WarningMight contain spoilers.

So we pick up right where we left off, even putting the expelled students back in the cage. And we start with… Rindo butchering an alligator. And here I thought Arato and the supon turtle last season were bad enough. Fortunately, it’s preceded by the hilarious sequence of Rindo insisting on picking the card for the theme, and there are lots of mouthwatering images of peppers to soothe my nerves.

The battles pass quite quickly. Mimasaka assisting Takumi by preparing the soy sauce just in time is awesome. I didn’t expect him to lose. I suppose he’s only human, but I’m disappointed that where Soma defeated him by planning well and pretending to improvise, this time he’s beaten by an opponent whom he simply isn’t able to mimic. (At least we get some more quick, hilarious sequences of his mimickry.) The mixed—broken, really—metaphors from the previous season continue, such as when Megishima and Rindo are portrayed as an elephant and alligator respectively, but their avatars fight by firing beams from their mouths. Meanwhile, it makes perfect sense that Soma has forgotten why Mimasaka considers himself indebted to him.

Momo is a cute character with an especially irritating, forced voice. Her being a dark reflection of Erina, but with cuteness, is a mildly silly idea. Rina Hidaka has an inordinate amount of fun with Urara’s aggressive, brainwashed avatar (including the scent of Momo’s dish making her refined).

I like the glimpses of Mimasaka and Kuga when Alice tells Arato to stop worrying about having lost because the others sure aren’t. The show doesn’t forget. It may set things aside for a moment, but it doesn’t lose track of characters or plots.[1] Shinomiya coming in to coach Megumi is a great idea too. Meanwhile, for once, Takumi gets to be the one who outmanœuvres his opponent, not only predicting and deflecting Eizan’s manipulations but perfectly deploying them against him, with a contented Mimasaka throwing a thumbs up at the television in approval. I was right about Rindo being an amoral wildcard. I finally know what Nikumi’s (and Hojo’s) single independent, self-supporting strand of hair reminds me of: some alien creature in a Looney Tunes episode with Marvin the Martian that had the same shape.

Soma finally gets to use Unlimited Blade Works against someone who isn’t Archer, and Saito is completely unprepared (only someone who doesn’t know Soma could say There must be some limit to not caring about tactics!). Saito himself previously seemed like a one-note character but, more than the revelation of his mother’s difficult experiences, his reactions during the battle lend him depth, including his sincere joy at seeing how Soma defeats him. It makes sense that Azami would fake an interest in bushido to persuade him to join his army.

Tsukasa is an excellent dark mirror for Soma: they’re both prodigies, but where Tsukasa decided the ‘common people’ weren’t good enough for him, Soma focused on making those people as happy as possible, and both succeeded in different ways. I love Soma ruining important moments with his tea (much to Hayama’s annoyance) when Isshiki battles Tsukasa, and I enjoy seeing Eizan drawn in more and more grotesquely enraged styles every time he thinks about Soma.

It’s clear that Erina is entirely inspired by and in love with Soma, even stealing his catchphrase. I just about fainted with delight at her smiling baka ne to Soma in the penultimate episode. It was a moment four seasons in the making—rather than undermine its effect, the show waits patiently and uses it perfectly. She’s a typical tsundere in many ways, but the entire season has been about her growth, and when she says it at last, it’s entirely without resentment. With two words, she wholeheartedly embraces Soma. And it’s beatiful. Seeing her genuine joy at having used all the things she’s learnt to create something unique is wonderful, as is the score that plays under her dish, along with the golden light… and Soma encouraging her to use his line verbatim! Megumi tearily thanking Erina for naming her dish after her is nearly sweet enough to make me cry too.

I still dislike the Gifting business—thank you, Isshiki, for at least being the only one to disapprove of stripping girls in public, never mind everyone else caught in the wave—but I concede that the last group-Gifting was an excellent way to make the point.

Soma and Erina’s battle against Tsukasa and Rindo makes for an odd pair of episodes. I kept thinking they must surely have planned everything and the ostensible disharmony must be a gambit, but in the end it’s all Soma improvising to spur both of them on to greater heights, and supporting Erina as only he can. On the whole, though, these are an unimpressive pair of episodes aside from the specifics I’ve already mentioned. I suppose I’ve started taking it for granted that Shokugeki no Soma will exceed my expectations, and these two go by without making much of an impression compared to the rest. Part of it is what Soma himself says about not having beaten Tsukasa or Rindo in a one-on-one battle. The other part is how boring and predictable the ‘happily ever after’ is.

The finale feels like it was meant to be a series finale, but it’s a bit disappointing after the excellent opening scenes. I don’t think I like Erina (who is still in her second year) being the director. There’s too little of Soma being Soma. Eizan should not be allowed in the Elite Ten (even if it provides another scene of Momo terrifying him into calling her bear Bucchi-san). It’s great to see all the friends in the Elite Ten, of course, particularly the Alice-Ryo-Hayama trio. I couldn’t stop laughing at the two Polar Star guys wondering whether the unrecognizable, glasses-free Marui was a lame new character. I do not approve of Joichiro and Gin trying to redeem the abusive Azami. And finally, the unknown person who makes a shocking appearance at the end is an awkward way to shoehorn in a plot thread for the next season.

I like the visuals of the opening credits. Meanwhile, I usually ignore the generic, forgettable songs, but the one in these closing credits is particularly annoying. The ridiculous knife surfing just barely makes up for it.

I wonder whether Rindo is supposed to be dressed as an Arrancar from Bleach in the opening episode or whether it’s a reference to some other show.

  1. See: Anne being mysteriously drunk after the finale of the previous season. Ryoko knows nothing about it, of course.

Next in series: (#5 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Show: Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015))