WarningMight contain spoilers.

I love this show. It’s funny, fun, thrilling, and action-packed. It’s an amazing blend of shounen anime, culinary shows, sports shows, and thrillers. It reminds me of the excellent Death Note in how dramatic it makes everything, but where that show was over the top—bordering on absurd—this is just right. It gets even better as it goes along, often making me laugh out loud. It’s filled with so much great action, and it’s so wholesome despite its very obvious problems. The food mostly sounds disgusting to me (especially given my limited palate) but it looks tasty and appetizing.

Let me first bring up the one significant disturbing facet of Shokugeki no Soma. I have no intention of excusing it, but I don’t know what to say about the fact that all these clearly-adult and extremely-sexualized characters are meant to be 15 (or thereabouts), because I have no idea how to address such an abhorrent yet commonplace anime trope. All I can do is refuse to engage with and focus on everything else. At least the anatomy on display doesn’t seem to be particularly human, which would certainly explain how every single person on the show spends all day eating food and yet maintains an outwardly perfect figure.[1] On a vaguely related note, anime characters licking their lips is offputting no matter their age.

It’s clever to have Soma’s first loss be in the shokugeki against Shinomiya, yet let us believe he didn’t lose, since Megumi was the head chef, and still show us his angst and self-doubt. His struggle to attract people with the egg dish in the next few episodes follows naturally from that beginning, which makes it all the more triumphant when he eventually conquers the challenge with his dazzling showmanship. His general blitheness and good nature underpins the show’s charm—a perfect example is him disarming Alice after the challenge by cheerfully and unhesitatingly agreeing he was in dire straits during the event.

The rivalry between Yukihira and Erina is deeply engrossing right from the outset. It takes a while for anyone else to notice it, but at least Isshiki eventually points out Erina’s… partiality for him. Even Arato tries not to mention Soma in front of her. Meanwhile, Takumi’s desperation to be Soma’s rival (and obvious love for him) always has me in splits. Hayama (with the voice of Archer from Fate/stay night!) is awesome—all the talk of spice and fragrance makes my mouth water.[2] Sadatsuka Nao and her obsession with Erina is hilarious, with a proper demonic lair as the icing on the cake! The archetypically sweet and timid Megumi rightly gets her chance to shine when she handles the (disgusting) monkfish like a seasoned veteran, after having spent the entire season being dismissed by the Tohtsuki student body, and it’s sweet how the boys from Polar Star are ready to pummel anyone who disparages her.

Nikumi’s character undergoes a sea change from her introduction as an aggressively sexualized (even by Shokugeki no Soma’s standards) predator. The sweetness in her shines through when she tries to move heaven and Earth to arrange a special deal on meat for Soma, and her look of confusion when she tries to find a way to reduce it further after he declines is priceless. So is the way she falls apart when Yukihira says they need to all get through the prelims together.

In keeping with the grandest traditions of anime, everything is connected. It’s unsurprising that Joichiro, when we finally learn about his history, stayed in the same room Soma is in now. Even when Soma and company take on the hilarious Mozuya CEO, it’s mandatory for it to be a member of the Elite Ten whom she’s consulting.

I like how hard it is to tell who will proceed to the semi-finals because there are so many characters who qualify as important, with so many interesting histories and such a comprehensive network of rivalries. And speaking of those last episodes, Yukihira waking himself up with the smell of his food being cooked and unleashing the fragrance at exactly the right moment is amazing, even if his aura of invincibility is shattered by the climax.

It’s lovely to see everyone unwinding and having a nice, friendly time at the after-party, although nothing quite reaches the heartwarming heights of the charming closing credits sequence. This show needs to end with Soma, Megumi, Nikumi, Erina, and Kurase (and Takumi, and probably Hayama) in a polyamorous relationship. No one can have their hearts broken. No one. Of course, it’s much more likely to prove to be yet another anime show starring oversexualized teenagers who never so much as hold hands. Why pair Soma up with anyone when they can keep teasing everyone?

The timing and tenor of Nakiri Senzaemon’s laughter in the final episode is perfect.

  1. Why no, I’m not bitter at all.
  2. Although… his great secret is tulsi? Really? Dahi I could understand, but tulsi? I was willing to blindly accept whatever the show does because I’m the opposite of a gourmet, but this is where I understood that all the dishes are solely concocted for story purposes, and stopped feeling like a philistine for not being tempted by more than a handful of them.

Next in series: (#2 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Show: Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015))