick, but also the first time Ken’s cooking has been used in a tactic that might actually have been tried. Well, at least it might have made it into one of the great legends of war.

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Azai loses this battle, but lives to fight another day – another few years, in fact.

Kaede doesn’t like the result for some reason, and becomes inexplicably cold to Ken again. I really didn’t understand this sudden turn in her attitude toward him – perhaps she was just uncomfortable about getting that close to anyone.

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Ken reports back to Nobunaga, telling the warlord about what his sister Oichi told Ken when she helped him escape.

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Now on to a totally different phase of the story with a new antagonist:

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He is Kōsa (光佐), also known as Kennyo (顕如), the chief abbot of Ishiyama Hongan-ji, a cathedral fortress which Nobunaga sees as a threat. Since the place had fielded an army of warrior monks before, Nobunaga is far from paranoid – Kennyo could really ruin his day if he decided to.

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But then we find out that Kennyo has a secret weapon of his own:

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Yes! It’s Youko (Kashii Yu) – the woman from Ken’s memories! How did she get to the Sengoku period? Well, she’s also retained her ability to make desserts. Here’s a Mont Blanc she made for Kennyo:

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Thankfully, Nobunaga decides not to attack Kennyo yet. He wants to get weapons from the merchants of Sakai. In other words, he wants guns, and that means deploying Ken to win the favor of the merchants, who love fine cuisine even more than warlords.

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So Ken and Natsu are off again, with Mori Yoshinari leading the negotiations and Kaede in kimono to protect them.

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The main merchant they’re interested in is Imai Soukyuu, the primary arms manufacturer. Kaede calls him the “merchant of death”, and she seems to have rather close ties to him.

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So, what will Imai’s conditions be for the deal? Will Ken be able to satisfy him? With Kaede distancing herself from Ken, will Natsu finally be able to win Ken for herself? How will Youko’s appearance complicate things – will Ken be torn apart be three women?

Well, they don’t really answer those last two questions just yet, but they sure do hint at them.

This was a borderline episode at best. The development of Kaede was mostly good, but the sloppy transition between Kaede being favorable to Ken and then her giving him the cold shoulder ruined it. Her character just came off as inconsistent.

Other than that, this episode was only remarkable for the introduction of Youko into the Sengoku picture. I did, however, appreciate the further use of two historical figures – Imai Soukyuu and Kennyo. Any time they can work more of the history in (. . . so I can learn more about it from looking up Wikipedia . . .) is good.

I was struck by how this episode was more like two half-hour episodes than a single full-hour piece. There’ve been a few episodes in this series like that. I’m unsure about whether it’s good or bad. On the upside, it means things move at a faster pace when they try to get two stories into one hour instead of stretching one too long, and the pacing in this series has been fine so far. The downside is that the transitions are lacking.

Thanks to Super Saiyan at D-Addicts for the wonderful subtitles.

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