Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I’m a fan of this manga. I’ll avoid talking in any specific detail about anything that comes later, but my thoughts on the episode might be colored by knowing how things went in the manga and there may be a few comparisons to how things were done in the manga. With that, Food Wars! The Second Plate Episode 1!
So, Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma makes its triumphant return this year after a strong first season. I, for one, am glad to have it back! I certainly hope all of you are too, because we’re wasting pretty much no time with petty exposition or scene-setting or anything like that. No, we’re jumping right into Round 1 of the Autumn Elections, so I hope you remember who people are, what their specialties are, and all that stuff. We get very brief snippets of the contestants and a very quick summary, but nothing like you tend to get from a Season 2 introduction, which takes time to reintegrate you into the story and the goings on.
On one hand, the pacing is almost a little too fast. We find out the theme, who Soma is facing in the first round, then see all of the cooking, presentation, and judging in a single episode. It felt almost like it was rushing at points. This, in particular, might be most evident when compared to the manga. There was an entire chapter of buildup, showing Soma learning the theme and his opponent, pointing out that the ever-feared Dean was going to be one of the judges, and then Alice showing up (which is one of my favorite single panels of the manga. I love that shot of Alice with no dialogue at all) and the two talking some light-hearted smack to each other. That gets compressed into about three minutes. So on one hand, it felt rushed to me.
On the other hand, way to jump right back into the series. By avoiding most of the “welcome to the second season” fluff, it feels like a very natural continuation from the first season. As such, it feels less like a second season premiere and more like Episode 25. That’s a good thing to aim for! I just wish they’d given it slightly more time to breathe, to build up atmosphere for what is a major confrontation. Alice is and has routinely been treated as one of the top-level first year students, so a little build up to the main character going against her in the first round would have been nice. While we all know Soma’s not going to lose in the first round, a bit of buildup would have been nice.
Animation is still top notch and very enjoyable. I will always love the Food Wars visualizations of food, whether they’re fanservice-y or not. A very enjoyable episode and I definitely welcome the series back.