Juzo Itami creates a delicious and delightful film in Tampopo with a twist on the Western movie genre. Dubbed as a “Ramen Western” by Itami himself, the movie takes the audience on a ride with Tampopo and Goro, the two main characters, as they set out to produce the perfect bowl of ramen.
In this particular scene from Tampopo, a small group of businessmen and their errand boy are seated in a fancy, Western-style restaurant. This specific screen shot is a long shot where the atmosphere and the space of the restaurant are clearly shown. The angle is eye-level, and is a master shot. The master shot illustrates the contrast of body language between the businessmen and the lone errand boy. All of the businessmen sit with their backs straight, and this displays their confidence and familiarity with the situation. However, the errand boy slouches low in his seat which showcases his lack of comfort. The utilization of the master shot showcases the basic, dull ambiance of the room. Although there is a floral centerpiece that catches the eye, the rest of the room is quite bland. The room has designs that are influenced by the West like the white tablecloth, the dinnerware, and the chairs.
A specific detail in this scene is that the errand boy is the only one in the room, excluding the waiter, wearing a black suit. The others have on brown, gray, and pin-striped suits. This makes the errand boy an outcast; the “black sheep” that does not fit in to the aesthetic of the group. It showcases his isolation and segregation from the others.
This scene is the most important because it exhibits the underdog theme that is prevalent throughout the film. Tampopo, the main character, is the lowly, humble ramen cook that does not get the reviews and raves like that of the Big Guys of Ramen. Both Tampopo and the errand boy are not seen as threats to their peers, and are placed in the lowest level in their own hierarchies. With the errand boy, the menu is handed to him last and he is asked for his order last. This illustrates that he is of least importance in comparison to the other men in the room. Similarly, Tampopo’s Lai Lai Ramen is only visited by the bad seeds of the town unlike other ramen shops where it is regularly visited by people of middle-class ranking.
By the end of this scene, the errand boy, whom the group thought of as a scrap dog they can easily boss, is the one who prevails. He is no longer insecure and self-conscious of his surroundings. He becomes confident of his skills and of his knowledge in high class cuisine. The business men, however, blush because of their ignorance. Like the errand boy, Tampopo flourishes into a successful ramen cook. By the end of the film, she becomes revered and prevails through it all. The idea of the underdog winning despite the odds is a strong theme that is shown throughout the film. Despite both characters starting from the lowest level, they both come out on top and victorious.