If you’re a believer in Shounen 101 as a guidepost for how series are going to play out, the results of the Autumn Elections aren’t going to have come as a huge surprise. It would be pretty early in the game for the protagonist to have achieved a win this big (in theory about the biggest possible for a kid in his first year), so it makes sense for Souma to come close but fall just short. Plus, it gives his dad another opportunity to needle him (not to mention, based on what I saw the right chef won).
Back to the question I raised last week: did this finale live up to expectations? Well, probably not – but the context, I suppose, is that Shokugeki no Souma is a series that’s all about the expectations. This series is theatre for its its own sake, doing everything in style with an overdose of flash and bombast. That matters more than whether Souma-kun’s soy milk/miso/Parmesan broth lived up to all the hype – but for what it’s worth, it didn’t come off as all that special. And I still have doubts about the whole idea of resting the entire dish on second helpings (which he already more or less did in his match with Alice anyway).
In the final analysis I’d probably have picked Hayama Akira’s Carpaccio as the winner too – with the obvious caveat that not having tasted any of them that doesn’t mean much. His approach seems to have done the best job in highlighting the desirable qualities of the ingredient itself, which would seem to be paramount if the other factors were effectively equal. Obviously Souma falls behind the others in terms of ingredient selection, but he probably does deserve the nod for creativity in the way he overcame that. If we’re to believe the chairman the three dishes were relatively even flavor-wise – though it seemed to me that their was less violent reaction to Souma’s than to the other two.
Does the reason the judges gave for choosing Akira – that his dish more acutely reflected who he was as a chef and thus earned the term “specialty” – hold up? Well, it seems kinda contrived to me to be honest but I don’t mind, because I think Akira earned the win anyway. Frankly, he seems like the most mature and accomplished chef of the three, too. Another reason I don’t mind is that as a premise, this is a notion that lends itself to some interesting development for Souma. As a chef, he is something of a chameleon – he can work with humble ingredients, he’s relentless in his hard work to get the best out of them. He takes something from his Dad’s style, and learns from everyone he faces. But what is his style – what defines Souma as a chef? It’s a question adolescent artists in every field have to face sooner or later in some form if they’re going to achieve greatness, and seems a solid foundation for the rest of Souma-kun’s character arc.
Speaking of arcs, it seems as if Ni no Sara is going to conclude with the Stagiare Arc (a stagiaire is a temporary “intern” chef who works for free). Hopefully it’s a short one, as this season has only three episodes left and frankly, I wouldn’t consider it a foregone conclusion that we’re going to get another. We’ve seen other popular Shounen Jump manga with even worse disc sales get full adaptations (Bakuman comes to mind) so it’s certainly possible, but I suspect that even if a third season is in the cards, we may not see it for quite some time.