What’s it about? Four young men run a Japanese-style tea house called the “Rokuhoudo” where people in need of a break from their daily lives can come to relax, sip a warm drink, and enjoy a rotating menu of sweets.
There are few fictional genres where “it made me sleepy” is considered high praise, but iyashikei (healing) anime and manga have made it one of their primary goals. So please know that, when I say I nearly dozed off halfway through Yotsuiro Biyori, I mean it in the most complimentary way possible.
If you have no interest in stories that are the equivalent of sipping cocoa on a chilly day, then go ahead and close this window now, ’cause this series won’t do anything for you. If you do, though, then Yotsuiro may be just the thing to fill that Laid-Back Camp-sized hole in your heart.
This premiere bounces between two plot lines (such as they are): sweets chef Tsubaki trying to come up with a “spring-themed” menu items, and a young woman struggling with a new project for work who stumbles upon the Rokuhoudo and finds respite there. We’re given glimpses into each staff member’s personality and their dynamic with one another, and while they’re a bit quirky and quarrelsome (Gure in particular has some very fun scenes), they all seem to be good dudes who like each other and their jobs.
The central focus, though, is on their customer. It’s unclear if she’ s a recurring character or if every week will feature new guests whom the staff helps with their problems, but either way she bodes well for the way the series will handle its female characters.
She’s an event planner whose entire mini-arc is about her career, and both the narrative and the male cast treat her and her struggles with sympathy and respect. While she ultimately feels more like a self-insert than a proper character, the fact that the story wants us to self-insert as a female professional struggling to find her work/life balance says a lot about the kind of story Yotsuiro wants to tell.
As for what that story is—well, maybe it’d be better to call Yotsuiro a “mood” rather than a “story,” and that mood is Maximum Chill with a side of The Munchies. The episode features mostly muted conversations, low-key conflicts, a few dashes of light comedy, and a metric ton of either (1) delicious-looking food and beverages or (2) attractive men smiling gently at the camera.
(Oh, and there’s a cute fluffy kitty who gets to meow lazily and play with the title card during the eye-catch, which means we now have a competition between Yotsuiro and TadaKoi for Best Cat. Choose Your Fighter.)
Near the end of the episode, tea specialist Sui describes the Rokuhoudou as “a cup of coffee or a batch of sweets”—not strictly necessary for survival, but something that “gives you a little bit of relief.” That’s exactly what the series itself aspires to be, and this first episode did an excellent job of achieving that goal, from its soothing music to its soft-edged art design to its quietly inspiring message.
The line between “relaxing” and “tedious” is a razor-thin one, usually determined by how endearing the characters are and how adept the series is at provoking laughter in the spaces between the serene sighs. Yotsuiro Biyori will need to develop its cast and prove it can be consistently funny if it wants to remain charming instead of growing dull. But for me, at least, this episode was just what I needed after a long day, and I absolutely plan to come back for more.