The ebb and flow of anime can be chronicled by its trends; those little indicators of time, place and style. Whether it’s the giant eyes and ‘M’ fringes of the nineties aesthetic, the seemingly infinite love of moe, or (off the back of a certain ice-skating show) the glut of mainstream-baiting boys’ love series to come. Yet one of the most pervasive trends in recent years is more innocuous and, well, tasty.
Even the most casual anime fans could point out the Japanese love affair with curry. While we at littleanimeblog.com love every iteration of curry (though Thai steals the top spot), the Japanese palate is attuned to Indian flavours. Funnily enough, it was us imperialist Brits that first introduced Indian cuisine to the land of the rising sun back in the Meiji era, when India was still under ole Britannia’s thumb. The story goes that British sailors brought the delicacy to Japan, carrying with it a distinctly English influence. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s no coincidence that anime from the last 5-10 years are littered with examples of Indian characters, from the infectiously funny curry arc in Black Butler to Akira Agarkar Yamada, secret agent and one part of Tsuritama’s quartet. And who can forget Akira Hayama, the spice obsessed, cocksure cook from Food Wars!. K-ON!’s After-School Tea Time even penned and performed their loving ode ‘Curry Nochi Rice’ (‘Curry, Then Rice’). To say it’s a cultural infatuation would be putting it mildly.
Perhaps the obsession starts at an early age, as a school lunch menu would be unthinkable without at least one kind of curry in tow. Outside of school, there’s no shortage of eateries, with more than 2,000 restaurants scattered across the country serving only Indian food. And of course, curry remains a staunch favourite with home cooks – any number of anime can attest to that much.
Curry is so much a part of the cultural consciousness that’s it’s almost unimaginable to go longer than a month, sometimes even a week, without gobbling down a serving or two. As Japan has the canny ability to take cuisines and make them their own, so too was curry adopted into its culinary mix. A number of region-specific examples have sprung up across the country – favourites such as scallop curry from Aomori Prefecture, or mackerel curry from Chiba Prefecture and many more besides.
It might not be to everyone’s taste, but summertime in Japan is inseparable from spicy food. The theory is that spices are supposed to cool you down through getting a sweat on. Makes sense. In any case, if you thought curry was popular in winter or autumn, just wait until the sun’s shining.
If food-themed events are the means of legitimising a meal among the masses, then curry is bona fide. The Curry Grand Prix sees hundreds of Japanese chefs showcase their skills in a cooking competition, while other curry-themed events take place all year round. So next time you sit down to an anime and they’re harping on about curry, just remember, there’s much more than meets the eye (or is that mouth?).