Review-Roundup: Shokugeki no Souma 01, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 13
This series has a very odd definition of how the sense of taste works.
Shokugeki no Souma 01: Souma wants to be a cook – like his dad. But his dad is too cool to be beaten by a cook as halfbaked as Souma. Just as Souma had proven his worth in a challenge posed by a landshark, his father announces that he would leave Souma behind and he told him that he would finance his time at a cooking-elite-school (you see, it isn’t a school where you learn to be part of the cooking-elite, you go there because you’re already part of the cooking-elite for some reason).
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 13: Rin has a bad day. Shirou is there to give her a shoulder to cry on and to confess his love. Also, Archer is an asshole (which still makes him a more charismatic person than Shirou in this episode).
Shokugeki no Souma 01 Review:
Oh, of course. Lest anyone forget that this main-character is still a whiny teenager. It’s not like it’s his money anyway.
Shokugeki no Soma is an exploitation-series. You got the fanservice, the familiar tropes and absolutely ridiculous writing. Everything you would expect in a series that didn’t try very hard except when it comes to being fun. Even with something as negative-sounding as exploitation there are series that are good by those standards and ones that are bad. You have series like Akagi, Kuroko’s Basketball as good example where the plot really is just all about exaggerating mundane stuff and then to find ways to find even greater heights of ridiculousness. A bad example is Cross Ange where the ridiculousness isn’t entertaining because of how exaggerated it is but because of how dumb and absurd the whole thing is. Between those two extremes Shokugemi no Soma sits firmly in the middle.
The fanservice is unfortunately one of the series’ elements it wants to exaggerate as well. Cooking enthralls people in a rather forceful way. It isn’t enough to just show people enjoy the cooking, there’s this air of mindless powerlessness the people in this episode give off when they eat. In some moments it’s shown as people trying to find metaphors or comparisons for how good the food tastes but it also means that when the food doesn’t taste good we get a tentacle-rape-scene. Or when Soma manages to “defeat” the landshark-lady and her goons you get multiple shots of the lady twitching in pleasure and it leads to a fantastical “orgasm-sequence” where she’s completely naked. And in the following shot she and her two goons are shown on the ground passed out as if Soma had just won a fight.
Moments like these show this first episode’s strength and weakness combined in one shot. On one hand you got the utterly ridiculous portrayal of cooking which does work in this exploitatively committed way but the sequence has also shown this episode’s overreliance on fanservice. The bluntness of this episode’s fanservice is just ludicrous. The way the other characters respond to the fanservice is also a double-edged-sword. Soma isn’t a pervert in this episode who blushes while staring at the landshark-lady’s boobs or would feel embarrassed by how the landshark-lady reacted to his cooking but it’s also strange to see pleasing cooking as this tool of dominance. It makes it seem like cooking is more about the cook proving his worth than delivering a delicious meal to his or her customers.
The writing of this episode is also just so ludicrous that I hope the series will find a way to get a firmer grasp on its warped sense of what’s relevant in a scene. In one of the first scenes when Soma and his father compete, there are these two students who hurriedly enter the restaurant dropping all this exposition on the audience. That’s such a classic case of bad infodumping. Two dudes who know what’s going on talk about stuff they already know! And it isn’t even necessary exposition! But it adds this air of pompousness to this meager little cooking-duel between a father and his son. Another moment is when the landshark-lady first appears in the episode and ONLY talks with Soma… despite his dad being there as well. And the way she talks…! She wants to buy the property but all she does is to threaten and challenge the restaurant. There isn’t even a price mentioned. And Soma accepts the challenge, of course as if that had been the point of their conversation. That’s what happens a few times in this episode. The dialogue starts with something mundane and normal but then it somehow ends up being this ridiculous discussion of cooking. It’s the second scene with the landshark-lady that takes the cake, though. His dad isn’t there, so Soma returns home alone but finds the restaurant to be completely vandalized. And that’s when the landshark-lady appears challenging him to get her a juicy steak… not hiding AT ALL the fact that she’s responsible for vandalizing the store. But Soma ONLY cares about forcing her to back down with his cooking. He doesn’t even mention how the restaurant got vandalized! That’s something which should be a big deal for a small restaurant, mind you. Also… if that landshark-lady is THAT committed to forcing Souma and his father to sell then she should’ve committed arson and made it look like an accident.
Actually Soma should be glad that his father then decided to close the restaurant. I mean, how would they serve their customers with all their ingredients having gotten dirtied and destroyed? But that’s another case of this series’ ridiculous writing. The father not only closes the restaurant for two years but he leaves his kid behind giving him an allowance for daily life. And all Souma takes issue with in that moment is him closing the restaurant. All he thinks about is cooking!
