It's back yet again for a third season, that wonderful anime series about cooking, but things aren't all foodgasms and expertly drawn food. No, this season shakes things up with the introduction of our main antagonist. This character brings with him a far darker tone to the generally intense but lighthearted cooking anime, and when so many have come for the comedy it's not a great time to be stirring in a new flavor. Of course as someone who has read the manga up to the most recent release, I expected this alteration, and was very excited for the big reveal that came with it. Sadly, the third season suffered from more than just a darker tone.
For those of you still behind on your Shokugeki no Soma homework, this season starts up after an OVA where Soma met the 'Elite 10'. This is a group of chefs who have taken their place in the school as the top dogs, the best of the best in their own culinary fields. Given what Soma aspires to be, he had immediately challenged the ten to a Shokugeki but was shot down. Now Soma finally gets his chance to challenge some of the elite, starting with Terunori, a chef who specializes in the Chinese cooking art of Sichuan. The battle isn't like the typically Shokugeki however, as it occurs during a festival where the winner is decided by sales. The whole arc was rather nice as Soma and total housewife material Megumi pair up to take on Terunori, and as I have mentioned before, I feel like this is the best coupling of character in this series. The arc also brought Soma and the chef of the disgusting-but-enslaving food Nao together, which even Megumi remarks was a horrible mistake.
Things go well for Soma as he does take a win against Terunori, but before the festival ends we meet that darkening character I mentioned earlier; Azami. This man is Erina's father, and someone who she greatly fears due to the mental abuse he put her through as a child. See, Azami has a very skewed view of what cooking is and how it should be done. In his perfect world, all chefs prepare food the way it suppose to be, according to him, with no room for imagination or creativity. His arrival sparks quite the change for the school, as he was able to convince a majority of the elite 10 to remove the current chairman, Erina's grandfather, from his seat and put him in it. Azami immediately begins tearing down the outliers, shutting down the rebels, and expelling students who don't meet his standards.
This isn't the end of Soma and gang though, as Erina's grandfather pleads with Soma to protect Erina from Azami and stop him from destroying the school he had built. Thus begins the first strike, as Soma challenges Etsuya, an elite 10 in charge of shutting down clubs, to a Shokugeki to protect his dorm and the sanctuary it offers to Erina. This seemed like an unwinnable situation. All the judges were bought off by Etsuya, who is more a businessman than a chef, and even before trying Soma's dish they had their votes set in place. Leave it up to Soma to pull off the impossible though, as he puts out a dish that captives the judges so much that they can't bring themselves to lie. It's a nice win, and it gives us one of the more famous foodgasms of the series from the cat-like elite 10 Rindō.
There's then a small series of battles against the hand-picked students of Azami, all ending in favor of the challengers. It's a rather short lived and obvious bunch of no-names losing to established characters, so there wasn't really anything exciting about them. It does give Alice the chance to tell off her uncle, which had possibly the funniest reaction Azami gives the whole season. Given the short nature of the smaller battles this leaves some room for one last hurrah, that comes in the form of a minor Shokugeki between Soma and the first seat of the elite 10; Eishi. The battle comes after the two work together during a class, where Eishi offers Soma to become his right-hand man. Soma turns down the offer of course, and the battle commences. While Soma does put out a very intriguing and foodgasm inducing dish, Eishi's dish is on a whole different level and utterly blows Soma's out of the water. Eishi's had the better visuals after all.
The anime ends off with that big reveal I spoke of, where Soma has a discussion with Azami about why he wants to shut down all the restaurants in Japan that don't meet his standards. Turns out, Erina isn't the only one obsessed with Soma's old man, and it seems that something happened in his past that led Azami to become so jilted towards creative minds. Sadly the reveal, which is suppose to be stunning, ends up feeling silly and over dramatized with unnecessary effects and bad cuts. In the manga, the reveal stuns Azami and Erina, has the two realize they both know Soma's father, and leads to a great scene where Erina is trying to wrap her mind around the fact she almost denied her love-interest's son from entering the school. It was really funny! Instead, we got stupid.
While not the best of the three seasons thus far, it did have its moments. But when compared to the first season, which was nothing but great moments and fresh ideas, this one just felt like the leftovers from a spectacular feast. Still good, but lacking the same newness. It also had some out of place fan service moments, that were not needed at all. But you can't have the good all the time, and when the next season comes around, we should see a change for the better. There will be many more Shokugekis, some of which are the most intense battles yet.
Genres: Comedy, Food, Action
Animation: Unchanged from the previous season, J.C. Staff still has this culinary delight firmly in their court. The big question here is did they capture the food like they did in the past, did they make you feel like you could reach into the screen and take a bite of that chicken dinner? And the answer is: Sometimes. I feel like some of the dishes stood out among others, some appearing very realistic and others less so. It was almost as if J.C. Staff has trouble with certain culinary methods, such as panfrying and using the color brown.
Voice Acting: A huge change here is Erina's voice actress has changed hands. This hits you like a sticky slap in the face, as I could clearly tell Erina's voice was very different the first few episodes. Risa Taneda had to step down from the position due to illness, and Hisako Kanemoto stepped in. Unfortunately Hisako wasn't fooling anyone, as she lacked the royal twang in her voice that Risa had. Not to say Hisako was bad, I mean, she's got a good track record, but she just doesn't fit as well as Risa did.
Favorite Character: Without any real contenders, Soma takes this award by default. My reasons are pretty much the same from the second season, with him being a character who is focused on food and is a general friend to everyone, even his potential rivals. He feels like he'd be an awesome friend to have, and he even has his father's attraction with the ladies. But this isn't a harem anime, and while Erina might seem like the obvious choice for romantic pairing, I still ship Soma x Megumi.
Shokugeki no Soma: The Third Plate gets an 8.9 out of 10