As we encroach ever further towards the manga’s more recent arcs, Shokugeki no Souma has proved itself to be as popular as ever by pulling off yet another half cliffhanger by separating a major arc into two separate seasons. So, how does this second half of the third season stack up to what we’ve seen previously? Well, poorly. At least by comparison.
Previously on Shokugeki no Souma, all of Tootsuki Academy is now taken over by Azami Nakiri, Erina’s father who has instilled a regime on the cooking academy that gets rid of competition within the students by sacrificing their own individuality as chefs and cooks and turning them into carbon copies of each other in order to make it so that ‘Central’s’ gourmet is the only gourmet food that’s worth existing and everything else is considered as ‘animal feed’ by comparison. As Souma and his friends reject this concept of being forced to give up their individuality and creativity as chefs, they are branded as rebels, and fight back against the regime to continue staking their claim in the culinary world.
This section of the story is what I consider to be the series’s slow descent from the high pedestal it’s been put on. This is largely due to the typical shonen problem of ‘escalation’, where in order to keep the show’s traction, the stakes have to be shot up through the roof in order to keep viewer interest. By this point, the story has made it abundantly clear that it’s going for a “Us vs. Them” mentality where the entire school badmouths and spends an exorbitant amount of resources in order to defeat the main characters, which has an obvious outcome because there’s still a series to make. As such, the show paints such a black and white picture of the whole situation that I find it difficult to sympathize even with the protagonists cause by this point it’s kind of obvious what’s going to happen, whereas previously, the show focused primarily on a numerous amount of rival-based characters, which with the way these characters and the story were written, did not have as predictable of an outcome as it could’ve had.
On the flipside though, the show still manages to pull off a great number of food battles which, while predictable, do excel in the fact that each round of bouts provides new and interesting culinary information, as well as a good deal of character info and backstory that ‘humanizes’ the bosses, even though we’re not going to see them much after their space in the limelight is over. Both Souma and Erina are great examples of this happening, as their characters and personal growth do gain some significant changes that otherwise wouldn’t be present. That being said, I feel as though Erina has the more significant of the two since unlike Souma, she has more noticeable changes outside of the customary food tournaments, which given her introductory character at the start of the series, is a very welcome change.
All that being said, I still find it difficult to give the show any deserving praise because Shokugeki has funneled itself in such a hole where in order to continue the story, the stakes are more or less their ‘way of life’ being put on the line, and that to me has very little value because there’s in no way shape or form is that of all things going to be lost in a super mainstream shonen jump series; it’s just not going to happen. Because of this, it feels like Shokugeki is just going through the stages of a popular shonen, and that’s a shame considering how much more well-written the series was in previous arcs by comparison.
+ Useful characterization for its cast
– Super high stakes devalue story quality
– Kind of predictable
There’s not much to be said for the characters beyond what we see with Erina and Souma. Much of the series’s devotion to character development is focused on these two as they’re the primary main characters of the series. Souma more or less develops by learning from his past mistakes and using those as stepping stones to get better, whereas Erina spends much of her time in the limelight devoted to developing a better personality separate to the haughty queen schtick she’s been pulling for almost four seasons now. So for them, there’s a clear improvement in character quality and is a commendable effort to make for better characters.
However, everyone else sort of suffers from a lack of meaningful development outside of the customary ‘Shokugeki’. Most of the rest of the cast is thrown to the wayside because they needed a way to add even MORE stakes to the equation (as if getting expelled wasn’t enough), and the few members that do stay behind more or less get attention put onto them only when they’re cooking. Sure their points are interesting, and enemy characters/people we’ve know but don’t know too much about do get backstories and more depth added to them, but in reality, they only get the much needed characterization during specific times. Any other time aside from that is sacrificed for more Central shenanigans where everyone has a hate boner for the MC just because he wants to cook the stuff that he wants to cook.
+ MCs get more development
+ Side cast members get development
– Side cast development happens only during selected times
This might honestly be the least animation-heavy shonen series I’ve seen in a long time. While J.C. Staff has been exceptional at being consistent in art quality for both the show and especially the various dishes that the characters’ make, the appearance of which is beyond appetizing, there’s…not actually that much animation going on.
More specifically, the show plays a lot like a slideshow, as the camera changes so often to different characters giving their various inputs on the situation that when you stop to think about it, the show has hardly ANY animation to it aside from basic lip movement to get the characters to talk. Sure you still get your foodgasms, and those in no way shape or form have disappeared or have lowered their presence in the show, but even that I feel has been subjected to the ‘slideshow’ problem as the show primarily consists of stills and cutaways.
Part of this I feel can be blamed on the original paneling of the manga and how that’s structured, but regardless, the transition isn’t great from a visual standard, and it’s weird to think that a slice of life moe show probably has more frames devoted to animation than a supposed battle shonen. Food for thought.
+ Good artwork
– Almost no actual animation
Personally I found the tracks and everything to not be that noticeable. I find this to be a recurring thing with Shokugeki no Souma’s OST, as the OP’s and ED’s get less and less memorable and impressive as time goes on with each season.
This and the Central Arc is by far my least favorite arc in the Shokugeki series. This is primarily due to the fact that the show escalates the stakes in the show so quickly so fast, that as a viewer, I sit in shock asking myself, “What on earth happened?” Think about this, prior to this, the series was on the moon festival arc, where students participated in a food festival and made money/showed off what they were capable of at a yearly event. Then in the blink of an eye, the entire school government changes to the highest ranks having all of the power, every existing club on campus gets gutted for no other reason but “Glory to Central”, and roughly half of the season is dedicated to purposely handicap and try to expel students for wanting to pursue their own interests. I realize there’s actually a reason for why Azami abolishes the current school structure in favor for Central (no matter how stupid it is), but really, what the actual fuck happened?
Because of this, I don’t find it easy to sympathize with any of the rival characters this time than I did previously before. Sure they do the usual cooking smacktalk and dick measuring to prove that they’re better than the MC before they even get near a stove or hold a knife, but there’s just something that was more satisfying about someone like Subaru or Kuga from before fighting against Souma than this time around with his current round of opponents. I think it’s primarily because the show’s stakes during previous arcs were less intense, and losing a bout wasn’t the end of the world. Souma didn’t face expulsion as commonly as he does this time around, and making that one change makes it that much harder for the MC of a shonen series to lose because if you do that, the series is basically over. Backstories are nice, but the glaring problem of such overwhelming adversity equal to “You vs. The World” makes it any difficult for me to find any enjoyment when something this major becomes a central point of the plot.
As such, I find this section of Shokugeki to be less quality than previous arcs, finding myself in a weird spot at recommending this for people. It has its good points sure, but all of that is overshadowed by the fact that the show has such vehement hatred for the main characters, which makes it hard to even consider the other side as probably good people. A shame since burning rivalries was such a core component of the show prior that made things so much more exciting when two interesting characters go head to head, locked in food combat to prove who truly is the better chef. All of that magic feels like it’s gone a bit, and that’s why I feel like the series as a whole is falling in a downward spiral.