Shokugeki no Soma centers on Yukihira Soma, a middle school student who is determined to surpass his father’s culinary skills. One day, his father decides to close down their family restaurant and hone his skills in Europe. Before leaving he enrolls Soma in an elite culinary school that is extremely difficult to enter with a graduation rate of only 10 percent. Will Soma be able to improve his skills, or will the kitchen prove to be too hot?
I’ve really been looking forward to this season of Shokugeki no Soma, as I do with every season of this anime, actually. I’ve read ahead on the manga and the action and pace just doesn’t let up. In this season we will be seeing more of this fabled Elite 10 that Erina is a part of and Yukihira Soma makes it clear to them all, in his usual up-front way that he’s going to win a seat from them very soon.
There are so many things that make Shokugeki no Soma a great anime. The first one is its ability to create drama and action around an elite cooking school. The second is clearly the characters. Even though this anime seems to have an ever-expanding cast: Polar Star students, Yukihira’s rivals and antagonists, other students, Totsuki alumni and now the Elite 10, it doesn’t let them all run away and unravel. They have their own personalities, background and cooking styles, which all give them the weight to be memorable characters in an anime already teeming with them. Whilst some are stronger than others and some leave to reappear at a later date, it’s still quite an achievement – especially how likeable they all are, even the villains. The third thing, of course, is the cuisine they all cook. There’s not much more satisfying in an anime than feasting your eyes on a delicious plate of food – and this anime has it in spades. I can’t watch this one on an empty stomach. It’s just impossible. Bizarrely, I think I’ve learned more about cooking from watching the students of Totsuki than I have from leafing through recipe books.
This season finds the students excitedly preparing for the Moon Festival, where they can apply to set up a food stand for the event, cooking anything they want. But students have to beware, because if their stall loses money they’ll be asked to pack their bags – thus continuing to whittle down their overall number of graduates. The Elite 10 are also running their own stalls, and Soma has his eye on one in particular – the king of Chinese cuisine, Kuga. He plans to beat the expert at his own game by selling his one Chinese food right next to his senpai’s restaurant. But is his quick decisions and creativity enough to compete with Kuga, who has been researching and cultivating his particular Sichuan Chinese cuisine for years?
Yukihira’s years of working in his father’s diner gives him the edge he often needs when squaring up against masters of cuisines and particular cooking techniques. The heavy demand of working in a popular local diner has given him flexibility and the technique of being able to adapt dishes and putting a new spin on them, such as making them easier to make for mass production or altering a recipe to appear more generally to a broader audience. And, of course, like many an anime protagonist, he always has a group of friends that are willing to pitch in and help him when he overreaches himself (because, if Soma actually gets expelled from Totsuki, we wouldn’t have this great anime anymore).
Every season there always seems to be something new for Yukihira, and us as an audience, to learn. The breadth of cooking, techniques and research is truly staggering. There’s always another challenge, a school festival, a shokugeki or a new character that is able to give him another insight and he’s able to use it to his best advantage. I never thought a show about cooking could bring so much tension and excitement, but here I am years later always looking forward to the next instalment. The anime and the manga are rather similar, but each take the best advantage of their medium – the manga has the detailed story, drawings and pace and the anime maximises on visuals and music to stimulate and energise the episodes. Long may Shokugeki no Soma continue.