Review/discussion about: Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara
Onions taste delectable.
I didn’t always believe so, though. For a long time, I avoided their presence, viewing them as a white blight upon the meals they complemented. But now? I try to get them on everything (where it makes sense). Burgers. Pizza. Tacos. Onions no longer go unwelcome but instead have won me over, earning a seat at my table any day of the week.
Just as taste buds change, anime can do the same. For Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara, some of its own changes both help and hurt what once was.
Three seasons in, Shokugeki already knows itself pretty well at this point. The mixture of character comedy, hyped upsets, and a slathering of ecchi delivers unto the audience its signature brand of food-fueled fun. With Souma himself still aiming for his goal to be the best of the best, this next part in the series decides to put its skillet back on the burner as the plot heats up.
Before doing so, though, it goes back a bit further to its roots (and not the farm kind). Where the continued Tournament Arc bogged down the previous season to a large extent, it now channels some of the older magic which had made everything so intriguing to begin with. The story events concern less with structured cook-offs and more about these weird competitions that lead to positives and negatives within the sphere of their school.
For instance, Souma’s wholesome attempts during the festival demonstrate the power of a warm, handcrafted meal, and his rigged war against Eizan reflect the plight that the Polar Star Dormitory faces as the evil Central takes over. While multiple exist, these two examples highlight how the show finally remembers the meaning and the stakes behind these culinary clashes.
Moreover, Shokugeki also strikes a better balance between these battles and its silly comedic forays. Souma and Nao may bond over their horrific concoctions, yet the off-the-books duel with Tsukasa elevates tension as fate hangs undetermined. This balance overall leads to less repetition (especially an avoidance of umami dialogue) among the events and thus a stronger sense of purpose throughout the season.
Unfortunately, the ecchi elements are once again tuned down as the general seriousness wafting in the air prevents much in the way of over-the-top sexuality. Prominent thematic ideas also sour away as these developments commence. However, major reveals right at the conclusion make the audience yell at their waiter for seconds regardless.
So, despite whatever smaller shortcomings Shokugeki contains, the beginning of this third season demonstrates a return to proper form for the series, making excitement a possible item on the menu.
ART & ANIMATION
Like most anime deep into their stories – which in this case means episodes – not a whole lot more can or even needs to be said about the presented visual flavor. Shokugeki is no different. Sort of.
As an appetizer, the character designs still wear their personalities, their attractiveness, and their styles front and center. Newcomers Azami and Rindou seat themselves right alongside the familiar looks of Souma, Erina, and the others. The former wraps himself in dreary, washed-out colors for an evil presence, and the latter sports a catlike appearance to capture her carefree yet sinister attitude. Some sweet designs, indeed.
Many a detailed shot likewise make their return. The various foodstuffs are as mouthwatering as ever, and the imaginative moments as combatants live up to their respective skills keep the fun going. So, in other words, Shoukugeki has grandma’s recipe and smartly follows the ingredients for a tasty product.
Similar thoughts go for the actual animation. The series has never had the best movement possible when given its static shots, crazy reactions, and occasional jokey style. That all remains true still, making for the show some standard, passable levels on this front.
The dreaded panning camera, the stiff actions, the speedy backgrounds, and the rough CG segments, though, are now much more noticeable than ever, breaking the artistic flow to the point of concern. It could also be argued that, by now, the series shouldn’t be having these problems anymore to begin with. That it has had enough time to think about correcting or avoiding them (whether they were present or not).
If nothing else, even the visuals for the ending track lack appeal as they reuse clips not only from previous seasons but also from this current season. A rather clear indication that the dial has been turned down on the artistic stove.
Within the start to this third season, not too much occurs personally for Souma and the other cast members. However, Shokugeki has writing and moments which back their continued quests among the foodie sphere which they call home.
Most notably, Erina finally receives more than a morsel with some much-needed backstory to complement her difficult, arrogant personality. Her sad childhood filled with manipulation and loneliness humanizes the young woman, and her stay with the friendly people at the Polar Star Dormitory provides her with a warm atmosphere that she has never quite experienced before.
