Shokugeki no Souma. . . Where do I begin with this show? Well, let's start with the common description that's been drifting around the internet since its airing-- "Food Porn". It's an understandable title, really. Every episode features numerous mouth watering dishes that we the audience can't help but lust after. With most (if not all) episodes also featuring a foodgasm it's an apt moniker. That may cause some misconceptions however. By that description alone you may assume this to just be another throw away ecchi show. I won't lie, I had similar thoughts after the first episode that featured a truly terrifying scene involving tentacles and a naked woman. Luckily I'm not one to dismiss a show after a single episode and I'm thankful I didn't. (And these tentacles do rear their slimy tips on occasion, but they thankfully recede quickly... *shudder* I know you niche guys with the fetish aren't pleased by that info, but the rest of us are!)
Young high-school aged guy, bad-ass father that leaves the country, elite institution for the best of the best where our young hero will face overwhelming odds on a daily basis to prove his worth! This is a Shounen battle anime in every sense of the term. That being said it's a battle of culinary skill rather than a brawl with fists. I can't really get into a lot of battle Shounen, I have a difficult time feeling engaged when no matter how much fighting occurs everyone is allowed to walk away. That's why this series works though! These aren't life or death contests but rather a contest of one's future and pride.
One aspect of this story that I love is the way our main character Souma isn't an underdog. Sure, a lot of people look down on him, but that's due to their asinine judgment rather than his actual skill. He is a damn good cook! He knows what he's doing in the kitchen and will put others to shame. Rather than starting from the bottom to work his way to the top, he is already close to the top and has to battle those who made it there with him.
The story sounds relatively cliché, but most are in this day and age. However, it is well executed. There are constant challenges for our characters to overcome, and none of them feel contrived. The nature of the school they attend calls for consistent challenges, but there is time in between these events.
The animation is great. I never dreamed food could look so superb animated. I find myself thinking "Does fried rice look that good in real life? I don't care, I need fried rice!!" Only to promptly be disappointed when the fried rice I prepared doesn't look quite as amazing as the one portrayed in the anime. (Still tasted good though, in case you were wondering). J.C Staff is awarded full points in my book for making the food feel so enticing. It's an ecchi show but my eyes are drawn towards the hot dish on the plate rather than the hot female who just prepared it. (Pardon the quip, I'm making a point here.)
The colors are vibrant and make the entire show exceedingly easy on the eyes. The character designs are very nice. I give genuine applause to the artist of the manga for incorporating so many different styles into the characters. No two look alike and all have some sort of flare to make them memorable.
The first opening is nice and pleasant to look at with sequences of animation that have become fairly standard for openings in this day and age. The ending is a slightly different story; featuring nude, chibi versions of all the characters riding some sort of food. It's remarkably odd to say the least. And I don't know who in the past few years came up with the idea to take a floor polisher to the shoulders, knees, elbows and boobs of characters, but it really isn't necessary. Not necessarily bad, but I don't see a point. I mention it because my eyes were almost glued to those raw areas that look like they'd be extremely painful... But the pinnacle of this ending is the Last Supper imagery. I think the anime is hinting at Souma being the Messiah of cooking. He was sent there by his father, he shows up and shatters all the existing laws and standards, he makes bold declarations people don't like, yadda yadda yadda. Damn... That actually really works... O.o
The second opening though, damn is it good. Translated to English this show is titled as "Food Wars!" and this opening makes you remember that. Gigantic ladle vs. the world's 4th largest fork. Imagery of the demon chef challenging the revered goddess. Planet Earth sitting in a soup-bowl. I think I saw a light-saber somewhere, still not sure on that one. But damn, when combined with the music I got hyped for every single episode!
Oh, and just in the off-chance that you're curious, the 2nd ending... I don't really like to talk about that... Why you ask? Well, its actually kinda creepy. I'd rather not recall that girl...
The OST did it's job. The music is appropriate for the scene, but there aren't any tracks that had that "wow" factor. Not to say it didn't do it's job. The intense moments have epic or triumphant music, the more lighthearted scenes have matching melodies.
The first opening song "Kibou no Uta" is actually really good. I wasn't sold the first time listening to it, but the almost hoarse sound of the vocalist really grew on me. The first ending "Spice" is far catchier than it should be, I can't even begin to count how many times that song has gotten stuck in my head. The second opening "Rising Rainbow" is awesome. Every time that song played I felt myself getting hyped and excited for the episode to come. I mean, I was already hyped every time I clicked "play", but this song just sends the thrusters into overdrive!
