So, Shokugeki no Souma has a special place in my heart; it’s a series, based off a manga of the same title, that managed to capture the essence of a typical battle-style shounen, somehow, without having actual combat, whatsoever. How did it achieve this, you ask? Cook-offs. Yeah, seriously. The thing is, though, it really fucking pulled this off. No big spoilers here, folks. I’m just here to tell you why you should watch.
Its advantage over other anime of the genre is that the pacing, to me, feels a lot smoother, for many reasons. First off, it’s a 5-season series. As a rule of thumb, I try to avoid shounen that are single-season, 12-episode wonders, especially if they’re based off a manga. 12-episodes is never enough to capture the entire series, without it feeling too quick-paced and overly short. Stuff like this usually leaves you with cliffhangers too, since the manga will span several chapters with more content. This anime adaption does a hell of job conveying everything the manga encapsulates. Sans a couple of instances where they omitted minor mini-arcs, which only serve to add backdrop to the main story, and that were then covered in OVAs, it’s very faithful to the manga. Though, I know many people were hoping they’d include closure on a certain obvious, budding romance.
In the case of Shokugeki no Souma, our titular character and hero, Yukihira, Souma, actually starts as a relatively skilled and above-average cook. It’s fairly common in shounen works for the main character to be very average or, in some cases, even more of an underdog. That’s not to say that Souma is the top dog or anything, from the get-go, but he starts off having all of the basic skills of a cook down-pat. As for character development, I would be lying if I said it’s not an incredibly important aspect of all shounen anime. We get to see Souma’s growth as a cook all throughout; despite being a good cook in his own right, his father, Saiba Jouichiro, someone who plays an important role later on, leaves overseas and sends Souma off to Japan’s top cooking school, Toutsuki Culinary Academy. Of course, we later find out things are not as they seem, regarding that decision, but that’s beside the point. At Toutsuki, Souma is tested by fellow 1st-year, Elite Ten Council 10th-seat and future frenemy, Nakiri, Erina. Unless he cooks a dish worthy of her praise, he will not be accepted into the school. While he initially “fails” the entry exam after egging her on, he’s later granted entrance. This elitist cooking school, as is the norm with upper-echelon institutions, is full of snobs and people who aren’t apt to accept someone who doesn’t come from a “proper” cooking background; local diners are not befitting, it seems, of Toutsuki Academy. Souma quickly learns that the world outside Restaurant Yukihira is much larger than he anticipated and that his survival in this world rests entirely on his determination and work ethic.
Early on, we’re introduced to the academy’s unique form of duels, called “shokugeki”(food war). Without going into detail regarding every single shokugeki we’re privy to, I’ll just explain the gist of these duels. There can be any number of contestants involved, although it’s usually a 1-on-1; a time limit is given along with a theme, which the contestants must use to form a dish. An uneven number of judges, usually 3, will taste the dishes and administer a score they deem appropriate, taking into consideration execution of the theme. Also, due to the nature of the school and its dog-eat-dog foundation, the matches are usually wagers; the contestants bet something deemed of equal value and the winner takes all. Along the way, Souma is challenged by several students and he makes reaching the top of the school his eventual goal. So as not to spoil too much, I’ll only say that his eventual clash with the Elite Ten Council is what sets everything into motion. Little do these elites know, our boy’s got plenty of experience losing. No spoilers here, officer. ~_^
From what you’ve learned by reading this, I can only hope this general grasp of the plot is enough for you to want to bear witness the plight of Shokugeki no Souma’s never-say-die, “I’ll make you say my food’s good,” Yukihira, Souma. After all, the basis of all shounen stories is the hero’s journey, the monomyth, and this one’s a unique piece, through and through.