First Impressions – Shokugeki no Souma

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Now that’s what I call food porn.

OP: “Kibou no Uta” (希望の唄;Song of Hope) by ULTRATOWER

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The premiere of Shokugeki no Souma was pretty good, but not as entertaining as the reactions of viewers who didn’t know what they were getting.  Yes, this is a WSJ adaptation – but it’s not a mass-produced model.  Manga artist Saeki Shun’s roots are as an H-doujin writer (under an assumed name, of course) and that shows through in almost every frame of Shokugeki.  There’s no denying that this series is operating on multiple levels, but fundamentally I think it’s the ecchi and the bent humor that drives the train.

In terms of adaptation, I think this first episode did everything one could reasonably expect.  I would describe director Yonetani Yoshitomo’s (he’s also a writer and, interestingly, singer) track record as mixed, but his work on the underrated Dororon Enma-kun Meerameera shows he gets this kind of soft-H comedy style.  I don’t personally feel Shokugeki no Souma is anything great as a manga – just an interesting and entertaining oddity – but Yonetani-sensei definitely manages to capture whatever it is that the manga has for charm and translate it to anime.  And it’s a well-produced premiere – I like the character designs, there’s a sense of flair and style, and Kato Tatsuya’s soundtrack is a perfect fit for the material.

Love, hate or indifferent, I think it’d be hard to argue that Shokugeki doesn’t have a relentless energy and a fearless sense of the absurd.  It’s the story of a 15 year-old cooking whiz named Yukihira Souma (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) whose Dad Jouichirou (anime’s go-to Dad Koyama Rikiya) runs the dive restaurant father & son both cook for.  A shady developer named Minegasaki Yaeko (Chiba Izumi) wants to bulldoze the place for a high-rise development, and eventually pops decides to close on his own terms in order to force his son to leave the nest.  That means attending the Engetsu Teahouse Cooking Academy, the most cutthroat cooking school in Japan (with a graduation rate of less than 10%).

When you see the premise laid out in brief like that, it seems wafer-thin and rather silly – and in this case, looks aren’t deceiving.  This is a “premise” in the truest sense of the word, an excuse for the weird and ecchi goings-on that define the series.  A girl tastes squid with peanut butter and gets tentacle-raped?  Check.  Yaeko eats a “pork roast” of potatoes and mushrooms under slow-roasted bacon and needs a change of underwear?  Check.  Lots of naked children in the (hilarious) ED sequence?  Check.  To the extent that this series works, it works as a literal feast for the senses – and there’s something to the notion that food is one of life’s most sensual pleasures.  And in truth, that should work even better in anime than manga form if the production is competent – and this one certainly seems to be.

As the story moves to Engetsu, lots of new new characters are introduced, and with it the dreaded waifu element that unfortunately seems to drive a lot of the fandom for the series.  And I could have done without Matsuoka being the lead in both new J.C. Staff series premiering today – DanMachi is an unfortunate reminder of where he’s made his fortune, and that he really has almost no range as an actor.  But some of the Engetsu characters are a lot of fun, and for me at least the frantic soft-core eroticism and humor never stops being entertaining.  It’s not a work of genius and there are aspects of it that try the patience, but Shokugeki no Souma is pretty good for what it is – and it has the virtue of being pretty close to unique.  All in all, based on the premiere I expect this to be a pretty entertaining series.

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ED: “Spice” (スパイス) by Tokyo Karan Koron

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  1. j

    Heh, when it comes comedic acting Matsuoka is one of my favorites, I attribute some laughs I got in Sakurasou solely to him.

  2. w

    As you said, this is not a mass-produced model. But at the same time, knowing that, I was amazed by how much it still feels like a WSJ series. The jokes and premise are certainly unique, but something about the presentation makes it seem right at home as a Jump manga.

    If I continue with it, I have no doubt I'll laugh at all the silly food-porn jokes though. I somewhat enjoyed the premiere, but how long I stick with it depends entirely on how much patience I have for battle shounens these days.

  3. It does get more interesting as it goes, I think. Though conversely, the elements that annoy me get more annoying.

  4. w

    Yeah I've read a few chapters here and there, and it seems… okay? They can get a good bit of mileage out of the absurd nature of the premise, but once we go into a tournament arc I'll probably shut right off. Then again… the chance to pick up cool recipes..

  5. C

    A great first episode! Hopefully JC Staff didn't blow all their budget on it… I want the rest to look good too.

