Food Wars! The Third Plate – Mid Series Anime Review
Synopsis: Shokugeki no Soma centers on Yukihira Soma, a middle school student who is determined to surpass his father’s culinary skills. One day, his father decides to close down their family restaurant and hone his skills in Europe. Before leaving he enrolls Soma in an elite culinary school that is extremely difficult to enter with a graduation rate of only 10 percent. Will Souma be able to improve his skills, or will the kitchen prove to be too hot? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Note: Linny is still on vacation, but has provided her final thoughts & verdict, on the series, below.
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Food Wars!, a series that catapulted to the heights of popularity with a wonderful first season that captured what made the manga so much fun, producing high quality visuals that matched the manga’s ever stunning art. The second season stumbled a tad, rushing through the manga’s content as if it was milk about to expire. While Season 3 opened with a few egregious cuts here or there, forcing western fans to make due without crucial scenes since no one bothered to nab up the license to the OVAs, where these sections of the story had been shunted off to, the pacing altogether improved over Season 2, giving audiences a better chance to get sucked into the narrative.
Trouble is Season 3 has a monumental task of adapting the arc that, often, is considered the series’ at its weakest. Season 3 sees the return of Erina’s exiled father, a devilish man, set about conquering the Totsuki Institute and forever changing the school, nay, the entire culinary world as it presently exists. It’s a weighty story, one that never quite meshes with Food Wars! over the top tone. While the story itself seems to fit in with Food Wars! slightly absurd, battle manga nature, several developments feel too ridiculous to match with this arc’s overall darker tone.
In a world where judges can be payed off to prevent students from challenging the closer of their beloved clubs, Soma’s cooking is somehow, so good, to negate the money that lines these unscrupulous judges’ pockets? Afterwards, even giving the series that, what makes our ultimate villain, Azami, decide to suddenly allow everyone a more fair Shokugeki just because Soma foiled one of his underlings dastardly schemes?
As if those missteps weren’t enough, the series bigger issue is its altogether burgeoning predictability. Food Wars! operates on a formula, one that becomes painfully obvious the further into the series you get. Incapable of shaking things up for long, Food Wars! often falls back on “If your food is presented first, you’re sunk.” Long time fans will find this outcome far and away so frequent, this tactic so overused, it’s easy to begin to see exactly where the series is going. There’s even a few baffling decisions to stack the stakes so high against Yukihira himself, that there’s no way he could possibly lose, because it would literally mean the end of the series.
It doesn’t help that the series, manga or anime, wasn’t truly prepared for this arc at all. The primary villains, the Council of Ten, are introduced just one arc prior to Azami’s sudden appearance. The anime cut this initial introduction out, further compounding the audiences’ lack of familiarity with these upcoming villains. It means when it comes time to fear our adversaries, and wonder if Soma will ever be able to match up to them, we’re constantly having to introduce their badassery because we’ve never really met them before.
It doesn’t help either that the series feels necessary to trod out a gaggle of one off villains, three of whom never even get fully visualized matches. These, supposedly, super deadly opponents are introduced and dispatched so quickly, one has to wonder why they were even included. They make our villains seems altogether weak and embarrassing, marking an extreme low point for the series.
Soma is known for exploring character’s backstory, offering glimpses into what made our characters who they are. But Season 3 puts a hold on this, in favor of diving full force into Azami’s attack on the institute. While effort is made to build towards a redemption arc for the ever-divisive Erina, the fruits of that labor are just out of reach as The Third Plate concludes its first half at just twelve episodes, bumping ahead a major revelation (for characters, not the audience) to try and offer a satisfying stopping point.
While The Third Plate will return in the Spring to continue Yukihira’s ongoing struggle against Azami, I know from my experience with the manga it takes a little longer before this arc improves, and even then the story never really shakes its overly predictable formula. These are all issues though you’ll likely only experience if your appreciation for the series has waned over time. If you’re still as in love with the frequent Shokugeki, erotic art, and constant food porn, and Food Wars!’s often over the top nature, then these issues are little more than pin pricks to that devotion and love for the franchise. But if you’ve felt the sting of a formula that rarely gets changed up, these detractors never truly go away, constantly bringing down an otherwise fun series.
Linny’s Thoughts: Speaking as someone who watched the new season without having read the manga first, there’s definitely moments that are still noticeably cramped and rushed throughout this cour, which is a little disheartening given the two cour episode count it got. Introductions are often done in such a fast manner that they fail to inject a true sense of awe in the audience or bring out a real sense of danger in the case of villains. For those watching the show with the aim of enjoying the disrobing taste testing scenes, there’s still plenty sprinkled throughout the season but they’ve clearly become less of a focal point for better or worse. The biggest weakness this season exposes in the series is just how predictable its formula is. All hope is not lost as there are a few surprise twists and reveals along the way but overall, in some of the bigger showdowns aka the shokugeki, it won’t be hard at all for long time Food Wars! fans to predict who the winner will be. The bottom line is if you watch and love Food Wars! for its over the top and playful take on the world of cuisine and cooking, there’s still enough to love about the series but for anyone else, the flaws may have finally gotten obvious enough to make this season your last.
Food Wars! The Third Plate is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.