Original Title: おせん
Osen is a 10-episode 2008 NTV Japanese drama based on the manga series by Kikuchi Shota — which remains largely un-scanlated [Wikipedia] until now — following a traditional Japanese restaurant owner (or okami) named Handa Sen (an adorable and glow-inducing Yu Aoi), often referred to as Osen by her workers and peers.
Of course, the narrative of the story doesn’t really start there, but with Ezaki Yoshio (Uchi Hiroki) — comically referred to as Yocchan throughout the show — a young man with some cooking skills that quits his job at some hot trendy restaurant in favor of what he refers to as “slow food.” In search of his dream of “not being swept away with the times,” Ezaki ends up working at Osen’s traditional restaurant, Isshouan.
The show ultimately deals with the debate of modern times versus tradition, shown through quite a masterful set and wardrobe design that only work to highlight the food design of the show. My god, the food in here — though minuscule and simple-looking — is an eyeful of wonder. Even the “simplest” of dishes made with left-over ingredients turns into a Shrimp O-chazuke  that looked quite delicious. So, yes, the viewer is treated to some gorgeous kimono wardrobe complimentary to Yu Aoi’s almost doll-like frame and some saliva-inducing food shots. I’m still dreaming of that Isshouan-styled hamburger.
Though Osen has quite a competent cast — that includes great small roles for Kimiko Yo as Head Waitress Shizu-san, Saori Yuki as Isshouan’s matriarch, and a then not quite famous Mukai Osamu (who exploded into Japanese pop culture thanks to his role in NHK’s 2010 Asadora Gegege no Nyobo), led by a very charismatic sake-beer-loving Yu Aoi who stumbles across the floor after a funny night of heavy drinking – it is probably Uchi Hiroki, the one often dropping the ball, crossing over that fine line of being utterly annoying too many a time.
It is increasingly easy to block his annoyance completely after repeated viewings of the show, however, making it almost seamless to enjoy Osen just for the sake of enjoying Yu Aoi and food. The story treatment avoids most of the darker elements of the manga (I’ve heard…), like the fact that Head Chef Seiji-san (Sugimoto Tetta) is actually an ex-Yakuza of sorts, but it works to focus the story on the idea of whether Isshouan (or other traditional things) can survive the modern times.
In the end, Osen is about showing one thing only: “The first priority is creating a taste that will touch the souls of the customers.” As far as television shows go, Osen isn’t flashy or ground-breaking, but it develops a story that will touch the soul of its food-loving viewers.
Part of the 2012 YAMYUM Food Blogathon.