Food can be a very sensual experience, as it engages all of the senses. Think of a the sizzling sound from fajita plate, the smell of sauteed garlic, the texture of ice cream as it melts on the tongue, the great sense of ease from seeing the waiter coming to with food, and the agonizingly blissful taste of the last bite of a burrito. “Food Wars!” (食戟のソーマ Shokugeki no Sōma) captures and embellishes this concept masterfully, hilariously, and a bit erotically.
“Food Wars!” is about a young kid entering high school named “Soma Yukihara.” He is son of a small special-of-the-day restaurant owner, and has seemingly helped run the place his entire life. Soma has challenged his dad to a cook off hundreds of times (489 to be exact) and lost every time. The first recipe they show Soma cooking is of squid and peanut butter, so it’s not a surprise that he loses.
However when it comes time to save the restaurant, Soma steps up to the occasion revealing that he is actually somewhat a chef prodigy. After saving the restaurant, Soma’s father reveals he is going to close the shop for a few years as he is travelling and cooking around the world and suggest Soma enters the prestigious Tōtsuki Culinary Academy to develop his skills if he ever hopes of beating him. To wrap up volume 1, Soma goes through an initiation test that every other student fears of even attempting as the instructor is a renowned food expert and prodigal student. He ends up at the Tōtsuki Culinary Academy giving a speech on opening day, since he is the only student to transfer into the academy rather than go through the Tōtsuki Culinary Academy middle school, and makes enemies out of all the students in his year by claiming he is better than all of them.
“Food Wars!” is an outstanding example of Japanese manga and their ability to tell stories that American comics would not attempt. Mangas and Animes do big action and adventure stories, but can also make great stories about seemingly less exciting topics like biking and culinary arts. The characters in “Food Wars!” are very stereotypical for an anime/manga: ridiculously talented and hard working lead, shy and full of potential side kick, wacky mentor (Soma’s walks with only an apron), and condescending equally talented rivals. Stereotypical as they may be, they have enough of a twist and are in a unique environment that it feels very fresh.
Speaking from my culinary experience (one summer class), “Food Wars!” does a great job capturing the culinary arts. They do justice to cooking techniques, styles, and descriptions of flavors. The writer is obviously well versed and knowledgeable in the culinary arts; perfectly infusing culinary arts into the story without it being the dominant flavor (you had to be expecting food puns). The artwork also does a wonderful job capturing the culinary arts, going as far to drawing proper grip on knives and seemingly providing a snap shot of the chefs movements. I also have to praise their ability of drawing food, because even in black and white the dishes look appetizing. Lastly also have to thank them for providing the recipes.
The only part I’m a bit on the fence about is the use of sexuality. I love the cuts to inner imagery of characters as they taste the food, it is basically what they do on “Family Guy” but not as random. However it always seems to be sexual. It’s likely a cultural thing, it just irks me a little because they’re supposed to be high school freshmen.
Overall, “Food Wars!” is a great read. It’s full of humor, artistry, and mouth watering descriptions and imagery that will keep any reader entertained and hungry. I’d recommend “Food Wars!” to fans of manga/anime, someone looking for a light hearted comedy, anyone who has interest in the culinary arts, and anyone who watches Food Network/ Cooking Channel. “Food Wars!” is available for purchase through Viz Media (VizManga.com).