For a shorter and sweeter version of the review, here’s a YouTube video!
Intro and Plot
Anime with an underdog story are nothing new, anime focused on cooking are nothing new and of course, quality story-telling and well-developed characters in the medium are nothing new either, but just because Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma is something that I’ve come across before it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing. I love Food Wars and not to spoil my own review, I think that it’s one of the best shounen anime I’ve seen in a while. Granted, I haven’t caught up to Assassination Classroom yet (I’ve heard that that show is something special), but from what I’ve seen of Food Wars has impressed me thoroughly.
The show centers on Yukihira Soma, son of Yukihira Joichiro—owner of the humble Yukihira diner and a chef of legendary status. Now while Soma has worked side by side with his father and faced off against Joichiro in hundreds of cooking battles ever since he was a child, Soma has no knowledge of his own father’s legend. As far as Soma knew, his father was just an excellent chef and never really questioned how he got to be so good. All Soma cared about was surpassing his old man and he attempted this through good old-fashioned trial and error.
However, knowing that simply keeping his son cooped up in their family diner and not allowing him to experience the vast world of the culinary arts would not help Soma achieve his goal of surpassing him and become a better chef, Joichiro decides to send Soma to Totsuki Culinary Academy—his alma mater. And upon his arrival at Totsuki Soma quickly learns the high prestige looming over Totsuki and is looked down upon by others due to his humble background…
but then again he also did come off as a little cocky to everyone he met and did tell the entire first year class that he’ll be blowing them all out of the water and will easily take the number one spot in Totsuki. So yeah, I guess the initial hate for our protagonist might have been justified.
Soma does prove to everyone in Totsuki that he is the quality chef that he claims to be through his superb performance in school activities and intense cooking battles known as “Shokugekis” where students are to face off against each other and make wagers that both parties would agree upon. But as good as Soma may be, Food Wars follows the classic shounen anime tradition that demands for there to always be someone better and stronger than our protagonist for him to try and overcome. So naturally, Food Wars features a whole ensemble of rival characters for Soma to face off against as well as allies and mentor type characters that would help educate and guide him along the way.
One of Soma’s most notable allies is his closest one, Tadokoro Megumi. Before meeting our protagonist, Megumi starts of as a talented, but incredibly timid (AND ADORABLE) chef who would often perform miserably in class due to her stage fright and inability to perform well under pressure.
However, while acting as Soma’s number two and “victim” to both his vile experimental dishes and misadventures, Megumi slowly grows to be more confident and comfortable whilst cooking in class either with Soma or on her own—which is what I enjoy the most about her character. Like our protagonist, Megumi is initially looked down upon by many people in Totsuki, but after overcoming great odds, Megumi shows everyone just what it is that she’s made of and impresses even the most critical figures in all of Totsuki.
Speaking of which…The other character of note in Food Wars is none other than the wielder of the legendary God’s Tongue herself, Nakiri Erina.
Now I’m not going to lie. I don’t really like Erina all too much because unlike Soma’s other rivals, she’s just kind of bland. Yes, she does have a personality and I don’t dislike Erina for her haughty attitude, general bitchiness or infallible skills (well maybe the skills part), but rather, what I don’t like about Nakiri Erina is her lack of an arc. I’ve read up to chapter 129 of the Food Wars manga as of writing this review and have seen pretty much everything that the first season of the anime will cover, and I can say with confidence that Erina’s character is static. She’s sort of a rounded character, but she lacks growth. I understand what her purpose is in the show, and no it’s not just to look attractive, Erina’s character serves as the ultimate rival and challenge to Soma, at least amongst the first years in Totsuki—which is exciting. She’s very knowledgeable, talented, creative and confident, however she ends just as how she began. We learn a thing or two about her, but the revelations surrounding Erina’s character are small and feel like nothing more than just mere teases for a character development waiting to happen.
Maybe in later chapters of the still ongoing manga, most likely when Soma and her are about to face off in a Shokugeki or a big challenge comes her way, we’ll learn more about her and we’ll see more growth on her part. The shounen genre often does stretch its stories out, so it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere down the line we’ll see an arc or two devoted to Erina’s growth. One of the later chapters in the manga teases a potential direction for where her character might go in terms of development, but as of right now, she’s yet to face failure and doubt as Soma or Megumi experience in the first season of the show and thus has yet found the need to grow herself as a person—and by extension a character. There are of course other characters in Food Wars that don’t get any development like Erina, but the thing about her is that she’s always put up front and center in the openings and advertising of the manga and show, which practically screams that she’s one of Food Wars’ main characters, which is why I probably expected too much from her and thus was disappointed.