So he gets to this super-elite-cooking-school (because of course) and it’s immediately established that only 10% of the students graduate which makes this… a really shitty school. You’re supposed to go to a school to learn how to become great but all these anime-elite-schools are all about you already being great when you get there and then all the school has to do is to unlock your “true potential”.
Also, I wonder if this episode is any indication how the show will handle cooking in the future. That you get the dramatic cooking-montage, then you get the food-taster’s reactions leading to a metaphorical fantasy-vision and then the cook has to explain the cooking-process with as few words as possible. Well, I hope that Souma coming up with unorthodox recipes will be part of the fun. It shouldn’t just be whatever he had cooked in this episode. That potato-bacon-thingy seemed… rather normal. Octopus-stuff with peanut-butter – but because of some mystical cooking-process it tastes good. Now that’s where the series should be going. Part of the ridiculousness should be how weird the recipes end up being.
This first episode had energy. It wasn’t a total snooze-fest at least but boy, that fanservice… It’s hard to miss these lengthy fanservice-moments that aren’t just a side-dish but part of the main-course. Other than that, the episode had been completely ridiculous. It all works out because the plot is very straightforward and fast-paced but I dread any slower scenes where it becomes apparent that the series’ writing isn’t that good.
F/SN: UBW 13 Review:
*sigh* Really…? That’s the imagery we’re going with to depict how Caster tries to force Saber to submit to her will?
I miss those 45-minute-episodes. This is another episode that clearly could’ve needed another 20 minutes to become a really satisfying experience. Without these extra 20 minutes this episode has turned into a very oddly-paced affair. It felt like the episode was over before you knew it – and not in a good way.
The episode opens with various mission-statements in the form of two monologues and one dialogue. Shriou has one monologue, Tohsaka has one monologue about Archer and then Archer and Rin talk about Rin’s qualities. These are the three characters the series wants to focus on and so it’s good that you got these summaries for what makes those three characters tick. It would be more interesting if all of them had revealed their stuff in dramatic dialogues where other characters can react to those mission-statements, question them, praise them or whatever. So, you’ve already opened the episode with these very static moments of just dumping all this information on the audience that mostly had already been covered during the first half.
Somehow this air of stasis never leaves this episode – even as the plot starts to kick in. There are some very odd direction-choices made here. You get a scene of Shirou getting back to his home as the sun rises, Rin gets woken up as the sun is already high in the sky and then she goes to the Church at dusk and when Shirou appears it’s already gotten dark. And you only got these quick cuts between these moments without any transition. Sure, you can make a timeline out of this but it isn’t very compelling to be held at arm’s length by the series as it cherry-picks these moments. And the perspective-change between Rin and Shirou feels very abrupt when it happens at the Church.
The problem is that this episode is acting as if I had just seen the previous episode last week. With that dramatic episode you had gotten some momentum going and with that you could justify this abrupt direction in this episode but that isn’t what this is. This is the first episode after a season-long break. I imagine it won’t be less of a problem for future viewers who have the luxury of not having to wait one season to continue watching this series but in this current situation, this episode has a very unpleasant direction.
It doesn’t help that the action of this episode is also very anticlimactic. Of course, it’s also clear that this anticlimactic turnaround is build-up for a later scene and it also leads to Shirou’s confession of love but as the start of this second half we had been waiting for one season it’s a great way to ruin the mood. There’s no excitement and tension here. More than being this tragic turnaround Rin perceives it as, it just feels disappointing.
And so when this romantic scene between Shirou and Rin comes around you can’t help but not feel invested at all. First of all, you obviously need to give a shit about these characters in the first place but also it’s a weird decision to have this romantic scene in an opening-episode whose sole purpose seems to be how the heroes have hit rock-bottom. And it had simply happened – just like that! The ending of the 12th episode was bad and the series continues to just let things get even worse without missing a beat (except the series seems painfully unaware of its season-break in this decision). So you have this romance-scene between Rin and Shirou which mostly amounts to Rin being in a vulnerable state and Shirou just bluntly confessing his love. It isn’t the most elegant romance-scene, you can imagine.
It ends with that as well! What a weird decision to use such an episode as the starting-point for the second half. The solutions are obvious if you ask me: Either make it a 45-minute-episode or just make something up, something new. The series has already done that with the 00-Episode kind of anyway. How about a whole episode covering the tragedy of Archer’s fate in short-story-fashion? Anything but this obvious continuation of the series that completely ignores the factor of the season-long break.
Also, the animation is competent and beautiful as always. So this episode got at least that going for itself.
Posted on April 4, 2015, in Anime, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews, Shokugeki No Souma and tagged Anime, 食戟のソーマ, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma, reviews, Shokugeki no Sōma. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.