Happy thursday again, everyone. It’s been a while, I know, and I’d love to say that that was just a lack of content to focus on but, truth be told, it wasn’t. The fact of the matter is that my time and effort has been going elsewhere.
You’ve probably noticed, already, that my video uploads have increased in frequency and that I’ve started what will hopefully become a series of feeding celebrities at conventions.
Well, editing takes time, celebrity interviews take research and more of them say “no” than “yes”. Combine that with learning a new editor that doesn’t limit my output quality and trying frantically to get my new camera to take video of a decent length and you can see where much of my time has gone.
Alongside, of course, my usual quest for interesting chilli items and the writing about such.
It is, in fact, only because I fell ill recently that I had to put everything else on hold and found the time to read a book:
The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlour in Another World or, as it rather unsubtly names itself in chapter 6, “Pizzero”. The same chapter where it more tastefully name-drops Tabasco.
And yes, that single name-drop is the only acknowledgement of spice in the entire book but it’s still the story of a young man becoming a passionate chef and it came highly recommended. I gave it a go and I really hope that you’ll at least read what I have to say about it.
Before I can talk about the contents of the book, though, let’s take a quick look at what I knew going into it:
Pizzero (as I will be calling it to save space) is a fantasy light novel, translated from japanese, that falls into what’s commonly known as the “isekai” sub-genre. Though, as many anime reviewers will tell you, “isekai” is more of a content descriptor. It translates to “other world” and means about as much.
Isekai stories of old were things like Digimon and Spirited Away, where the main character (or characters) was (or were) whisked away to a parallel world, with the odds stacked against them, creatively designed to teach them life lessons and facilitate their development as people.
In more modern times, however, things have changed a little and a new take on the formula has appeared, popularised by shows like Sword Art Online.
These newer shows took on more traditional, RPG-themed, fantasy lands and bland, cookie-cutter protagonists for young teens to more easily see as a stand in for themselves. They gave them immense powers from the get go, often turning them into chosen heroes, and, in many cases, gave them a whole host of “unwanted” female attention to further cement that escapist, wish-fulfilment factor.
To me, they seem trashy and low-effort, compared to the tales of old, but I can see why they’re popular. And why they’re such an easy target for parodies like today’s.
But I’ve said “shows” time and again and “Pizzero” is a book, right? Well, yes, but many popular anime start out as what are known as “light novels” – The japanese equivalent of serialised young adult fiction. This one just hasn’t been adapted yet.
Should it be? Honestly, I’m leaning towards “no”.
The premise to pizzero is unique but it’s steeped in cliches of the genre and does nothing new with the vast majority of them. Aside from its food-centric theming, it’s not even really a parody.
The protagonist, Kaito, has as little prior knowledge of cooking as most leads have of magic or swordplay, yet is instantly one of the greatest pizza chefs of all time due to his hero powers. He unlocks new styles in the same manner that a regular RPG hero would new skills and everything conveniently falls into place to expand his business chapter by chapter.
The only difficulties that he does experience are with the rest of the cast, be they the young queen who can’t admit her feelings, the jealous unwanted wife who is rather too into his work or the useless male companion who idolises him. No matter who it is, everyone loves Kaito. They just do so in ways that are, at least on the surface, rather inconvenient to him.
It does have the occasional wholesome moment as a result, where the elf bride from the title shows a genuine love of pizza that makes our hero feel genuinely appreciated. Yet those moments are quite few and far between. It’s otherwise a very formulaic story and one with far too little focus on what fantasy can bring to food.
He uses kraken in chapter 11, but it’s nothing more than giant squid. And the local herbs that he uses are just regular pizza herbs renamed. There’s no imagination.
Plus, speaking of those herbs, Kaito’s job description is to “save the all-too-herbivorus elves by bringing them delicious pizza”. To bring an end to their bland, leaf-based, “vegetarian” diet with high calorie food that will stop them from being so dangerously thin.
Which not only seems disrespectful of real vegetarian diets but also seems like something of a plot hole when they’re shown to have cheese, ham and herbs strong enough to add flavour to Kaito’s own dishes.
Why can’t the elves make exciting salads with their strong-tasting leaves? And how can their cheese be blander than his mozzarella, which exists more for its delightfully stringy, melty texture than for its mild, creamy flavour?
Worst of all, though, is the way that Kaito’s first pizza is described. Both as “thick” and as having the lightly charred dough bubbles only seen in proper, italian-style thin crust.
I’m being picky, I know, but, when the story’s this unoriginal, you have to do something to make up for it. And I don’t feel like Pizzero does.
It doesn’t poke fun at its use of tropes, like most parodies, and its descriptions of food are well written but not quite as realistic as I’d like. Plus, the food, itself, isn’t anything imaginative.
It even shuns the idea of honeyed pizza, when cayenne or chipotle honey has become a gourmet topping in recent years.
It’s not a terrible read but it’s not a good one and I would recommend it. Not for an anime adaptation and not to any of you, either.
I’d give it an
for age rating but, in terms of quality, it’s not nearly what I was led to believe. I’m quite disappointed, really.