Long gone are the days where I can get away with watching ten or more different anime each season; It turns out life has a pretty good way of keeping you busy with other things. Because of this lack of time I’m also watching fewer dramas, mostly due to how much of a time commitment each episode is. Finding time on a weekday to watch a 45 minute show just isn’t that feasible any more.
So I have good news! Not only is Midnight Diner really, really good, but each episode is a little over 20 minutes long. What’s more, you can watch it with official subs via Netflix.
What makes Midnight Diner so intriguing is how the main recurring character, the owner of the diner, is not the show’s protagonist. Instead, each episode has its own protagonist and related characters, and their stories are told from the point they first enter the diner. There are some regular characters by way of the patrons, but for the most part each episode is focused on someone you’ve not yet met. Because of this, almost every episode is completely standalone, so if you don’t like a particular story or character, you’ll know that the next episode won’t be affected. I say almost every episode because of the finale, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.
I have to admit that when I first saw this, I assumed that it was a Japanese cooking show. Don’t be fooled – this show is definitely a Japanese drama through and through. However, each episode does focus on a unique dish, which is usually ordered at the diner by the protagonist of that particular story. It’s a device that’s used to push the plot of each episode along, but it’s also a good opportunity for a bit of food porn and boy do they take advantage of that. Watch on an empty stomach at your peril.
This show works so well because of the time that has been put into making the characters seem real. The majority of the protagonists have real and relatable problems, even if the circumstances around them aren’t as familiar. This is a feel good show, so there’s not much of a worry that an episode will end with a character in a worse position than they started, but that’s not to say that the storylines are predictable either. There’s a particularly interesting episode that involves a wife who is desperately worried that her husband will find out that she once starred in an adult movie. Believe it or not, this is one of the most emotional episodes in the series.
Personally, I think one of the biggest successes of Midnight Diner is that the diner itself feels real. It’s a cosy and welcoming place that you’d be convinced actually exists, with the decor being spot on, the regulars behaving the way they do, and the owner being an older guy who loves his job. It also feels like the protagonist of each episode is actually visiting the diner; even though they’re the star for the next 20 minutes, they’re still a guest. That’s how good the atmosphere is.
I mentioned earlier that the finale actually has continuity. This was a bit odd for a few reasons, but the main one being that the episode assumes you know a few things about the characters that show up. That would likely be the case if you’ve seen all of Midnight Diner, but if you’re watching this on Netflix, you won’t have. It turns out that this is not the first season of the show – it’s actually season four, and there are also two feature length films.
Still, even though it’s apparent that we’re missing something during the final episode, it doesn’t take away from what is otherwise a terrific show. I’m rooting for a season five.