And now for something completely different!
When I first sat down to watch Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, currently available for viewing on Crunchyroll, I came to the natural conclusion that this show will hurt us. After all, this is the latest entry in the versatile Fate franchise, and given what Fate is all about (historical figures coming to the present age to kill each other pretty violently for the chance to get a single wish granted), whatever shit-show of a high-stakes supernatural clash comes after the first episode shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone.
So I watched the first episode—nothing mature or bloody disgusting yet, the watercolor animation was a pleasant change of pace, and no stellar fight scenes in sight, but, okay, it’s just the first episode, they’re just setting up the universe and all. Then I go to the second episode, and then the third one, and so on (there’s 12 in all, and each one is about 13 minutes, so they’re all pretty easy to absorb), looking for that exact moment when shit starts to go south. Not helping its case was its pleasingly detailed character designs; if there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching shows with cute aesthetics it’s that eventually, in one way or another, shit that looks like sunshine and lollipops will get dark and gritty fast (I’m looking at you, Made in Abyss).
And yet, that moment never came. I mean, all the characters we’ve come to recognize over the years are still here, and it’s clear that there’s still magic out there, but I didn’t see any hint that a bloody brawl for a wish-granting Grail was happening. But the animation of Shirou preparing the food was absolutely stellar. Not to mention, the food looked insanely delicious. And that’s when it hit me: I wasn’t watching a psychological horror sci-fi/fantasy about the inner trappings of justice and fate (no pun intended); turns out I was watching a slice-of-life “food porn” cooking show with a cast that happens to be comprised of Fate characters. The show itself steers completely clear of both its more mature elements and controversial sexual content. Of course, that’s not to say it’s lacking; in fact, removing these elements makes it possibly the most mainstream entry in the franchise, a sort of domestic alternate universe on which fans can lay their weary heads after watching their favorite characters die. It just feels so fluffy and wholesome to see all these characters interact, knowing fully well that, in other world, they would probably be fighting to the death.
The cooking itself is one thing; it’s the person who’s doing the cooking that’s perhaps the starkest element of the show. Shirou, despite his day job as a Shonen Action Protagonist, here he seems perfectly comfortable with playing the role of the cooking housewife. The core element of Shirou’s character has always been his aspiration to be a hero, so, in a strange way, it makes sense why he would take to cooking for other people to make sure they’re happy.
And it’s something that never treated as a quirk or a joke, either; no one here seems to make a snide remark about Shirou; they let him be who he is. As a result, his traditionally “feminine” skills are shown to be just as integral to his being as the traditionally “masculine” skills he displays in the likes of Stay Night and Unlimited Blade Works. Caring about whether people are well fed or not does diminish his ability to fight, nor the other way around. Whether all of this is supposed to a takedown of toxic masculinity or the boundaries between “what boys should do” and “what girls should do,” I cannot say. But you can certainly draw that statement from this depiction. Sometimes being a hero means defeating a great evil, sometimes it doesn’t, and to see that depicted here is such a breath of fresh air.
So maybe the psychological element of Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is its “what you see is what you get” scenario: you think it’s going to enhance the stakes and go dark and gritty eventually, but it never does. And the social commentary, if you would like to call it that, is certainly a healthy meal to digest: Sometimes being a hero means defeating a great evil, sometimes it doesn’t, and to see that depicted in the Fate franchise, of all place, is such a breath of fresh air. So bon appétit!
Rating: Not Rated
This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Otaku USA Magazine. Click here to get a print copy.