Content warning: brief scene of animal butchery/meat preparation
What’s it about? Twenty-seven-year-old Mukoda finds himself summoned to a fantasy world, but quickly discarded when his special skill is revealed to be “online grocery” (not very good for saving the kingdom, you see). However, as Mukoda discovers, this absurd ability comes in handy: it allows him to access an online shop from back home in Japan where he can order food and cooking equipment. Mukoda wants to keep this under wraps, but soon attracts the attention of a legendary magical wolf with an insatiable hunger for ginger pork.
While this isn’t the first foodie fantasy—Restaurant to Another World and Delicious in Dungeon spring readily to mind—Campfire Cooking puts in the work to make this concept feel fresh and fun. While it has its share of familiar isekai plot beats, this premiere manages to exude a certain charm that kept me interested. Maybe even hungry for more!
It has its fun, of course, getting in the obligatory wink-nudges to the genre it exists in; even having Mukoda muse that he’s seen all this before in manga and light novels. The fantasy world conspicuously acts like an MMO for no real reason other than plot convenience, and the characters—even the ones who have lived there their whole lives—talk openly about stats, abilities, and item boxes as if talking about the weather.
Mukoda’s skill—in which he can pull up a magical online shopping website—is equally silly and, if we’re being honest, equally a plot contrivance. To Campfire Cooking’s credit, the narrative does work to impose limits on this potentially bottomless over-powered magic trick: our hero needs to pay for everything with real money and thus budget accordingly, and, as he discovers when feeding an adventuring party later in the episode, too much online grocery food sends stats shooting skywards. This otherworldly cooking is potentially dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. There’s some semblance of stakes here!
The untamed magic of Japanese cuisine does come with that same subtle colonial undertone that I mentioned in Saving 80,000 Gold the other day. The food that Mukoda brings through from his world is the best thing the fantasy folk have ever eaten, making them wax poetic as it literally makes them stronger, faster, and smarter. It can even tame a big, scary, legendary monster!
Modern technology and culture inevitably improve this primitive setting and all the people there unilaterally agree what a good thing it is that the wise traveler brought it with him. I’m not saying this is malicious—I’m not even saying it’s intentional on the creators’ part—but it’s a pervasive trope to keep one critical eye on.
While this underlying element might leave a bit of a sour taste, the handling of the food itself is pretty fun. Campfire Cooking provides all the lovingly-rendered slicing, marinating, and frying animation you would hope to find in a series with this premise, complete with instructions and cooking tips in the voiceover narration. We also see some fun fusions of real-world dishes and fantasy ingredients, albeit not super imaginative at this point (wild boar instead of pork, a local green called “cabbet” subbed in for cabbage). If the series can commit to this bit and take us on a journey of magical culinary experimentation, I think this could be one of the most entertaining elements of the series.
I’m talking a lot about the food because the characters themselves don’t leave much to write home about. Mukoda is bland and familiar, though he seems like a nice enough dude. Everyone else slots neatly into their designated fantasy archetypes, from Big Burly Warrior to Delicate Healer. But hey, the two women in the adventuring party have practical outfits and dive in to fight monsters and chow down on dinner with the same enthusiasm as the boys, so that’s pretty cool even if they remain pretty flat.
There’s also a big fluffy puppy. I mean, very scary magical (possibly godly?) wolf. Oh, but he’s fluffy. Can’t tell you much about his characterization yet, but he looks like a very good boy.
While its premise has the potential to go stale if it becomes repetitive, this first serving of Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill is fun. I can’t promise that it has much nutritional value, but it’s got more flavor than some other isekai that supposedly focus on domestic, “slow life” activities, and could be a nice little snack each week.