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Solitary Gourmet is truly a very unique and charming show that can make anyone watching it feel relaxed.
Kodoku no Gurume aka Solitary Gourmet is about a traveling businessman who always finds a good place to eat wherever he happens to be to satisfy his hunger.
When I first heard about the show, I thought to myself "How can a TV show where the main focus is some guy eating be entertaining?". I gave it a chance anyway and wow, I'm glad I did!
Each episode follows a certain format. At the beginning, Goro is usually seen doing business with his clients or wandering around town. After he finishes talking with the clients or random people, he will suddenly feel the pangs of hunger. The "Three Tones of Hunger" (I just call it that way, you'll understand what I mean when you watch the show) will then play, showing Goro in some kind of state of enlightenment, and then he'll briskly walk and hunt for the best place to eat.
Each episode features a different real life restaurant in Japan or sometimes a different country when Goro's traveling internationally. Goro will first study the menu of the restaurant before ordering food. We then get to see Goro eat his food. The episode ends when Goro leaves the restaurant feeling satisfied. As an extra, Qusumi, the original author of the manga/comic book that the show is based on, shows up after the end credits and visits the real life restaurant featured in the show. He then orders some food (and of course, alcohol) and then does a mini review of the shop as he happily chugs down his favorite drink.
The description of how each episode works might sound mundane, but it's in the interactions Goro has with people as well as his inner monologues that give this show a very charming quality. For example, in one episode, Goro might encounter a seemingly tough client who's all business with no heart, but later on, he might bump into this person and then see him being a family man just like everyone else. Goro then realizes that maybe the reason the guy was so uptight was because he's doing his best to make his children happy so he doesn't want to mess business up.
Aside from random encounters with people, it's also entertaining when Goro listens to the conversations of other customers inside a restaurant. He'll suddenly have an internal monologue of whatever he thinks about other people's situations, often relating them to food.
The best part is listening to Goro's thoughts as he "attacks" food. Yes, he treats each meal as a battle that he has to win! Each food is a challenge to him! This is where the magic really happens. The way Goro describes the taste of the food he's eating is just so out of this world but somehow still true.
The actor, Yutaka Matsushige, also manages to give life to the character of Goro in order to make eating a visual treat to watch. You can definitely see him savor the taste of the food. His facial expression changes according to how he feels about the food. His eyebrows rise when he feels very delighted with the taste, it changes into one of determination when the next dish comes, and then his face gets this heavenly look of satisfaction right after finishing a hearty meal. It's something that you can only appreciate by watching this show!
Aside from that, despite the show's focus on Goro's food adventures, I love the fact that even the random characters he encounters have some kind of background story. These aren't complicated characters as they only appear on screen for a couple of minutes, but the way the show works, you'll understand these characters' lives just by listening to their conversations and watching them interact. Most of the time, these very short encounters or observations by Goro can warm your heart or leave a nice moral lesson. It's simply amazing how that's possible to be done in such a very short amount of time. The writers of the show really did an awesome job!
Another beautiful thing about the show is the soundtrack! It's very unique. It's like a blend of different genres. There's jazz, there's action packed 70s style funk, there's oriental badass music complete with gongs and chants, there's a sentimental music box piece, and more! The band that played the soundtrack is called The ScreenTones (you can find them on youtube) and the author of Kodoku no Gurume, Qusumi, is part of it!
All in all, Solitary Gourmet is truly a very unique and charming show that can make anyone watching it feel relaxed. It doesn't have violence in it, there are no complicated stories to worry about, you can jump into the series anytime on any episode and you'll immediately feel right at home. It's really a show that seems to have been made for sharing what it's like to enjoy food in its truest form.
Give this show a chance, it only takes one episode to make you fall in love with it and you'll want to watch more!
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