Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 186-188 – Review

Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma):

Chapters 186-188

Reviewed by: Tom

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Food Wars shall shonen, like no shonen has shonened before.

Synopsis: Soma Yukihira dreams of becoming a full-time chef at his father’s neighborhood restaurant and to one day surpass his father’s culinary skills. But just as Soma graduates from middle school his father, Joichiro Yukihira, shuts the restaurant down to travel around the globe and cook for the privileged. Joichiro issues Soma a challenge, that if he can survive the most elite culinary school in Japan, where only the top 10% manage to graduate, then Joichiro will acknowledge him as worthy of taking over the restaurant.

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)

Since that time Soma has faced countless challenges at the Totsuki Culinary Academy. He’s overcome the student body thinning training camp, competed in the school wide tournament, survived the Stagiaire event, and more. But the Totsuki institute faces a major upheavel as Erina’s father, Azami, returns from banishment. He sets about turning the elite council of ten against the Academy’s head, Erina’s grandfather, Senzaemon Nakiri and electing Azami as his successor. But Azami’s plans don’t stop there. He sets into motion the complete dismantlement of all the Academy’s clubs, all in an effort to bring about a perfect, uniform cooking where only the best chefs create new dishes and the masses have but to learn them. Can Soma and his friends return the institute to what it once was or will they too eventually be crushed beneath Azami’s far-reaching ideals?

Review:

Chapter 186:

Picking up from last time Soma and Hayama are already cooking up a storm. They quickly catch the attention of the judges as Hayama adds his Cajun Spice Blend. We get a fairly lengthy explanation on Cajun Spices and Juniper Berries, which are a part of Hayama’s fragrance he’d added to the dish. He even allows the two girls to try the gravy and they both nearly foodgasm from just a small sampling alone. We get quite a eye full of fan service here with the girls in revealing bear costumes. It’s pretty good build up for how dangerous Hayama’s dish is, and helps to sell a sense of impending doom against Yukihira.

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I’d capture the fan servicey bear costume part but our website skirts ‘Safe for Work’ enough already.

However, Soma gets ahead in the cooking and is already the one ready to deep fry his Bear meat. We flash back to Soma’s conversation with Erina aboard the train, and delve into how Soma feels like his loss to Hayama helped him become the chef he is today. It’s nice point, and reminder for the younger members of the audience, that failure can be a stepping stone towards growth, rather than a be all end all. It’s just too bad that notion is undermined by how little, significant failure anyone meets in this, or really any, shonen manga. Failure is always so minor, almost inconsequential thanks to how lacking in long lasting consequences there are. So this idea, this reminder, while noble and important, feels ultimately hollow. Soma finishes frying his dish and presents a Menchi-Katsu Burger. The judges mouth’s begin to water and Soma offers it to them, as his dish is all ready for tasting.

Chapter 187:

Soma offers his burger to the judges, proclaiming it to be the most delicious bear-meat he is capable of making. The judges are eager, but everyone’s a bit worried whether Soma actually managed to encapulsate a pleasant aroma inside the deep fried burger, or if it’s actually a stink bomb due to the sheer potency of bear meat. I was kinda hoping both would produce stink bombs and we’d have a more comical/weird conclusion to this match up, mostly for varieties sake, but of course, Soma didn’t cook a stink bomb. The judges jump in and immediately foodgasm, unable to stop eating. We learn that Soma didn’t just use some very fine, perfect cuts of bear, but cuts close to the bone, even more smelly and hard to control than normal, yet, of course, he managed to control it anyway.

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Well, I mean, he wouldn’t be much of a shonen protagonist if he didn’t.

The girls immediately change their tune on Soma, deciding that wild men unafraid to take risks are indeed hot. Soma’s confused just as we are. While the girls take such a liking that they ask him to read a thesis they composed themselves, Soe Nakiri finishes praising Soma’s dish and disrobes himself. However, the battle isn’t over yet as Hayama steps forward with his dish. Hayama places his dish down, which glows with intensity!

Chapter 188:

Hayama’s dish is Southern-Fried Bear, although I think we knew that from a few chapters ago. Yukihira gets upset as Hayama hadn’t yet prepared a sampling for Yukihira to taste. As Hayama serves Yukihira, everyone is dying to taste Hayama’s newest creation. Everyone immediately foodgasms from the first bite and finds themselves unable to stop eating. It’s declared almost immediately upon finishing that Yukihira’s dish is indeed inferior to Hayama’s. It’s a bit of a shocking moment, although as we’ll see by the end of the chapter, forced engineered for maximum shock value and tension.

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You say that and yet you don’t disrobe as you did with Yukihira’s….

We briefly flashback to Hayama’s preparation for this battle, as Azami had his organization set Hayama up with all kinds of equipment to try and give him an unfair advantage over Soma. But Hayama took use of none of it, choosing instead to create his own incredible dish without the need to cheat. I think this is all entirely unnecessary. We know that Hayama is a scent genius, none of this changes that and only reinforces what we’ve already been made painfully aware of.

It seems like a one two punch as Hayama has squarely beaten Yukihira in sheer tastiness of the meat. It’s at this point it looks like Yukihira is about to be expelled, that is until Soe reminds Hayama that the judges still haven’t sampled their dishes with the dipping sauces. Yukihira reminds Hayama that the final bell has yet to ring. This moment is incredibly forced. We’d already seen on Hayama’s serving dish a cup of dip, so for Hayama to assume he’s won when he knows the judges haven’t even tried a component of his meal is outright ridiculous. Even Soma acting he’d lost all feels like Food Wars desperately trying to force another “but wait it’s not over yet!” moment when it just doesn’t work here, not with the way things have progressed. It’s real disappointing and feels lazy.

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Such a forced, tension filled cliffhanger. Yikes.

These chapters are decent, rough around the edges, forced in places, with information we’ve had hammered into us again and again that’s entirely unnecessary. But the broader strokes are solid, and the overall progression during the match just as good as always, alongside the stellar art. But it’s hard not to be disappointed when this match up doesn’t feel nearly as well executed as past battles between Soma and his adversaries. I’m hoping once we’ve move past this match up things will start to pick up again.

Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on Food Wars! in the comments section below!

Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma) is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Volume 13 (Chapters 102-109) released on August 2nd, 2016. Chapters discussed today (186-188) will be compiled and released sometime next year.

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