Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Shokugeki no Souma Review

It is not a first time an anime central around cooking, but this anime captures it perfectly. Shokugeki no Souma is not just foodporn. It is food with light porn. And let me tell you: It is amazing. 

The story is about Yukihira Souma, whose dream is to become a full-time chef in his father's restaurant and surpass his father's culinary skill. But just as Yukihira graduates from middle schools his father, Yukihira Jouichirou, closes down the restaurant to cook in Europe. Although downtrodden, Souma's fighting spirit is rekindled by a challenge from Jouichirou which is to survive in an elite culinary school where only 10% of the students graduate.  The institution is famous for its "Shokugeki" or "food wars," where students face off in intense, high-stakes cooking showdowns.
As Souma and his new schoolmates struggle to survive the extreme lifestyle of Tootsuki, more and greater challenges await him, putting his years of learning under his father to the test. (Source: MAL Rewrite)

One quality of the anime itself is that it is full of hype. Each arc follows the same basic rule; the crisis, the cooking and the reactions afterward. It starts with a slow suspense feeling, with tension and pressure (and hype) building up as they start to cook and finally end with over the top reaction during the judging session. The formula is used repeatedly but creatively, with different situation mixed up for every single arc, from the intense shokugeki to a toned down smaller scale cooking brawl. It is ridiculous, but that is why it is so good. It manages to make food, a seemingly mundane object that we just take for granted in our every day life to sustain ourself, into an object of pleasure and self-satisfaction. The way they describe the food is impeccable, from the general view down to the tiniest little non-important details. It is relatively different from the manga version where the manga just shown a static, greyscale picture while the anime showcase a fluid, colorful workflow where you can just listen to the characters rambling enthusiastically about the ingredients and how the food was made instead of just reading/ skimming through it. The anime does end up in a cliffhanger, but it is done so that the hype would still continue for the upcoming second season.

The cast for this anime is huge. There would be at least 20 important characters, and it is not fair to broadly expand their character development given the time and episode constraint. However, each character design are unique in their own way. Each and every one of them had their own cooking styles, that mostly matches up with their personalities and appearance. For example, we have the lovely country bumpkin Megumi, where her cooking style focuses on trying the best to take care of the person enjoying her food, to a more aggressive meat master Nikumi, coincide perfectly with her appearance that exposes as much skin (and meat) as possible. The list could go on and on. For the main character, Yukihira Souma himself seems to be a fun and carefree guy, but can get serious if he had to. He is not totally infallible, shown from his defeat to his father yet one can expect that he would win every single important match with confidence. He is by no mean a bland character, but his development is rather static as the story goes on. The same problem happens to other (supposedly) important character like Erina, which most of the time used as a comedic relief or convenient plot device.

The art and animation are above average. It is satisfactory, with brilliant and bright color palette and fluid animation. Some of the intense scenes were dramatically portrayed with high energy transition and special effects to elevate the mood. The foods however, is the main attraction for this anime. It is exquisitely displayed, down to the very last grain of rice. It looks so beautiful to the point that it is downright mouth-watering. As for the sound, it is well-done. From the memorable high paced OP songs to a merrier ED, it is pleasant to the ear. The soundtrack for each scene was highly diverse. The orchestral+opera music that envision how heavenly the food would taste like for example perfectly captures the mood.

Do I enjoy the anime? Heck yeah I do. Watching how each food is prepared the reactions followed after the first bite was taken was very, very satisfying. I would definitely nominate this anime as the anime of the season for its brilliant presentation and engrossing story, with memorable and fun to watch casts. It is an extremely fun anime, with a lot more to offer in the second season. A must watch anime for this season for sure.

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