Surprise! You thought I forgot about this one, didn’t ya? Not! Like a petulant child, I didn’t want to part ways with gentle Ken and lovely Natsu. Thank goodness, I have PingChen to cover that loss in my shippy heart. Chef is not a must-watch, but something light to help you forget the arrogant chaebol guys. And for once, the three ladies are sweethearts right to the end. Each has their own way of loving and letting go.
Episode 8: “Death of a Loved One.”
I like this episode (not the death) but it’s distinctively different and keeps things real. Watching Ken wield his katana and winning battle after battle due to his food can exhaust the viewers of his magic. Here, Ken has to face the reality of history in that his presence might change many things, but not all things. Mori, the brave general died in battle, as stated by the history books, while on mission to secure a way out for his lord, Nobunaga. With his body intact, he passes away under the watch of Ken and Natsu, and the latter cries her heart out for him. This scene really brought out the weakness in Yuta because you can see his struggles to emote. He did drop some silent tears later when delivering the dish “Royal Style Thrush” to Nobunaga, the last act to honor Mori’s wishes.
And then there’s a sweet moment between our OTP after Ken chides himself for being powerless, failing to sway Mori from his suicide. She holds him close, assuring the good-hearted boy that he does many great things with his food, and she has always been proud of him. Keep doing it, she whispers.
Episode 9 Finale: “Decisions.”
Tired of fighting the group of monks led by creepy Kennyo, Nobunaga proposes a competition to end on amicable terms. The emperor will judge, fair and square. Ken VS Youko. The night before the competition, Ken enters Natsu’s bedroom to let her try his chosen pastry first – fruit tarts! She’s in awe, while he murmurs that using her katana, he’ll continue to fight on.
Funny how Ken and Natsu just stare as Youko works her magic, having prepared the ingredients beforehand, nailing a positive first impression towards the Emperor. Who would have thought, goggling at Youko triggers Ken’s memories, and he finally remembers his past with her. The earrings were his gift. I gotta say, the modern Ken’s gaze towards his bride is lukewarm at best. After Youku’s done making her tarts, Natsu’s fidgety nature takes over, and in her panic shoves the bowl of water onto the floor. The ripple effect on the water surface inspires Ken to change his menu, from tarts to Crêpe. Everyone is mesmerized by the performance, even Youko acknowledges that Ken has successfully engaged the audience and all of their five senses.
But the emperor, knowing that he can’t afford to offend either parties, chooses to announce a draw. Nobunaga smirks on his side and Kennyo belatedly realizes it was all a plan from Nobunaga to get the Emperor’s involvement. He walks away with menacing steps.
Lovely shot of our core characters. And why do Nobunaga and Kaeda have their gang face on? Because someone is butthurt over the emperor’s decision. Nasty Kennyo sends his minions to kill Nobunaga. Fail. Natsu tells Nobunaga about the netherworld shrine (she heard it from Ken-Akechi conversation) and how it’s the only way Ken could go back to where he came from. Nobunaga leaves the choice to Ken. Stay or leave, that is the question.
Natsu leads the way to the shrine. Ken takes Youko’s hand and climbs the stairs to the illuminated place ahead.
And this is how our girl looks like the morning after. Her eyes devoid of life and emotion. It’s cute how Kaede watches her from the door, standing guard so she doesn’t do anything crazy. But alas, Natsu doesn’t have time for that because……
Ken didn’t leave. (Um. Why is he showing up now? Did it take that long to walk back from the shrine? You’re so dramatic, writer!). Her gaze fixes on him, “Why did you come back? Baka.” Kaede answers: “What else, besides coming back to you?” 😛
And they run toward each other like this: EEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
The grumpy head chef and Hideyoshi Toyotomi are happy to see Ken back, and the latter cringes at the sight…
Hearing his silly blabbering, Kaede breaks into her first smile ever. Awwwwwwwwwwwww! She’s so pretty. I love that she’s happy for Natsu. But I can’t stop laughing at the fact that these two men above are still unaware that Natsu is a girl. OMGosh. She fools them?!
Kappy: Although I’m quite upset at how we get here, everyone’s cheerful faces to Ken’s presence in this period has ebbed my frustration somewhat. I think his partial memory loss plays a major part. He doesn’t remember anything else but cooking and Youko. He’s unsure whether or not going back in time will help. Naturally, why would he go back to a time where he’s unable to feel the warmth and return the love? He’s not a nobody here. He’s someone important and well-appreciated. The writer never intended for him to go back as we saw up till now, he shows nothing else about modern-day Ken, except for cooking and Youko.
It’s a nice wrap up for our characters. Unfortunately, the narrative proves to be incompetent and lacking unity. Many major questions were left undiscovered. Why did Ken travel back in time? And from what we have witnessed, more kitchen staff members might have time-slipped as well, and they were scattered, one killed, the rest – unmentioned. The ending felt rushed and contrived, with the writer throwing in convenient plot devices to move our core characters to a destination. All of a sudden, our supposed prime villain, Mitsuhide Akechi, knew about the solar eclipse and the Netherworld shrine where these “future” people were assumed to come from and could go back? They didn’t even explain whether it worked or not.
Nobunaga no Chef chose to be simple and straightforward, leaving Nobunaga’s fate ambiguous. The ending was positive and the saving grace I believe is the decision these characters made in according to their wishes.
They didn’t have a choice to be shoved in this whole time-slip drama. Natsu, this adorable girl, in spite of her broken heart, chose to let Ken go back to a time where he belongs. Her decision was the most selfless of all because she’s the one losing a significant other. And Nobunaga, however demanding and unbending, was always kind towards Ken. He allowed Ken to pick his own path. Ken opted to stay back in the chaotic warring states period, where his heart yearns to reside. (But really, friends, family, he gave them all up?!)
But the most surprising decision of all came from Youko, an excellent pastry chef being tethered in the depths of fear by creepy Kennyo. A forgotten woman throughout the drama. While Ken did regain memories of her, the feelings weren’t there any longer. She had a choice to return but selected to stay. I guess she wanted to prove creepy Kennyo wrong, that she doesn’t need him to survive, that she’s capable. While it still confounds me, the notion of having a say in her life might mean more to her. (But really, is it worth it?)
Adding Youko’s settlement to the list, it’s safe to conclude that the writer wants to emphasize the meaning of life. It’s not where one lives, but how one chooses to live life. As long as one decides that choice, one’s life is meaningful wherever one chooses to be.