The acting is actually really, really well done. The casting was spot on and the actors/actresses nailed the duality of the characters. There isn't that one moment where you're blown away by their performances, but there's a consistent level of quality that just makes itself apparent.
Just as you might expect from a Shounen there's a fairly large cast:
Souma Yukihira- The main character of the show and an excellent addition to Shounen protagonists. I mentioned earlier how Souma was actually skilled, but what makes him standout is that he's also rather arrogant. He knows he's a good cook and isn't afraid to prove it. He got this way because he has an unrivaled determination; he worked his ass off to get his skills and takes pride in them. To accompany this arrogance is a semi-permanent state of uncaring ignorance. A famous chef? He doesn't know nor care. Prestigious institution? He's never heard of it. A rival who doesn't like him? He'll speak to them in a pleasant manner and taunt their dramatics. His ignorance borders on stupidity but creates glorious situations because he's so laid-back. Souma is also a really nice guy who isn't foolish enough to downplay the skill of others. He recognizes talent and respects it.
Erina Nakiri- The high-class bitch with a god complex. At least, that's the initial impression we see from her. Though still early in her character, we can tell that deep down she's a tsundere with an extra dose of tsun. So, a tsun-tsundere? Bad joke? Yeah, but I think it's accurate. She's demeaning, ruthless, and sadistic. She really is a complete and total bitch. But you know, I really like Erina. Maybe my perspective is a bit skewed because I can see the future (well, I read the manga... same thing, really), but Erina really grew on me with time.
Megumi Tadokoro- The shy, nervous, apprehensive hometown girl. Megumi is sweet, likable, and extremely prone to panicking. She doesn't show the best cooking skills, but no matter what you're going to want to pull for her. Megumi's the girl that you just can't help but love. She's like a newborn puppy or kitten. You look at them, tilt your head, say "awwww" and just smile as they go around tripping on themselves as they learn to walk. If you dislike Megumi, admit yourself because you're insane. The question of her as the main heroine is more debatable, but you're going to love this girl.
The rest of the characters include a wide array of friends, rivals, friend-rivals, teachers, and Souma's dad (who's pretty much all of the aforementioned roles). Despite being minor characters they're all memorable and relatively unique. And though I'm not delving into detail about them, they really do form a great cast. I previously mentioned "duality" in regards to the voice acting, there's a very simple reason for that- a character may be drastically different when they're cooking as opposed to when they're not. Or depending on who they're around they may undergo a bit of a 180.
A small shout-out to Isshiki-senpai, the guy that pulls off the naked apron with an unrivaled amount of vigor. His fan-girls are not without their reasons. Oh, and a second shout-out to Alice von Einzbern. Wait, my bad, the white hair, pale skin, and red eyes threw me through a loop. Alice Nakiri, I remember now. I'm not quite sure how to describe her, but maybe I'll use the phrase "chibi pouting and/or chibi amazement". An adorable character to say the least.
This show was an absolute pleasure to watch. It's fun and crazy with a decent splash of ecchi to keep your eyes riveted to the screen. But it also has a pretty damn good growth story about a guy chasing his dreams. The food contests are intense, the foodgasms are riveting in a horrible yet spectacular fashion, and the show has been just one huge gigantic ball of fun and excitement. This show was definitely one of the most enjoyable shows of 2015.
Shokugeki no Souma is nothing short of fantastic. I was captivated by the story to such a degree that I couldn't contain my curiosity and I set out to read the manga. After binge reading for two days straight I caught up to the manga and I can say with certainty that since we've been graced with another season, this show has only just touched the tip of the ice-berg. More Shokugekis, more rivals, foodgasms galore, and character development are all aspects one can expect for this show and whatever else may follow. Oh, and a just as a side-note, this was a faithful adaptation to the manga. Nothing was cut out except for one epic Ping Pong match -sadface-, and nothing was rushed.
Shokugeki no Souma was the surprise hit of the season for me. No, not even the season, all of 2015. I never would have anticipated this level of excitement from a show revolving around a culinary institute for teenagers. It's comedic, it's intense, and somehow it's all about cooking!