As mentioned earlier, Yukihira Soma is cocky. He’s a typical protagonist in the shounen genre, the type that would take on any challenge without question either for the sake of testing out his own mettle, proving a point or simply because he relishes in the promise of battle. However, like any good protagonist, Soma learns and develops throughout the course of the series. When he first came to Totsuki he didn’t take any of his schoolmates as seriously as he should have because to Soma they were all just snobby rich kids who have never actually worked in a real restaurant before like he has. But after facing off against other chefs who possess skills, knowledge and experience that he himself has yet to develop, Soma gets to taste defeat and learns from his failures.
And that’s what makes him special. Unlike Nakiri Erina who was born with a natural talent for cooking, Soma learned everything he knew through trial and error and by ceaselessly pushing himself to be better and eventually, the best. He accepts failure as something that happens and when it does happen, he sees it as a chance to learn and as an opportunity for him to grow as a person/chef. Soma is unrelentingly courageous and despite being confident in his skills, he can humble himself and admit that even he still needs to improve.
Which is why I really love Soma’s character. Yes, nothing about his character is new or unique to him, but I don’t need new or unique to be impressed or to enjoy a good story. Soma’s a cliché shounen protagonist sure, but so what? He’s a well-written cliché and I thoroughly enjoy his character.
And thankfully Soma, Megumi or even Erina are not the only characters that I find to be entertaining and enjoyable about Food Wars. From everyone living in Polaris Dorm, to the Totsuki Alumni and other various students of Totsuki, each Food Wars character has something about them to be enjoyed may it be a laugh or a sense of thrill and suspense. For this review I’m only going to be talking about the three main ones that I’ve already mentioned, but I guarantee that the other characters of Food Wars are all impressive and well realized, not all of them are well written, but they are all well-crafted and enjoyable.
Presentation (Visual and Audio)
Now another thing I greatly enjoyed about Food Wars besides its characters (as well as openings and endings) is the show’s presentation.
Yes the art is pretty standard for an anime and yes the soundtrack is also pretty standard, but just as how a meats and vegetables are standard ingredients for a dish, in the hands of a chef with great talent and skill, simple standard ingredients could make for a wonderful dish the same way a great writer, director and animation studio could craft a wonderful anime. It’s hard to explain without going into specific and spoilerific scenes, but Food Wars has some of the most intense and gripping confrontations I’ve ever seen in an anime or manga—the anime especially as every intense and epic scene in the manga is intensified thanks to a great and powerfully riveting soundtrack. Many people might not take the idea of cooking battles or even a cooking anime seriously, but my God, I can say without exaggeration that some of the cooking battles in Food Wars is just as intense if not more intense than some of grandest of battles in anime and manga devoted solely to fighting and that’s thanks to not only great setup and tension developed through the story, but also just art and music oozing with intensity and suspense.
However, Food Wars’ presentation and art isn’t without dirt in it…
And when I say dirt, I mean lewdness and perversion.
Yes, the cooking and dishes in Food Wars is apparently so great that it will send people into fits of orgasms. Now no one actually wets themselves in this show, however, people’s clothes do get ripped off (at least as part of these metaphorical scenes conjured up by foodgasms) and things might get a bit risqué for some viewers. Personally, I don’t mind these foodgasm scenes either way, especially since not all of them involves people’s clothes being ripped off—some of the foodgasm scenes have in them great humor and enjoyable (and mouth-watering) descriptions of the dishes cooked up by Totsuki’s best. I can understand why these lewd foodgasm scenes might turn off people but thankfully the show does tone down on the lewdness and does steer more towards the creative.
Like I said, Food Wars is a great anime and is definitely one of my favorite shows of the year (or ever). It’s not perfect, but boy is it engaging and boy is it intense. Not only is Food Wars fun and engaging, it might even be educational. So if you still haven’t seen it, go watch it and if you have seen it and love it, congratulations, your taste has just been verified to be good by some schmuck on the Internet.
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