Mugita Natsumi is enjoying a delicious omuraisu when a stranger suddenly drags her out of the restaurant and makes an odd request: play the part of his nonexistent fiancée. The man – Nabeshima Kennichirou – explains that he left his family on bad terms two years previously and now wants to return home, but he’d be allowed back only if he can show a future daughter-in-law to his ailing father. Kennichirou takes her to a charming little restaurant called “Kitchen Macaroni”, which is run by his father and two of his three younger brothers; there she samples an omuraisu served with their trademark demiglace sauce (instead of the usual ketchup) – and quickly falls in love with the dish.
Thus begins this wonderful, heartwarming series that could have you laughing one minute and weeping the next. Lunch no Joou contains little of the slapstick, in-your-face fun that marks out top-calibre comedies like Nodame Cantabile or My Boss, My Hero, but the lowest points don’t seem as dark as those of Nobuta o Produce. Here, the mix of drama and comedy is very smooth, with the funny and tragic elements blending almost seamlessly into each other to create a consistently entertaining whole. There’s humour aplenty, albeit mostly of the kind that puts a satisfied smile on one’s face instead of the type that induces roaring laughter. I know the phrase “tugs at one’s heartstrings” sounds overly melodramatic but I think it describes this show perfectly. Natsumi’s struggle to win the trust of her “in-laws” and to earn a place in a family she increasingly views as her own is a touching thing to watch, as are the good-natured conflicts that flare up between the other characters – particularly the second and third sons, Yuujiro and Junzaburo – as they sort out their own feelings towards the newcomer.
My Overall Rating: 8/10