WarningMight contain spoilers.

I’m delighted to be back in Soma’s world. As I’ve mentioned before, his frankness and complete lack of hostility towards anyone is endlessly charming. This time, the best example is directly bringing up Erina’s imperious manner of speaking to people. I love how one-sided her enmity with him is, too. To Erina, Soma is the embodiment of everything she hates in a chef—she keeps waiting for him to fail, yet he keeps accomplishing the impossible and becoming more important in her life. To Soma, on the other hand, she’s just another opponent he enjoys pitting himself against. His genuine, uncomplicated, amicable nature is such a pleasant change from typical protagonists across different genres and media, because he’s neither stupid nor saccharine. He simply rejects bitterness and cynicism, as does the show itself.

The opening credits certainly carry an air of the slightly ridiculous, but everyone flying around on knives and Soma being simultaneously attacked by Ryo and Hayama only to recover with Unlimited Blade Works[1] is awesome. The entire season plausibly suggests first one person then the other is going to win, or that perhaps either Ryo or Hayama will start losing before turning around and helping the other beat Soma. Of course, that’s Archer himself[2] that Soma’s using UBW against in the opening, so he can’t win. Seeing the friendship blossom between the three of them after the competition brings a smile to my face.

Alice was an intriguing mystery last season and is a welcome addition to the main cast this year.[3] Her story, when revealed, is a little sad, so it’s sweet of Soma to (naturally) defeat her with a dish that simultaneously offers comfort. It’s fun watching him nonchalantly show up on Erina’s doorstep later because Alice casually let him in, and so is watching Erina decide to help him in return for the manga she’s embarrassed about wanting.

Alice’s interactions with Erina are a constant source of amusement, such as when Soma and she both show up to sit next to Erina to watch one of the matches. Her mother is amusing too, given the accent baring and her obviously being the source of Alice’s complete disregard for etiquette. And speaking of accents, I’m quite impressed: I think I’ve heard more attempts at foreign accents in two seasons of Shokugeki no Soma than I have in all the years I’ve been watching anime put together.

Ryo’s childhood seems… unpleasant; his alter-ego begins to grate after a while. Megumi has an interesting arc, blending newfound confidence from her (losing) battle against him with her habitual diffidence and timidity. Ibusaki’s hidden eyes, his reaction to Yukihira’s speech in the first episode, and how he brought up Isshiki holding back against Soma in their battle all hint at his being an antagonist, but he’s really just another interesting member of Polar Star. As far as Isshiki himself goes, he’s always a delight, and both his faith in Soma and the set-down he gives Eizan are very satisfying.

Mimasaka is a fantastic execution of an anime archetype. His introduction and the conversation with Soma while he secures his bike (including Soma exclaiming with delight at the stitching on his jacket) is hilarious. Watching him mimic his opponents is excellent. He outmanœuvres Takumi at every step. Soma tearing Mimasaka to shreds afterwards—verbally, then in the food battle—is top notch, though. He demonstrates once again just what a prodigy he is, and his exchange with Erina after winning is filled with import. (I was only disappointed he didn’t start yelling across the room to his friends to ask them to give her the manga.)

Nikumi will kill me with her sweetness. The way she runs in (later joined by the others) to remonstrate with Yukihira for putting his career as a chef on the line warms my heart, as does her care package… I never tire of watching her run away from him when her feelings overwhelm her. Now, controlling the tenor of one’s voice is the fundamental skill all voice acting is built on, of course, but Ishigami Shizuka delivers every one of Nikumi’s lines with superhuman precision, like the shy With you? when Soma asks her to go with him because he’s gathering everyone to help him. (I really need Nikumi to confess her feelings. But I’m sure that’s not how it’ll go.)

Soma creating Yukihee Land with his dish had me crying with laughter, especially Hinako’s tender Hey, let’s remember today to Taki, who agrees before she recollects her surroundings, right alongside the show finding another excuse to put Doujima in women’s clothes and have him skip around.

Joichiro understands his son well: Soma is unique because he has the strength to face his inadequacies head on. He’s distinct from the many anime heroes who operate on ‘willpower’ and ‘determination’,[4] because his confidence doesn’t stem from a sense of invincibility—he sees mistakes as an opportunity to learn, and that’s all he wants, even if losing does dismay him at times.

Why is it necessary to show Arato butchering a supon turtle? The preparation is disgusting, the burgers look awful, and she loses the battle anyway. Thank goodness for the giant version of her in a turtle costume saying Roar later, which serves as a palate cleanser of sorts. Incidentally, it’s a pity the only two female contenders are eliminated in the second episode to make room for the inevitable three-way showdown.

The Stagiaire episodes that conclude the season are the best so far, including the first, quiet one that lets the characters catch their breath before introducing the concept. I never expected Shinomiya to return as a mentor, but then Soma’s steady refusal to forge enmities makes anything possible. (Their expressions when they see each other made me guffaw with delight.) This could have been a story about Soma struggling with an unpleasant boss and coworkers who look down on him; instead, it’s about him pushing far past his limitations when faced with a seemingly impossible challenge, under the watchful eye of someone who won’t mollycoddle him but wants to give him every opportunity to grow. This is a Shinomiya who answers all of Soma’s questions, helps him improve his final dish, feels uncomfortable when Soma awkwardly calls him Master, and warns him he’d better snag the #1 spot in the Elite Ten.

All of it speaks volumes of the sort of the person Shinomiya really is: uncompromising, not evil or cruel, and hardest of all on himself. He even has a rather sweet backstory.[5] I was about ready to faint with joy when I saw the Cailles Farcies au riz aux oeuf. Fagon[6] “Garçon Effronté” (Quail Stuffed with Risotto and Egg, Cheeky Youngster Style) on the menu in the end. This is one of the most effective re-introductions of an apparently-villainous character I’ve ever seen in anime, yet it loses absolutely nothing of what he is.

  1. Dear Shokugeki no Soma, I’m all for Alice joining the harem, but let’s be clear: Erina and she are cousins, therefore she is not allowed to be part of the poly relationship I’m waiting for you to deliver.
  2. Archer’s skill from Fate/stay night.
  3. Junichi Suwabe, voice of both Archer and Hayama.
  4. Not a slight on Gurren Lagann.
  5. Presumably meant to be Façon, not Fagon.
  6. Complete with a French restaurant called French restaurant.

Next in series: (#3 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Show: Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015))