They say the way to one’s heart is through one’s stomach. And Shokugeki no Souma sure is a figurative testament to that statement! With the first season having just ended its run and the second season yet to be announced, it looks like viewers will be kept waiting for a while before we can all indulge in seconds.
To pass some of the time, now is a great time to post a short review for the series. That having been said, this is less of a review and more of a you-just-have-gotsta-watch-this-show post. For those who have yet to watch this series (le gasp!), please please do. And for those who have seen the show, let’s have fun fangirling / fanboying over why we like this show so much, shall we? ^^
So, just what is it about Shokugeki that whets that anime-watching appetite?
Food. Everyone loves food. It has a universal appeal (and why wouldn’t it?!), and Shokugeki capitalised on it. The series features a buffet of some of the most delicious looking, mouth-watering food, taking viewers on the most gastronomical of gastronomical adventures. Forget the socks, because the food in Shokugeki is so good, it is capable of knocking even them clothes off! There’s something about the food in Shokugeki world that reduces even the most repressed of people (yes, looking at you Erina) to a whimpering mess of desperation. The ecchi that comes along with each food tasting might not be the cup of tea for many (kiseki included…), but one gets used to it in good time. In fact, the outrageousness of the ecchi-filled reactions serves as an indication of how delicious the food is – if the clothes come off, you know it’s good.
Not Just the Food
Okay, the food might be the main draw, but the end product isn’t all that is worth watching Shokugeki for. The series not only showcases the delectable food ready and cooked, it also takes viewers through the cooking process. That includes commentary on ingredients, preparation and all that jazz. While I have not read the manga, sources have confirmed that the recipes for the various dishes are included in the manga. So on top of being exposed to the cuisines this world has to offer, the series actually teaches people how to cook! I believe that anime has served as an inspiration for many viewers out there, and Shokugeki is no different. Many fellow viewers have commented that they love this show, and that it has got them to start cooking. So if you like cooking, watch this show if you haven’t already and try some of the recipes out. If you think you are a disaster in the kitchen waiting to happen, fret not because some of the recipes are quite beginner friendly. And since each episode usually features on a new dish, there should be something in it for everyone’s taste buds.
Our protagonist. At first glance, he might seem like the typical brat with an ego that’s way too big to handle. And he kind of is. But!! He is also so much more than that. Souma’s father runs a diner and as a diner kid, Souma practically grew up in the kitchen. He might initially have come across as arrogant, but I have since become convinced that it is not so much arrogance as nonchalance and a deep trust for the training that he received from his father.
Having professed to being only the wee age of three when he first held a kitchen knife, Souma has been under the tutelage of his very capable, very worldly father. That, combined with his curiosity towards all things cooking related, his insatiable hunger to constantly improve his skills and an innovative spirit that defies boundaries, Souma is definitely the very epitome of a shounen protagonist. Possibly my favourite thing about Souma is just how normal he is as a person, in spite of his extraordinary (but still not shockingly over the top) culinary skills. Souma’s ordinary diner ‘pedigree’ makes him such a relatable character, and I very much enjoy how he gives the wealthy, posh people a run for their money. He’s just got this quality about him that really makes one want to root for him, and that’s an extremely important feature in a protagonist.
*cue fangirly swoon* Kyaa~ Souma’s father. Is just. A hunk of manly manly wonder chef wonderfulness. He is soooo cool, I can’t help the kya that escapes me whenever he gets some screen time. But fangirling aside… *clears throat* this is one of the more mysterious characters in the series. So far, all we know is that he is just oh so cool, and that his cooking is unbelievably amazing (it’s so good, it makes even monks break their pledge to fast. Yeah…). His appearances might be few and far between, but Souma’s father is an extremely important presence. As Souma’s mentor and goal, he is the one who pushes Souma to reach new heights in his culinary journey. Souma wouldn’t be the character that he is without his father’s influence, and I very much appreciate the effect that Souma’s father has on his son. Darn it, we need more Souma papa!!
Polar Star Dorm
The Polar Star dorm is the place that Souma and his dorm mates call home during the school term, and Souma has some of the most entertaining dorm mates whom we get the pleasure of being introduced to – there’s the soothing presence of Megumi, the senpai figure in Isshiki (he’s so pretty), Marui the poor megane character who gets bullied, animal lover Yuuki, rice malt specialist Sakaki, the mysterious purple haired boy Ibusaki, a couple of rowdy dudes and dorm caretaker Fumio (do not be fooled by how she looks now, because she was hot during her younger days).
The school dorm concept is one that is very common in many school-life series. And since Shokugeki falls into this particular category, it comes as no surprise that the show makes use of such a concept. I have been long been rather fond of the school dorm setting, as I always look forward to getting a different (and usually more laid back and fun) aspect of the characters’ lives. And I am thrilled that Shokugeki’s take on school dorms gave viewers just that. The scenes in Polar Star offer a much-needed breather from the anxiety-ridden school activities. They are bright, fun-filled and cheerful, and it’s such a treat watching them trash Marui’s room every single time.
This is Food Wars after all, so what’s a little war without them opponents? Every other student in school is a challenger, but there are some that have stood out more than others. Members of the Polar Star dorm aside, Souma’s main competitors include queen bee Nakiri Erina, her trusty sidekick Hisako, Erina’s cousin Alice and her ‘trusty’ sidekick Ryou, the Aldini twins, meat master (N)ikumi and curry expert Hayama.
