[Synopsis]: Yukihira Souma (Matsuoka, Yoshitsugu) lived with his father and worked alongside him growing up at their small-time, shopping district diner until his father decided to close up shop and travel the world as a chef. With the diner closed and a prodigious amount of cooking skill Souma tranfers into Tootsuki Culinary Academy, a world-renowned cooking school famous for its incredibly low graduation-rate and shokugeki – intense culinary battles. Confidant and ambitious, Souma pits himself against the multitude of impressive chefs at the school as he aims to climb to the highest echelons of the academy.
Shokugeki no Souma sports a wonderful cast of characters full of varying personalities, entertaining gimmicks, and distinct character designs. The show quickly establishes a very exaggerated, theatrical atmosphere and the eccentricities and comedy of the characters play perfectly into it. While some members of the cast come off as more archetypal than others they still work well within the show as the subject matter and plot don’t require particularly deep or intricate characters in order to be entertaining or funny.
Yukihira Souma, in several aspects, exemplifies exactly what kind of show Shokugeki no Souma is. As his experience comes from working in a diner with his father, he is immediately looked down upon after entering into the prestigious and lofty world of cooking presented by Tootsuki Academy. This underdog dynamic is highly typical of the protagonist and his success despite these odds should come as no surprise as well however these classic traits work excellently within the context and atmosphere of the show. Shokugeki no Souma is less interested in the possible dramatic implications of its premise and more invested in creating an over-the-top spectacle within which Souma’s classic traits such as his fierce sense of confidence, amicable character chemistry, and a passion for his profession play out to great effect.
Tootsuki Academy is as daunting as it is illustrious and the cast of the show does a great job of furthering this. There are too many recurring characters of import to list individually however the show at first highlights the other students Souma makes friends with and his key adversaries before broadening its scope of character interests in its second half. Each character feels unique and they play off of each other hilariously. Due to the nature of the show, Shokugeki no Souma pushes its character traits to the most exaggerated limits where the skill sets of some of the characters are better likened to near-superhuman abilities.
That being said, their actual skills are relatively grounded and each dish they prepare comes with its own share of contextual details and entertaining elements. Though the show skillfully avoids taking itself over-seriously, it has a surprisingly strong sense of character progression. Though it is not a focus of the show and only a handful of characters actually exhibit changes, the subtle development of some of the cast is handled better than some attempted dramas out there. The cast was entertaining, hilariously absurd, and distinctly memorable.
In the same way that the exaggerated personalities and character traits of Shokugeki no Souma’s cast reinforce the playful and hyperbolic atmosphere of the show, so too do the show’s visuals. The food looks absolutely delicious and the art style is crisp and never suffers any noticeable quality drops. The character designs fit well within the aesthetic of the show and each character visually stands out against one another on top of their differing dispositions and cooking styles.
Perhaps the most iconic cornerstone of Shokugeki no Souma’s visuals are the reaction sequences that play when a character eats one of the many prepared dishes. There is perhaps no better descriptor for these sequences than ‘orgasmic’. There is a moderate amount of fan-service-esque sexualization that occurs as the character’s clothes are torn away and they blush and moan sensually as they are captivated by the taste and presentation of the food.
These scenes are the height of the show’s ridiculousness and the rest of the show does a wonderful job providing the context for these scenes to be both hilarious and natural to the setting. An additional point is that these orgasmic reactions feature both men as well as women which is interesting because of the consistency of the concept if not for the progressive nature of it. These displays are great fun however if one finds they aren’t enjoying them then they may grow tired quite quickly given how pervasive they are throughout the show.
By this point it should be quite evident how Shokugeki no Souma operates. Its ridiculousness stems from its comedy and characters as well as the juxtaposition of its subject matter against the serious, exaggerated nature of its scenes. The first episode sets the show up very well in establishing both the protagonist and the general tone of the show. A father and son work at a meager dine restaurant haunted by an urban planner who wants to close them down and open a hotel in place of their shop.By the end of the episode we have a clear idea of what the show is about, we are familiarized with the nature and process of the show’s cooking and in which direction the story is is heading.
By the end of the second episode its clear that the show will be playing off of an underdog dynamic as Souma is dropped into a new high-browed, strict, and artful world of cooking. While the underdog story is a far cry from being original, the delivery of the show, its humor, and the personalities of its characters breath new life and intrigue into an otherwise typical narrative format. Moreover, it sports a great sense of humor and its comedy and gags are well positioned within each episode and consistently funny each time they appear. The show never takes itself too seriously but still finds a way to impart somewhat sentimental backstories to its characters that feel legitimate without disrupting the nature of the show.
While each dish prepared is typically accompanied with a reaction sequence they are also usually paired with a contextual explanation of the preparation method, the ingredients used, and the implication of those two things combined. The show never over-explains itself however the context for why each character makes what they make and the methodology behind their work is actually pretty interesting despite the comical nature of it all. The individual styles presented by the different aspiring chefs both keeps the show engaging while increasing the individuality of the cast. How the people they know, their own nationality, and their experiences with food shape their creations is a surprisingly fun and engaging part of the show.
Shokugeki no Souma’s soundtrack is the final cohesive piece to the overarching, ridiculous presentation of the show. In the same way that the individual traits of the cast, the colorful, orgasmic visuals, and the subject matter of the show all feed into its presentation, the music that accompanies each scene further accentuates their qualities. The food reaction sequences are set against the sound of swelling epic arrangements and angelic choruses in order to emphasize the heavenly nature of the food being consumed and the ecstasy experienced by the consumer. The epic quality of the music pushes each scene over the top in a hilariously grand presentation.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Shokugeki no Souma was absolutely absurd and outrageous and it worked perfectly. Each element of the show played well into the others and its consistently funny material alongside its entertaining cast of characters kept the show engaging from beginning to end. The show was simply great fun and it had a wonderfully encompassing ending as well.
I gave Shokugeki no Souma an 8 because it succeeded in entertaining me on a variety of levels. The characters were memorable and fun, the visual presentation was as engaging as it was ridiculous, and the story itself was simple and enjoyable. Some of the characters never quite moved beyond their archetypal design though it was a pleasure to watch regardless.
I would recommend Shokugeki no Souma to any fans of cooking shows as it often takes the time to highlight and contextualize the ingredients used and the implications of each chef’s choices. Its a great comedy and I would highly recommend picking it up for that reason. Prospective viewers who have a zero tolerance policy for fan-service may want to stay away due to how integral the reaction scenes are to the show’s process however the scenes themselves are relatively tame after the first episode. The food looks great so I would not recommend watching on an empty stomach.