Quite a fine way to end the second Shokugeki no Soma series, and perhaps even the franchise’s animated run. Throughout Ni no Sara’s run, I’ve been long dreading the final episode because in many ways it signals the last time we’ll see these characters move, talk and do all the crazy awesome things that we’ve come to love from this franchise. And its because of that, that I think what surprised me the most about this finale, was how darn satisfying it really felt, and how different the experience of finishing this episode was from that of the first season’s final offering.
At the end of these 13 episodes, the best thing that I can say about Ni no Sara is that it settled the unfinished business that the first season clearly didn’t get to. Shokugeki no Soma wasn’t the smashing success that it has every darn right to be, and I really do feel like this second season was more or less the Production committee and perhaps even the manga publisher wanting to end things properly. It really does feel like a little something extra for those fans of the franchise that grew to love the anime and did indeed enjoy it.
We got the conclusion to the Autumn Elections arc, and then we got what I’d say was an even better mini-arc in the Stagiere. With only 13 episodes to work with, I’d say that this second season definitely felt rushed at times. There was a sense of quickness that at times dulled the impact of certain things, simply because they came too quickly after each other. And despite that, I’d call the second season a success, not only because of how it gave us a pretty solid conclusion to the rather uneven Autumn Elections arc, but because of how it followed that up with something truly meaningful afterwards.
The Stagiere was really about Soma reexamining himself and pushing beyond what he’s been thus far. Soma has, since the beginning of the first season, relied on his background and tutelage at his father’s diner, to get him through every challenge and situation that he’s come across. And While it was always fun to see Soma use his experience and wits to barely edge out a victory, its with what the Stagiere highlighted, that I think the true joy of both the main character, and this story as a whole, came to light.
See, in all art forms, not just food, there’s the argument that there’s nothing original left to do. Anime itself actually seems to be having this particular problem. All the big ideas are done, all the big inventions and directions charted. For the aspiring geniuses and artists of today, how then, do you innovate and evolve your art form if there’s nothing left to do? Well, I think the Stagiere has the pretty powerful answer here. Just because you can’t reinvent the wheel and create entirely new things, doesn’t mean you can’t take established, tried and true principals and add unique twists to them.
That’s really what both Shinomiya and Soma are doing. Both have a specialty that they’ve learned from and honed over the course of their respective careers. To go beyond what they are, however, they need to mix in and add a foreign element to their repertoire. And Its just so clever, I think, that Shinomiya and Soma basically both have to do the same thing, just in different directions, in order to carve their own niche and territory.
French Cuisine with a Japanese approach to it? Sounds amazing. Japanese cooking with a French twist to it? Equally superb. And what this episode really shows is that its Soma’s father that’s perfected this idea. He’s traveled all over the world, amassed a ton of experience, and combined all his learned skills and abilities to create some truly unique things.
With this final episode, and the competition for adding a dish to the menu for SHINO’s, the anime basically revealed and doubled down on what Soma and perhaps the story as a whole is going to do moving forward. Shokugeki no Soma is going to be a world tour into the realm of food, and its going to explore and challenge every idea that comes with that industry and art form. And I think, leaving on that note, with Soma having discovered his path in life, is a pretty solid and powerful moment to end the series on.
Couple that, with a bunch of returning characters making their appearances, and this episode was just set to deliver. Seeing a lot of the Totsuki Elite Alumni from the Training camp arc return, alongside Roland Chapelle-sensei, was a real treat. Seeing their interactions and comradery with Shinomiya was really nice, and gave a real sense of family and friendship that had been developed over many years together.
Its the kind of scene and the kind of atmosphere that I think all of us would like to see from a school reunion. Having friends that we’re close to, that we still respect and keep in contact with, and having them be there at a seminal moment, is something that feels truly pleasant. The warmth that exuded from nearly everyone at SHINO’s after its pre-open had ended, was just mesmerizing to me.
And if that weren’t enough, the show also gave Shinomiya a pretty sweet and heart warming backstory. The idea of Shinomiya basically working exceedingly hard to become a French chef for his mother’s smile, was something a lot more pure and powerful than the other goals we’ve seen from simialr chefs. It also echoed the idea of love and caring for another person being a powerful driving force. Every chef that we’ve seen in this show, has someone special that they drive their strength from. First Hayama, then Kojiro Shinomiya and of course there’s also Yukihira Joichiro, Soma’s dad. All of these talented chefs care for someone deeply, and its that particular thing that Soma still has to find.
But while I think we’re still a ways off from that happening, I do like how Soma at the moment is just taking in every opportunity to learn. The last part of the Stagiere, with Shinomiya basically not only accepting Soma’s dish, but helping him improve it, was a moment that felt both earned and very satisfying.
In the end, the annoying Shinomiya clearly became someone worthy of being called “master” by Soma, and really did transition into a very likable character. He’s rooting for Soma, and having him egg the guy on, as his final statement, was such a truly remarkable but slowly developed change. Shinomiya went from a rather powerful villain, to one of the primary characters that I really hope we’ll see again in this story.
And of course, before the show bowed out, it showed us how every other student in Soma’s friend group did as well. Everyone seemed to pass the Stagiere, and seeing all these students gather together and again and settle back into their collaborative learning space, was the cherry on top of the rather delicious cake. And so, the show ended with Soma wining another random Shokugeki and promising to keep going.
So where does that leave us anime fans? Well to be honest, I really don’t expect another season of this series. To be quite honest, I’m still rather pleasantly surprised that we even got this one-cour second season. I’m glad we got it though, and if nothing else, by giving us this second season, the anime really did nicely promote its source material.
I’ll definitely be jumping into the manga from this point forward, and supporting it in any way I can. It is unfortunate that Shokugeki no Soma is not one of Crunchyroll’s simulpub series, but I guess that’s just par for the course.
In the end, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed this series, and its rather short lived but ultimately satisfying return. Do I hope we get more Shokugeki no Soma in animated form? Oh yeah. Do I expect it? Not really. But what is important is that this series, and this second season didn’t feel like it cheated me out of a story. It wrapped up two rather important arcs, and gave everything a nice satisfying stopping point, while of course, leaving room for fans to transition over to the manga.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Shokugeki no Soma – Ni no Sara was one of the highlights of the rather well stocked Summer Anime Season for 2016. There were ups and downs of course, but I’d say that overall, this second season was a resounding success. And as we reach the conclusion of this season, and prepare for the next, that’s something really noteworthy and important to spell out. Good show Shokugeki no Soma, good show!
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