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There are few series with the brazen audacity to merge cooking, shounen battle and softcore fanservice into physical manifestation. "Sensational" and "audacious" readily come to mind with Shokugeki no Soma as it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with other manga hits on the pages of Jump. However, while it started off strong with its exciting depiction of the culinary arts and ham-fisted, quite literal foodgasms, SnS's attempts to stay fresh in the Noir arc with its Sorting Algorithm of Evil has become its own downfall.
With a simple premise of a lower class boy eager to prove himself in an elitist school, SnS enthralls readers with its action-packed cooking, spiced with generous eye candy of good-looking food and even better-looking ladies. Peeling past these layers, however, also reveals a series with an intimate understanding of its themes, with grounded depictions of realistic, high-level culinary techniques. The characters, beyond just their pretty designs, are also fantastically written, with entertaining antagonists and complex allies surrounding the hero. More than just a cheap excuse for fanservice, SnS proves itself a bonafide shounen manga with an engaging story to tell and entertaining battles to witness.
Recently, however, SnS has been falling into the common dilemma of how to keep the success going. SnS's answer is to keep escalating the threats faced by Soma and continuously ramp up the level of skill the characters need to stay viable. With the completion of the Central arc, SnS has hit its ceiling of what its foundation of realism can accomplish, and are now pushing further beyond into more fantastical realms, shattering the ceiling in the process. As of the Noir arc, the series is losing sight of its original identity. Its winning formula of realistic cooking, fanservice and exciting battles cannot exist if one ingredient is lost. With the introduction of "superhuman" chef abilities, the cooking battles spiral out of control, with victory now feeling arbitrary and undeserved. The overall narrative pacing has also taken a hit, feeling more disjointed and erratic as Soma makes his way through BLUE. New characters are introduced haphazardly only to be written off without much care, quickly jumping from battle to battle with less impact after each encounter.
While I would highly praise the strong start of the series, the Central arc would see a gradual decline in narrative quality, with a more pointed dip in the Noir arc. Suspension of Disbelief is very difficult, and the sensational foodgasms have also started to go stale. It is truly a shame, but I still regard Shokugeki no Soma as an exceptional series with great characters and a unique concept. If you're looking for a fun, explosive manga with an extra serving of fanservice, the first few arcs are certainly worth your read. If you want seconds, the anime isn't half bad either.
Shokugeki No Soma tells the story of Soma Yukihira, a young teenager who dreams to one day surpass his father in cooking skills. To do so, he enrolls in the elite cooking high-school, Tootsuki Acadamy, which is the first step on the road to reach his father.
The strength this series has is exactly what the manga is expected to give ya; the cooking. The creators have done their work, and the dishes that the characters create are legitimate dishes in real life that are considered to be some of the best, and most creative, ever developed. The artwork isn't too shabby either, which isn't surprising in the least since it's developed by an artist who has previously done work on hentai. Every character has a unique look (the food in particular is drawn gorgeously), and while the fan-service is there in the form of "foodgasms," it's not enough (most of the time) to distract the reader from the story which is, again, to watch Soma bypass the students of Tootsuki Acadamy with his developing cooking skills.
If there's one nitpick I have with this series, it's that the characters are very been-there-done-that. Soma is mostly your generic Shonen protagonist, but he gets by being a fun, and skill developing, character that is enjoyable to watch. The two heroines, Erina and Megumi, are your classic Tsundere, and Shrinking Violet, respectively, and while Megumi has had some development getting out of her Shrinking Violet persona, Erina has yet to make any progress. Beyond that is a large supporting cast that are mostly your one-dimensional personas that fill in the rest of the persona cliches. Not to say they aren't bad, they've just been done loads of times before, just in a cooking setting this time around.
The pacing can also get a little rough by the time of the Fall Classic chapters due to the creators wanting to give every student introduced a chance to have the spotlight for a chapter or two, but aside from that, I've been enjoying this manga so far.
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