By bringing in an array of characters, Shokugeki definitely lives up to its shounen quality (recall all those action/fantasy shounen series that showcase a variety of characters with different super powers). Each of these characters possesses a different set of cooking skills, be it specialising in a certain type of cuisine or method of cooking, and their contrasting personalities add so much more depth and flavour to the show. With the number of different characters, it is certainly easy to pick favourites (I have done that.. lol). But beyond the individual character appeal, what I really like about this bunch of characters is that, as a collective, while rivalry amongst all of them runs strong and deep, there is presence of no foul play or vindictiveness (uh, Erina aside. That girl is in heavy denial, that she is…). Some of them might not be forthcoming in helping their opponents out (*cough Alice cough*) but not once has any character displayed underhandedness. In fact, these characters spur one another on to improve and better themselves, and it is so heartening to see them work towards pulverising their respective opponents in the food challenges ^^
Having all these different challengers also meant more variety in challenges. How will Souma face off against the Italian style cooking? Or how will he overcome the avant-garde approach to cooking? Bearing in mind that we have only been following Souma’s journey at Tootsuki for less than a year, one can surely expect many more characters joining the fray. What we have seen so far really is just the tip of the iceberg – the promise of new challenges, and in turn new approaches to such challenges is definitely calling out to my inner shounen spirit. I for one am excited to see how Souma rises to each challenge.
The Tootsuki Alumni
The students aren’t the only ones to watch out for, because the instructors / alumni of Tootsuki also come with their own special set of skills and offbeat brand of humour. I do like that the series brought in the alumni, because they act as a sneak peak into what the current batch of students might grow up to become. The instructors had plenty of screen time during the school camp arc, and not only did they provide a whole new level of entertainment in their comedic interactions, but they also served as the source of tension. Given that these instructors could either make or break a student (they were given the power to expel students at their whim and fancy), there was a lot of teeth chattering involved when they were featured. And that just adds so much more spice to the Shokugeki hotpot, because don’t we all love some drama from time to time?
Fighting/action scenes are always a main draw when it comes to shounen series. However, unlike most in this genre, Shokugeki does its fighting in an extremely different way. The action in Shokugeki is less physical fighting and more pan-flipping. The characters fight through their cooking, and the winner is usually decided based on which taster’s clothes get blown away most dramatically (I say this in all seriousness).
What I love about Shokugeki is that the series manages to build excitement through ways other than over the top fight sequences. The story really isn’t out of the ordinary, but the production team has put a rather unconventional spin on this food universe. And this quirky execution has resulted in that extra special something that keeps viewers going back for more.
Being the seiyuu fan that I am, I could go on and on about the lovely seiyuus that make up Shokugeki’s cast list. However, given the sheer number of characters in this series, the word limit for this post simply does not afford me such indulgence. And so, I’ll just make do with one sentence for each notable seiyuu.
As Souma, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu pulled off one of the most infectious performances ever (harking back to the likes of his brilliant performance in No Game No Life). Takahashi Minami warmed our hearts and soothed our souls with her delivery of Megumi. Taneda Risa made us all want to hate her character, because she was just too convincing as the uppity “god tongue” Erina. Rikiya Koyama made many a fangirl/fanboy swoon as the voice of Souma papa. Sakurai Takahiro lived up to his reputation of playing the bishie-st characters with his role as “beautiful blue eyes” Isshiki. Hanae Natsuki fulfilled his role as the endearing brat of a Souma obsessed older Aldini twin, while Ono Yuuki showed us the gentle side to his voice (channeling his Alsiel from Hataraku Maou-sama) as the sweet younger twin. Ishigami Shizuka brought on the awws and giggles with her portrayal of the tsundere Nikumi. Suwabe Junichi exuded sexiness (no surprise there) as the voice of spice guru Hayama. Kayano Ai sounded ever so refreshing (am not a fan of her Menma voice) as Sakaki. Okamoto Nobuhiko proved he could do schizo with his performance as Ryou. Noto Mamiko delighted viewers all over with her take on the whimsical, free-spirited Hinako, and Nakamura Yuuichi put the P in pompous with his portrayal of Shinomiya.
There are many characters in Shokugeki, and that means seiyuu galore. So if you are a seiyuu fan, it is such a treat to watch! Besides, we haven’t even caught up to half the manga yet, so there is the promise of new characters and thereby more seiyuus.
So … I have been going on for quite a bit. But I just can’t help myself, I love this show! For the longest time (the entire of Spring 2015), I could not for the life of me understand why everyone was raving about Shokugeki – I saw the first episode and was completely put off by the ecchi. However, I decided to give it another go, because well.. good food is always happifying isn’t it? And I am extremely glad that I decided to see this series through (it got really good by the third episode). While the first season ended on a rather anti-climactic note, I guess this downtime works well as a buffer to tide us through till the next season (and when that would be, only time will tell… le sigh) airs.
As mentioned earlier, the premise of Shokugeki really isn’t very different from that of other series out there. But what really makes it stand out is the efficacy of its storytelling – it combines the different elements (action, humour, suspense and all the lovable characters, etc.) seamlessly and keeps viewers interested. This series is a prime example of how one doesn’t need novelty to be different. Shokugeki has taken many of the tropes in the anime world, from the ecchi to the tsundere to the moe and even the stalker trope, and made each of them its own. There is so much going on, but at the same time not too much, which just makes for such easy watching and much entertainment.
So yes, these are the reasons why I like Shokugeki just oh so muchly. How about you?? And at the risk of having written too much, I shall finally end this long drawn post. I hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing. Osomatsu~