Food Wars: The Fifth Place Is a Good But Underseasoned Course

A good while ago, I wrote about how an anime inspired me to try cooking for myself. I do believe that I have gotten much better since then and I’ve even learned how to cook really good dishes like gyudon and omurice, things I thought were incredibly complicated but, in practice and with some practice, very easy to put together. I have also developed some basic food preparation techniques like how to debone a chicken breast as well. I’ve even tried my hand at creating some of my own crazy foods like a sandwich omelette (basically, it’s a bacon and cheese sandwich but wrapped in egg). Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds but it’s basically a breakfast sandwich and it tastes surprisingly good. I have expanded my horizons beyond the anime and I’ve now been watching a lot of YouTube cooking shows but I still hold that the reason why I started cooking myself is that anime.

Of course, the anime that instilled the motivation to try cooking is Food Wars! AKA Shokugeki no Soma. I quickly gobbled up all three seasons that were available at the time and I eagerly awaited the fourth season way back then. They then announced Food Wars!: The Fifth Plate, a whole new season that was going to wrap up the entire manga and I was pumped!

Now that The Fifth Plate has aired in its entirety and Food Wars!/Shokugeki no Soma has wrapped up its anime run, I can’t say the show ended on a high note, especially when considering how the previous “plates” were. It was fine but, well, a little undercooked and quite lacking in seasoning to blow my clothes away.

Oh, and since I will be talking about some specific events from The Fifth Plate I didn’t like all that much as well as plot points from the previous seasons, here’s your obligatory SPOILER warning! You have now been warned.

For those who don’t know about the show, Food Wars!/Shokugeki no Soma is about a boy named Yukihira Soma who enrolls in the prestigious Totsuki Academy cooking school. The school also has a system called the Shokugeki wherein you can challenge anyone to a cook off as long as you have something to wager of great value. Throughout his first year, Soma undergoes various challenges and, during The Fourth Plate (basically the fourth season), he and his comrades manage to take the top seats of the school. Basically, Soma and friends have already defeated the greatest threat to Totsuki Academy, so what did they have for The Fifth Plate?¬†A threat to the entire world, of course. At least, that’s what they make it seem to be about.

Basically, there’s a group called Noir, a notorious group of “underworld chefs” who use “experimental” cooking techniques as well as more unsavory tactics, such as kidnapping, smuggling and whatnot to get ahead in the world. The group, along with our heroes, participate in the BLUE culinary tournament to determine who is the best chef in the world and will earn the right to become the personal chef of the Bookmaster of the WGO. And, once they succeed, Noir plans to use cooking to… take over the world? Honestly, it’s not really clear as to what Noir’s ultimate goal is. This immediately makes them feel like they were rushed in because someone from high up demanded another huge threat. Since I never understood what their primary objective is and what it has to do with the culinary world, I couldn’t take them seriously.

Anyway, Noir is led by Asahi Saiba, the former protege of Joichiro, Soma’s father. His goal is to marry Erina Nakira, the possessor of the God Tongue because, well, it’s revealed in the final episodes that he wants to find someone to cook for that enjoys his cooking like how Joichiro re-ignited his passion for cooking when he met his wife. Once again, huh? Okay, I understand the idea behind the goal. I mean, it’s one of the most basic anime motivations as he wants someone to love him, I guess. But why Erina? Because she possesses the God Tongue? It just seems to come out of left field because¬†the two have never met before! If they showed in a flashback they did encounter one another, then I would be behind the plan. But since they never met, there’s really no reason for him to target Erina Nakiri specifically.

Another big issue I have with The Fifth Plate is its length. The Fifth Plate ran for 13 episodes. Now, I don’t have a problem with short seasons, even with anime. However, the entire BLUE story arc in the manga lasted for a total of 32 chapters! They basically tried to cram all of that content in just above a dozen episodes? To give you an idea of how compressed this is, Dragon Ball Z’s entire Frieza Saga in the manga ran for 37 chapters and the anime devoted 33 episodes to it! Even with Dragon Ball Z Kai, the “condensed” version of the anime, the Frieza Saga lasted for 19 episodes, 6 more than what Food Wars!/Shokugeki no Soma’s Fifth Plate had!

Now, I did do a quick scan of the manga, specifically the BLUE tournament arc and, while nothing is major is cut out from the story, the anime just whizzes along at such a blistering pace that it does feel like some stuff was. At the very least, The Fifth Plate isn’t paced well. All the character moments and story beats are there but you’re not given time to breathe or let the big moments really sink in. Maybe if they were allowed for a couple of more episodes to really allow the dramatic moments and the victories time to leave an impact, The Fifth Plate would feel much better.

I guess they did limit the entire season to 13 episodes because of a limited budget. And that is very easy to see throughout The Fifth Plate’s entire run. They reuse a lot of scenes from previous episodes, like Rindo and Megishima’s spice battle from The Fourth Plate and Eishi Tsukasa using his long grater to grate both butter and meat. Oddly enough, the people behind the anime decided to add something that wasn’t in the manga, which is the rest of the Totsuki Elite Ten taking out a Noir smuggling operation using their cooking ability, no less. Why was this added? Because… anime.

But probably the thing I didn’t like about The Fifth Plate the most is how they don’t show how the dishes are being prepared anymore. One of the biggest reasons why I got interested in Food Wars!/Shokugeki no Soma was because they did show viewers how the dishes were prepared. They would spark an idea on how food was prepared and make it so you might want to try preparing those dishes yourself. I’ve seen a lot of YouTube videos of people trying to prepare some of the foods you see cooked in the show. That’s because both the anime and the manga do explicitly detail how to make them. The dishes found in The Fifth Plate? Not so much.

Now, I’m not saying I hated The Fifth Plate. Having watched all of the previous episodes with gusto, I’m glad to see the entire series get a definitive ending, even if the manga does go into greater detail about Yukihira Soma, Erina Nakiri and the rest of the gang’s adult lives. There are some good character moments shown in The Fifth Plate, such as Erina finding a definitive reason to make great food as well as Megumi coming into her own. However, when compared to the previous seasons, The Fifth Plate does feel like it’s lacking the magic ingredient that made the “dishes” that came before it much more engrossing. I do say give the entire anime a watch but just be prepared for a rather underseasoned season to close things out.

Have you seen the final season of Food Wars!/Shokugeki no Soma? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

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