We found out in the last episode that the finale of the drama Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ) would feature a cooking competition between the two chefs from the Heisei era – Ken (Tamamori Yuta) and Youko (Kashii Yu) – to decide which peace terms between the Oda clan and the warrior monks of Ishiyama Hongan-ji. I’m pretty sure that a cook-off wasn’t the way the peace terms were really decided (actually, Nobunaga laid Siege to Ishiyama Hongan-ji for a whopping eleven years!), but having a competition between Ken and Youko is a solid idea, and they had to have decent stakes in play to make it interesting. So, I’m mostly all right with the premise of this episode – at least they didn’t have the cooking determine the outcome of the larger fight between Nobunaga and the Azai-Asakura alliance.

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Ken seems hesitant about competing against Youko, so Nobunaga decides to berate his cooking for the first time, and instills some fighting spirit in him.

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But Ken is still unhappy with the situation when Mitsuhide (Inagaki Goro) decides to offer him a crucial bit of information.

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There’s a legend about a shrine in the capital. On the night of a solar eclipse, children were known to disappear and reappear from there, and Mitsuhide suggested that it may be a “time slip.” That’s a pretty slim shot – I wouldn’t want to take the odds of ending up in the right time when stepping through some random temporal rift. There are worse times to be than the Japanese Warring States period – being a male Ken’s age during World War II on the Japanese side, knowing how that turns out, would be a real bummer.

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Do you get the feeling that Mitsuhide just wants Ken out of the way because he’s nervous about Ken’s foreknowledge?

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Well, it so happens that the solar eclipse is on the day of the competition, so if Ken and Youko want to make the journey back to the Heisei era, they’ll have to go straight after cooking.

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In this tight spot for Ken, Hideyoshi (Gori) and even former head chef Inoue (Kitaro) offer to help.

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And of course, there’s always Natsu (Shida Mirai). I guess the real question in this episode is whether Ken will pick Natsu or Youko. I have to say that they haven’t done much work building the relationship between Natsu and Ken – they’re more like buddies than anything else – but they’ve managed to do even less with the ties between Youko and Ken. This series has been many things, but it’s no romance.

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I really can’t understand the portrayal of Kennyo or what kind of hold he thinks he has over Youko. The fewer of these scenes we get, the better.

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With that, the cooking begins . . .

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. . . and the disputants gather in the presence of the emperor. I like the way they portrayed the emperor, though I have no idea about the historical accuracy of it.

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We’ve pretty much got the full picture of the plot, except for one important twist – Ken and Youko both arrive prepared to cook the same thing for the emperor, confusing Ken.

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The fact that he gets some serious memory flashes when he sees Youko cook doesn’t help.

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The point is that he has to figure out something else to make with just the ingredients he has at hand.

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Youko’s already done with her dish and the solar eclipse arrives before Ken finally gets his act together.

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So, who will win the contest? Will Ken choose Youko and take the rift back to where he came from or choose Natsu and start a new life in the Sengoku Jidai?

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And has he changed events so that Nobunaga’s fate is different from the one history records, or will everything happen as planned . . .

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. . . including Mitsuhide’s betrayal?

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I think they did as good a job of covering all the loose ends as could be expected, and they did it within a normal episode instead of an extended one. I like solid endings, and while this one didn’t have any fireworks, it did what it needed to do.

Was Nobunaga no Chef a satisfying series? It wasn’t boring or slow, that’s for sure, and I learned a bit more about Japanese history during the course of it (by looking up all the historical figures and events mentioned).

The flaws were numerous, though. It didn’t have enough fun with its interesting premise – it mostly stuck to a set formula for how the episode would go throughout the entire series, and that lack of innovation went against the expectations set by the story’s description. Since it ultimately came down to Ken choosing between Natsu and Youko, they should have at least done more to build his ties to Natsu, giving them more substantial conversations.

In the end, the series tasted very bland, with the only spice being Oikawa-san’s portrayal of Nobunaga, and perhaps the character of Kaede added some brief interest, though they didn’t spend enough time on her to leave any real impression. This drama tasted like chicken – not bad, but nothing to make you jump up and shout “umai!” either.