Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 189-191 – Review
Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma):
Reviewed by: Tom
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?
Jumping back in the judges go to taste Yukihira’s and Hayama’s dishes with their respective sauces. First up is Hayama’s, which causes the judges to disrobe instantly. The sauce is so amazing, so perfect with the dish that it’s described as an unassailable fortress. Hayama is confident that Yukihira has lost. Anyone familiar with Food Wars’ by this point, or really familiar with the shonen genre as a whole, knows that this is an early indicator of the incoming turn about.
When the judges go to taste Yukihira’s sauce however they again find themselves disrobed, this time in an even more ridiculous manner known as the gifting, where the Nakiri ability for disrobing is gifted to those around them. It’s a bit confusing, and weird, but I guess let’s just move on since it’s meant to be one big joke anyway. The lead judge realizes Yukihira’s sauce is honey and balsamic vinegar which leads to further revelations of how far Yukihira went to overcome Hayama. He’s been holding a grudge all this time. The chapter basically hammers the reader over the head with mounting evidence that Yukihira’s win is in sight. And I guess that’s where I have issue with these chapters: It’s so dragged out. By this point we all know Yukihira is going to win, the turn about at the end of Chapter 188 was more than enough proof, yet it takes us a total of three more chapters to wrap this battle up.
The judges declare that Yukihira’s sauce is, without a doubt, superior. It then comes time to vote on the dishes as a whole. The two girls vote split, with one picking Hayama over Yukihira and vice versa. It all comes down to Soue’s vote…. and as we’ll find that vote is no where near as ready to be cast as it seems here.
Before Soue casts his vote though, Hayama thinks back, reasserting that he has to win for Jun’s sake, as if he doesn’t comply with central she could be cast out and her seminar disbanded at any time. Even Jun’s own defiance against Hayama’s actions wasn’t enough to sway him in this conviction. This begins our long, drawn out, step back from Soue’s imminent declaration that Yukihira is the winner. The character stuff is great here, generally, and really fleshes out the relationship between Yukihira and Hayama, but comes mere moments from the conclusion of this already long match up, that it only furthers to give the proceedings a dragged out and tired feel.
Flashing back to the present, despite Soue having been about to pronounce the winner, he instead first points out the dedication that went into either dish. He notes that Soma didn’t even use ordinary honey in his sauce. This leads to the revelation of how much effort Yukihira put into his dish. He hiked through the mountains day in and out looking for possible ingredients, and made over a hundred test dishes just to perfect this one dish. And while this certainly shows dedication– it doesn’t feel all that unique compared to prior cook offs. Yukihira always seems to go the extra mile with prep work. While it visually the gap between Yukihira’s passion and Hayama’s it feels all too familiar for anyone who’s followed this manga from the beginning. It just doesn’t sound impressive anymore.
Hayama objects to the idea that Soma was more dedicated, until it’s pointed out that Hayama hasn’t been cooking for anyone. He use to cook for Jun, but here he hasn’t been cooking for that recognition, but rather his own selfish single minded desires. Hayama thinks it’s about Yukihira simply cooking to avoid expulsion, but no. Soma hasn’t been merely cooking to save his own tail, but to impress Hayama. With that Soma serves up Hayama a fresh dish and urges him to dig in.
Hayama tastes Yukihira’s dish and immediately knows that everything Chief Dojima was saying about who one is cooking for is true. Jun arrives and smacks Hayama for all his faults. She tells him that she doesn’t need the seminar anymore. She just wants to see him enjoying cooking again and hanging out with his friends.
As Hayama comes to his realization Soue finally casts his vote, announcing Soma as the true victor. In the aftermath Soma offers to allow Hayama and Jun to live at the Polaris Dorm alongside everyone else. With this Hayama can quit central and go back to being a regular student. Hayama thanks him and ultimately feels saved, thus ending this long running feud between the two. It’s a cathartic moment, and I feel nails the character development, but again this arc feels so stretched out. I feel like we could’ve wrapped things up in at least one less, maybe even two less chapters and kept the same impact as what we have now.
Elsewhere however, things are looking bad for the rest of our heroes as Ikumi, Isami, and Hisako all fail to defeat the Elite Ten Members they each went up against. And it’s announced that all three are, indeed, expelled.
Overall I feel like Hayama vs. Yukihira was indeed stretched out. I enjoyed the character development for Hayama, and the cathartic conclusion, but still feel like certain aspects of the match could’ve been cut or condensed and we wouldn’t have lost anything significant. The cliffhanger for 191 is great, although I seriously doubt any of those three will be truly expelled by the end of this arc. But I’ll take what I can get and at least be glad Food Wars is, at the very least, teasing us with the idea of expulsion.
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 16 (Chapters 128-136) releases on February 7th, 2017. Chapters discussed today (189-191) will be compiled and released sometime next year.