For the life of me, I'll never understand why Shokugeki no Souma hasn't sold better on disc. The manga is hugely popular, the anime is massively entertaining, and it has fanservice, manservice and clever takes on anime tropes up the wazoo. Yet it struggles to breach 2K per volume. I just can't figure it out.
I know I'm repeating myself talking about that, but it's more relevant than ever as we look back on the final episode of the (hopefully) first season, and try to figure out if there'll be another. My suspicion is that there will, as WSJ series with smaller sales both in manga and disc volumes have had multiple seasons. Normally the job of an anime in the context of a big Jump title is to sell manga, and Souma has certainly done that - the manga was already popular but has seen a six-figure increase since the anime began, with the most recent volume closing in on 500,000 volumes.
If we were basing the prediction on where the season left off, it'd be a slam-dunk - but anime is littered with series that stopped in the middle of the story, so that's no surefire indicator. I haven't read this far into the manga, but I know there's some belief that with a bit faster pacing it could have reached a more definitive stop than it did - so there might be a clue to J.C. Staff's thinking in that. Or to our wishful thinking in that... I think the odds are pretty good, personally - maybe 70-30 in favor of a continuation.
I can say this much - it'd be a damn shame if this series weren't to continue in anime form, because it's been a great ride. I'd rank it along with Haikyuu as the two Jump adaptations in recent vintage which - irrespective of what you think of the manga - absolutely nailed it, getting everything out of the source material they could (Hunter X Hunter is another class altogether, of course). I'd also rank it one of J.C. Staff's best adaptations, and one of their most stylish and edgy. It's just damn good stuff.
Shokugeki no Souma was a little slow to grow on me, but as a series it really does just keep getting better and better. As a result, by the time of the finale I was completely bought in and loving the ride. The final arc was pretty much a straight-up competition arc, but that's fine - Food Wars is the title after all, and it does those episodes extremely well.
Hayama's dish rocketing to the top of the Group A leaderboard was pretty much a given seeing the impact it made on the judges last week, and they didn't disappoint. Hayama nets a 94, good for first place in the group, and it's revealed he's used an extremely rare herb called Holy Basil. I've actually taken it as a supplement (the episode was quite correct about its place in the Ayurvedic pantheon) but never seen it used as a spice before.
That benchmark having been set, there's really one place left for the story to go - and it's been building up to it for the entire series. What can Souma-kun - a relative newcomer to curry - possibly do to match the impact of Hayama's Olympian expertise? Well, where Hayama used fragrance as a sword, Souma uses it as a series of punches - while both had a similar idea of creating impact by hiding their dish's aromas under a protective cover, their actual approaches could hardly have been more different.
What I really liked about Souma's dish is that it combined the two food items that had recently tripped him up - the omelette (the training camp) and risotto (the shokugeki against his father). That's so Souma - he's a fighter through and through, a stubborn SOB who hates to come up short at anything he does. His method is to attack with wave upon wave of fragrance and taste - the coup de grace being a mango chutney in the risotto (using a chutney in cooking is a huge no-no, but I like that Souma is too much the newbie to the cooking of the Indian subcontinent to know that - or care).
All those layers of flavor - honey, oyster sauce, a patina of spices too - do their work, and the judges are impressed (including the two gents hilariously bitched out as being "extras" and told to shut up). Souma does lose this battle 94-93, but in truth it's more a split decision - under shokugeki rules he's have won 3-2, but he was unable to coax perfect 20s out of two of the judges as Hayama did. Of course that's more than enough to lift Souma into the main event (tied with Ryuu) but to him, this still feels like a defeat.
There's one more mysterious part of this preliminary round, and that's that we never hear what happens in the fourth-place tie between Marui and Shun - but there's a reason for that which I won't discuss here. But I will say it's one that bolsters the argument that another season is in the works, since skipping it makes very little sense if it isn't...
With that (and a flash of speedo from Isshiki) we end - for now. It's been a great trip, because Shokugeki no Souma brings so much to the table - starting with the fact that it's a good cooking anime, and those are pretty rare. It's also smart, funny, stylish and quite a bit subtler and more subversive than it appears at first glance. And it's been given a fantastic treatment by Yonetani-sensei and J.C. Staff, the kind any manga fan should hope their favorite series receives.