What They Say:
At the Tohtsuki Culinary Academy, the first rule is survival of the fittest, and if you don’t have what it takes to become a master chef, you need to get out of the kitchen before you get burned. With the wheat of first-year students separated from the chaff, cocky former diner cook Yukihira Soma is one of the handful of kitchen whizzes still standing.
As the next round of the Autumn Elections gets underway, can he survive a brutal bento boxing match with the chemistry-obsessed granddaughter of the Academy’s director? And which of the other contenders; Megumi, Ryo, Akira, Hisako, Takumi or sinister dark-horse Subaru; will advance to fight for the gold medal? Get ready for another cut-throat season of eat, beat, and defeat
The audio presentation for this series is done up in its original Japanese language form along with an English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is primarily dialogue driven with what it wants to do but it does have some bigger moments along the way with reactions and some of the over the top designs on how the food presentations go, which works the forward soundstage well. It’s not looking to go overly big or creative but it has some fun moments and it gives it the additional life that it needs. Both tracks handle things well, though the English side feels a bit louder, but in the end, they’re clean and clear and come across very well as they engage the viewer with a problem-free experience.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a nine/four format so there’s plenty of room to work with. Animated by JC Staff, the series works some basic designs with characters from time to time so they can really go all in on the budget with the bigger scenes and all of the food material. The characters aren’t simplistic but they’re more manageable and fit into the style of story pretty well, though we do get some that are naturally more detailed – or at least more attention is given to their bouncy moments. Color design is big in a show like this and it really does some fantastic stuff with the food porn sections but the show as a whole as well, with a solid feeling throughout that gives it some nice weight to things. It’s a great looking encoding that delivers the design of the show very well.
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us a familiar key visual piece with Soma in the middle as he’s surrounded by the various competitors for the Fall Selection and the lights – and moon – overhead. It works better for me than the first season cover as it’s more in-theme and represents the show well. The logo is kept to the bottom, which might seem like an odd choice until you remember that Soma is pointing toward the moon at the top, and it’s decent enough even with the almost garish mix of colors it employs. The back cover goes for a decent strip of shots from the show at the top under an awkward script design for the tagline and Soma gets a nice “action” moment here. The summary of the premise is well-handled and we get a good breakdown of production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release go for a simple but effective approach with static menu screens for each disc. These use various pieces of the Japanese cover artwork to good effect as we get the main characters in different groupings but unlike the previous season doesn’t go for copious displays of food. With a white background given to a kitchen style design, it’s bright and colorful in all the right ways. The navigation is kept to the left that’s also done in white, though I thought they’d go for a menu design, where the text is in easy to read against the white while the episode numbers are done up in plates similar to how each episode starts off. Selections are quick and easy to make with a minimal approach here both as the main menu and the pop-up menu, making for a solid experience in getting you to the show quickly with a nice touch of thematic elements.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
With it just a few months between the release of the first and second seasons of the series on home video here, it was definitely a lot easier getting into this since so much of it was fresh. At the same time, I had a lot of concerns going into this one because it was even more straightforward in being all about the competition. The Fall Selection takes up probably about eighty percent of this season and that can make for some stilted or limited storytelling and leaves it more in the vein of a traditional tournament show. The positive side to it is that it’s a beautifully animated piece with all sorts of culinary delights and it just looks gorgeous. The downside? I’ve got a fairly limited palette myself so it’s not like any of it really comes across as appealing. Luckily, I spend parts of my weekend watching cooking shows so it’s familiar enough to not drive me away.
The Fall Selection arc performs much like you’d expect in that the first ten episodes here move us through the competition fairly straightforward. For most of it, each episode focuses on a particular pairing with some additional bits thrown in to give it a little more flavor and a bit of a drawn out piece amid in it in order to not feel like it’s just match after match after match. The trick to things like this is that you really do have to make it feel like a challenge, and one that the characters can surmount reasonably believably, while also not coming across as overly exaggerated to the point of pure comedy. They run close to that line a bit from time to time with some of the characters, mostly the judges, but also with some like Ryo and his presentation and with Mimasaka, who at least manages to deliver a reason for the way he is that helps to smooth it out.
The downside is that you do have to have people lose that you think probably shouldn’t or wouldn’t for creative reasons. Mimasaka is like this in that he, as a copycat that takes things further creatively, eliminates Hisako and it reveals things a bit darker in how Mimasaka claims the weapons of choice of the various conquests. His reasons, given in the flashback in regards to his father and the wrong lessons learned by both parent and child, make a fair bit of sense and it’s the kind of forced growing up moment when exposed to better talent and confidence that works so well. You know Soma won’t be taken down by him but Soma also ups the game a bit in regards to what’s at stake. And it’s an area that helps to smooth out the problems he’s having at the academy because of his being an outsider. This area is fairly interesting to delve into briefly in the show as it keeps him apart outside of a small group of friendly competitors and reminds us that he’s not viewed the same as the other students.
There’s a lot to like in the various bits of small growth we get along the way and it’s to be expected that it’s forced out of some of them because of the seriousness of this kind of competition and what’s at stake. It’s also part of the reason for the Fall Selection to take these talents and really push them competitively to become who they need to become, or falter and figure out how to do so if not just give up outright. The semi finals are fun to watch with the character we know and the little interactions, the discoveries in the prep phase, and the actual magic moments themselves. The final round is creative as it’s not just the final two in the final itself but rather a trio who make it into it which changes the dynamic of the game. A lot of it rides on the judges and how they interpret various dishes but this is the kind of sequence where while you know there has to be a winner, everyone’s a winner because they’ve grown throughout it and really excel. It doesn’t forge new bonds of friendship or anything but there’s a growing commanding respect between them, which is something that Soma doesn’t care about but is beginning to recognize the importance of.
As enjoyable as the Fall Selection is, it’s the final episodes afterward that really gave it that extra boost for me. As part of their stagiaire training, the kids are sent out to various restaurants to work and to be graded upon that, seemingly in a pass/fail design. The pairings can be somewhat adversarial, such as Soma and Hisako, but it’s designed to put them in the real world with multiple intentions. A lot of it is just to learn the variety of how restaurants operate and the very different needs from what they’ve been doing. Soma adjusts to this a lot easier with his first job because of his past restaurant work whereas Hisako struggles. But they’re also supposed to bring something new to the restaurant that helps them that proves that they understand the particular needs of the place. Both of these episodes for Soma are strong, particularly the second one where he works in Shinomiya’s restaurant and their past interactions make for a rough time as this is an elite restaurant that knows how to function.
I had enjoyed the first season well enough but part of me knew that it was marathoning a two-cour show in the space of three days that it was just a lot to take in compared to weekly installments. The core of this season is a tournament sequence that works well because so much of these characters personalities made up that first season and we knew who they are going into it. The result, at just a single cour, is something that feels a lot tighter, engaging, and it doesn’t feel like it’s overstaying its welcome. The animation is great, the food design fantastic, and the lessons learned are engaging and fun. Another very strong entry in the franchise that has me looking forward to more.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.