    Also, Soma is 2handsome4me.

  6. g

    Well, I'm weirded out a little. Theoretically I knew, what I should expect because I read the manga (I've started reading it because at that time I craved other cooking manga after I finished Bambino!, I red couple of others too), but I still experienced a second-hand embarrassment, much more than in a case of an unexpected IRL porn. So it seems I still wasn't ready.

    Well, I guess it's because a different medium. In the manga you can choose pacing and where you want to lay an emphasis. You can watch ecchi pages for a half hour (or when you end to fap) or skim trough these and focus more on food or a shounen battle part. And maybe it's me, but I feel there's less ecchi pages now than at the start of the manga (or maybe they are mixed with other "reaction-after-food" pages more?). And in the manga there's no porn voices (*was startled suddenly, while trying to turn down volume*).

    But I don't agree with Enzo cooking is only an excuse. There's a culinary consultant's name next to artist and writer's ones. She watches over recipes and culinary techniques, for them being correct and something possible to make. And one of volumes' bonuses are recipes used in the chapters. WSJ even held one or twice recipes popularity poll instead of a characters poll for Shokugeki no Souma (the characters one was later).
    I guess it's easier for me accept harem-esque elements because of that. Souma's life goal isn't just to touch boobs and girls, even after have started to like him, don't forget suddenly about why they're in the best culinary school.

    I predict MC-kun will be liked, because Shokugeki will be viewed as one of ecchi harem anime, and from that perspective he's refreshing one instead stereotypically wimpy. And actually, what I like, behaves around girls like normal human being, nor being too shy or too cocky/ pervy. He can be annoying, when you watch it as a battle shounen.

    PS:If you live with somebody, then watch out, where you pause in the episode, because next time you'll have a discussion anime aren't weird Chinese porn cartoons, your arguments will be treated as invalid. Oh and "It's just her bad reaction to the squid with a peanut butter!" only worsens the situation.

  7. The first part of your comment is solidly in "TMI" territory…

    As to the second, let me just say I think you misunderstood me a little. I don't mean the cooking is an excuse – I mean the premise is a premise. The stuff about the developer and the restaurant, and the battle cooking school and all that. As I said, I think the notion of food as a sensual art form is very much central to what drives Shokugeki no Souma – it's the plot I think is pretty thin.

  8. g

    Wut? I wasn't saying about myself. Only about potential outcomes, what can be done with the ecchi material. The manga's target isn't me. 😉 But, well, later there is manservice too. I wanted to say in the manga it's much easier to omit the ecchi aspect than in the anime, so that's why I was still little shocked, even if theoretically I know how the manga rolls.

    Ok, sorry it seems I didn't understand you clearly but you're right, the plot is thin like a poor soup. Definitely can be endless, adding new arcs, new characters and such. And it feels very WSJ in a spirit.

  9. N

    Having watched both this and Danmachi, why the hell did Danmachi get the JC Staff budget? Shokugeki no Souma looks cheap as hell. SnS has a hit manga and actual tits, is the lure of the bland self-insert harem protagonist so strong?

  10. I

    The ecchi part I think is done poorly and is very distracting in a bad way, so hopefully its not so bad latter on. Other wises its OK. Since many more characters and a new setting is in store, I'm still looking forward to the next episode.

  11. H

    I kinda enjoyed it…thrilled me even. I feel guilty as hell. It's not hard to share the series' appreciation for food.

  12. E

    That was quite a sense of style. Looks better than AssClass at least i think.

  13. U

    I can respect the fact that everyone that ate were sexualized, including the land shark's henchmen (one of them was tied up like a pork roast in that orgasm sequence).

    And I actually really like the ED because it doesn't seem to overly sexualize anyone.

  14. n

    I didn't know the manga (exept it was some shonen ecchi with food), so I found this first episode quite interesting. The ecchi don't really bother me.
    As for the anime itself, I find the premise quite interesting (some Yakitake Japan vibes ?), and the visual are good.
    And I also like the fact that the food is really well described (they gave the how to do for their potato roast pork) and since I really like to cook particularly Japanese food), I am starving to learn new tricks about it (but maybe it's the fact that I just ended Koufuku Graffiti and that it was … not really anymore about food).
    Do you know if the manga is still really centered about food (giving recipes and intersting cooking ideas) ?

  15. The mangakas takes cooking very seriously, yes – they do their homework and seem to have a genuine interest in exhaustive detail.

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