In ways both material and philosophical, this adaptation of Shokugeki no Souma is almost eerily accurate. It’s even following the manga in starting out as a somewhat forgettable diversion and slowly transitioning into something more, revealing the depths of its own cleverness and perversity along the way. The changes are mostly inherent to the change in medium from manga to anime rather than any deliberate shift in tone or focus – though with this material, that’s still pretty significant.
That said, J.C. Staff and director Yonitani Yoshitomo are showing some nice, clever touches to take advantage of what anime brings to the table. Stuff as simple as the the end card and eyecatch narrations make a difference, and we saw a nice usage of a J.C. Staff specialty this week, with the episode transitioning into the ED for a good 45 seconds in very funny fashion. In a show so dependent on style points as Food Wars is, that bit of extra flair is really crucial to the adaptation’s success so far.
As I mentioned last week, I really like what the Aldini Brothers bring to the dynamic. Yeah, it’s another ultra-stock shounen trope, but if like me you view Shokugeki as a borderline parody of shounen, such tropes are building blocks. Having a rival of equal talent, a formidable frenemy, is vital to push Souma’s character to the next level. Their battle – while technically not a battle – in Inui-sensei’s classroom was one of my favorites of the series so far.
I’m not a huge fan of Food Network-styled cooking shows, most of which are ripoffs of the already-mediocre Iron Chef (America’s Test Kitchen is more to my taste) but there is one called Chopped that reminds me a lot of what we see in this series. The idea is that you (no sous chefs here) get a basket of four ingredients – at least two of which are usually bizarre and none of which generally complement each other – and get 20-30 minutes to create a dish out of them. It brings out the personality of the chef in a major way, and I think we saw that with Takumi and Souma here. Takumi was revolutionary and ground-breaking, and Souma was incredibly clever in re-imagining nominally basic ingredients (apart from the Kaki-no-tane) in a new way. Each of them came up with something appetizing and distinctive in the process.
What we didn’t get was either of them forced to kneel, as Inui-sensei bailed on making a decision in their battle royale (it’s too early in the game for one of them to get the upper hand). But we did get another great food porn scene as Inui-sensei basically imagined a mermaid being ravished by a Kaki-no-tane-headed merman after sampling Souma’s deep-fried char in K-n-t batter. I’m less thrilled at seeing Megumi (and Isami, for that matter) pigeonholed strictly as an extra pair of hands, but that’s their role for now. Megumi has neither the confidence or practical experience of Souma, and Isami just isn’t driven to conquer the world the way his brother is. A nice final touch here was Takumi’s grand speech about eternal rivalry, only to be seated next to Souma on the bus…