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About Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories

When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it “Midnight Diner”. That’s all I have on my menu. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That’s my policy. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.

“The Master”, the main character of the show, is the owner, chef, and bartender who runs the titular diner. While he has a very limited menu (consisting only of tonjiru, sake, beer and shōchū), he always offers to produce any dish that a customer may want, as long as he has the ingredients on hand. Master refuses to cook any dishes that are beyond his skills or overly complicated. Sometimes, customers contribute the ingredients, particularly if they are out of the ordinary or a very specific craving. The diner is frequented by a range of customers, ranging from salarymen to yakuza and prostitutes, all of whom generally get along well; only occasionally is there conflict between the characters while inside the diner.

Generally, each episode deals with a drama focused on a particular customer. The plot will introduce the characters of the episode, often using well-known archetypes and tropes, before then detailing their personal challenges. Master, although generally taciturn, offers help and advice to his customers. The plot will generally offer a philosophical life lesson as part of the story, be it simple or complicated. The stories are usually lighthearted in tone, while others venture into more dramatic territory with melancholy resolutions.

Most episodes will focus on a particular Japanese dish, often the favorite meal of the character that the episode is about. The dish also relates in some way to the story, and the episode will end with Master giving a brief demonstration of how to prepare the dish while a character from the episode gives verbal instructions directly to the audience. Master also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, to speak to the viewers (e.g. in the TV series, to announce the upcoming movie or to announce the end of a season). Master cooks everything by himself, only requesting help if he knows he cannot do something or if he is incapacitated (e.g. In the first movie, Master is assisted by a homeless girl, (Tabe Mikako) after Master sustains an injury).

While the characters are largely transitional, and are mainly seen in their own self-contained episodes, some are often seen in the background as minor characters or cameos in one or two other episodes. Several characters are regular customers of the diner and reappear regularly. A few stories adopt magic realism overtones, including elements that are supernatural, while others utilize montages and time skips to fully tell a character’s story.

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