Other side characters order up a helping of growth, too. Alice is Erina’s rival, but she is also her family, and so her heartfelt letters and her determined protection serve to add another dimension to her character. Kuga, Eizan, and Tsukasa hold spots among the top elites, and their challenges, losses, and nerves (respectively) bring about extra pep. And Subaru turns over that new leaf still when he supports Souma during the festival, putting his best foot (and food) forward.
The most impactful character for this season of Shokugeki, though, goes to Azami, Erina’s father and the horrible man spearheading the lamented direction the school now takes. He envisions a world where only the most exquisite delicacies exist, and anything less than perfection may as well be chuff fit only for the trash.
As such, he homogenizes the teachings and the courses for the students, throwing away diversity without a second thought. His antagonistic approach not only makes him a character the audience loves to hate but also explores this theme on the importance of individuality both for the characters themselves and the expressive food they create.
Otherwise, the remainder of the cast do their thing. Souma stands up for his cherished friends while simultaneously battling those above him directly and immediately. Megumi cheers him on. Satoshi attempts to maintain stability behind-the-scenes amidst the chaos despite the threat to his seat on the upper council. They and the rest round out the show without feeling left out or forced into the proceedings for the sake of screen time.
All in all, the characters continue to be one of the show’s strongest aspects.
MUSIC & SOUND
Much like the visual direction, the audio for this third season of Shokugeki does not change much (if at all) from its previous offerings. The voice-acting performances are as swell as always. The original soundtrack still has its rousing and homely compositions. And the various sounds as meats and as vegetables cook, alongside the usage of utensils and devices, fill the ears with a scrumptious, professional “aroma.”
The only major differences from this continuation come from the opening track and the ending track.
“BRAVER” leads the audience in. Sweet drum fills and a steady guitar riff get the action going, but the vocal shifts and intensity build the fire behind this piece. Combined with its quick pace, the buildup, and the stuttering finish, it forms into a hyper-charged listen that pumps up the audience just as much as Souma when he steps into the kitchen.
“Kyokyojitsujitsu” leads the audience out. The groovy bass tastes best within the instrumentation, but the recognizable female vocalist from nano.RIPE (the band for this song) and the slick guitar playing are no slouch overs either. Unfortunately, the total package lacks the same sense of passion and purpose as its OP counterpart.
Although the ED does not have the same clout as the other music tracks, the familiar strength in the other parts of the audio direction and that new OP deliver on their promise of high execution per usual.
It’s almost always nice to see a series continue its success as it moves past its origins and into the crux of its journey. Thankfully, this anime follows this statement about as well as it can.
Personally speaking, I liked this season if only because Erina – as my favorite character from the show – was involved way more than last season. Plus, the setup for the betrayal by the council members, while somewhat annoying, will make for an inevitable (I presume) string of recompense once Souma and crew take them down.
The other parts of the anime were still fun, too. The comedic bits had me laughing. The romance hints got me all smiley and giddy. The food battles had me cheering on the good guys from afar. In short, I have been a fan of this story since the beginning, and that stance has not changed yet.
At the time of this review, the second half of this split-cour has already completed its airing, so I have another buffet to attend at some point in the near future. Until then, my stomach rumbles for the next appetizing bite out of this successful anime.
Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara dishes out its third plate in a more-favorable-than-not fashion. While the worsening artistry harm its chances, the newer plot developments get the ball rolling again, the characters are just as interesting as ever, and the audio component has not lost its edge. Onions can cause crying, but such tears are not required here.
Story: Fine, as the plot heats up, this next sequel in the franchise returns to form with a familiar structure and better balance in its narrative even if the reduced ecchi and thematic elements induce desire
Art & Animation: Fine, while the character designs and the detailed images still receive Michelin stars, movement and other visual elements worsen to a more noticeable extent than ever before
Characters: Good, Erina earns a much-needed morsel, Alice and similar side characters step up, Azami is a solid new antagonist, and Souma and crew round out the rest of the cast with their usual quirks
Music & Sound: Good, the sweet OST, VA performances, and audio elements return once again, and the OP is pretty cool, but the ED has less going for it
Enjoyment: Good, more Erina, more of the same entertaining traits, and more to look forward to in due time
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
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