Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 198-200 – 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?
Picking right up from last time we’re still in the midst of the big flashback. Organizers at The Blue are freaking out as they can’t find Joichiro. That same panic spreads back to the dorm and Joichiro’s classmates fear the worst. However Ms. Fumio calms everyone down and orders them to begin the search.
Gin runs off to find Joichiro himself and gradually comes to realize that Joichiro was being crushed by the pressure surrounding The Blue. All the signs were there. The manga’s already laid this on pretty thick before hand, so I feel like a lot of these panels of Gin coming to grips with the reality feel a tad unneeded. He realizes he hasn’t seen Joichiro smile in sometime, a clear hint that his spirit was cracking under the pressure. Also a clear hint that’s been hammered into the reader again and again by this point.
Gin eventually finds Joichiro in the Heaven’s Moon Arena, and he comes clean: The stress finally broke him. It’s visualized for us with the same stormy wind scenario, and we see Joichiro’s bone literally sticking through his skin. It’s maybe a big hammed up, but gets the overall message across, and it’s not like Shokugeki has ever been that serious and dark a manga. Joichiro has been put under so much pressure that he can no longer make sense of things. He basically appears to be broken.
Gin blames himself for what’s happened to Joichiro. But before things can go any further the Dean appears, revealing that he’d noticed the signs of Joichiro’s problem since the Fall Classic. This begs the question as to why he didn’t bother to step in before now, or comment in some way on the situation. If he noticed why then didn’t he do anything before then? It feels exceedingly neglectful and doesn’t paint the Dean in all that favorable a light. I feel like the dialogue is off here, and it would’ve been better for the Dean to have said he feared something like this might happen, rather than imply he was aware of it for sometime. He orders Joichiro away from the institute and away from cooking. Joichiro apologizes to both Gin and Azami, before leaving the institute for good.
And that’s the end of the big flashback, although we have a couple little tidbits in the next chapter to wrap up. Overall I think it’s okay. Just okay. The proceeding chapters manage to tie all these revelations back into the present a bit better, but ultimately I feel like what was presented here could’ve been done with fewer chapters. We spend a lot of time on unnecessary details, unnecessary characters, etc. It’s as if the series briefly forgot the story is about Soma, and not Joichiro.
Returning to the present Azami informs Eishi of the upcoming Regiment Du Cuisine challenge. He tells him to inform the rest of the council and prepare for the battle. We briefly return to the big flashback as seen through Azami’s eyes as he watched Joichiro walk out of his life and it all comes together that Azami’s grand plan, his grand ambition is really for Joichiro’s sake. This makes me feel a little better about the flashback, although it spent so little time detailing Azami’s interpretation of events. Which, in hindsight, feels so odd. I know the manga was portraying the flashback from both Gin and Joichiro’s perspectives, but we easily could’ve had Azami reflecting on the past too and incorporated his views. I think then the flashback might’ve felt stronger as we saw how Azami was viewing things, rather than a smattering of dialogue here or there.
We briefly jump into another flashback, to when Gin and Joichiro sat down and planned their push back against Azami. It’s entirely unnecessary and doesn’t really provide any meaningful information that the other parts don’t already offer.
Joichiro finishes explaining his past to Soma, who fell asleep during the explanation. Joichiro’s feeling a bit pathetic, but Soma understands how his father needed a break and what really matters is his dad eventually came back in the end. Joichiro, pleased with his son, decides to have a cooking battle with him then and there.
Meanwhile Gin wraps up his story and Megumi and Takumi swear to give it their all in the upcoming match up. Gin smiles to himself and realizes that Senzaemon was right, they can rely on this new generation of students.
Back with Soma and Joichiro the two begin their cook off and Joichiro asks his son how many times he’s lost to him. Soma answers “490” but shows no hint of feeling beaten down or trodden from it. Joichiro smiles to himself, that his son is so strong, so able to throw himself into near insurmountable challenges that he’s sure Soma wouldn’t have caved like he did all those years ago.
All these moments showing Joichiro and Gin impressed with Soma’s generation push the inspirational narrative that many shonen play with: Attempting to instill an air of confidence and passion into its younger readership. The group is portrayed as a kind of savior for the world, stronger and better than the previous and worth instilling hope into. It’s something that, I think, lends to a lot of the genre’s popularity, allowing the younger readers to feel empowered. I think Food Wars! lays it on a tad thick here, but does finally manage to wrap back around and make sure we know that it’s Soma’s story again.
Nakiri is conflicted, unsure she can stand against her father. The dean comes to check on her, but before Nakiri can express herself to him Joichiro and the rest arrive looking to hold a practice three on three match up as part of their preparation and practice for the upcoming battle.
Gin explains that the upcoming team battle isn’t so simple. Chefs help each other while also working on their own dishes, meaning they need to bolster teamwork to be truly effect in the upcoming battle. Gin decides to draw teams up based on strengths, but Joichiro thinks drawing lots will be just fine. Gin gets mad at Joichiro’s lack of care, which causes him to launch into a frustrated tirade about their relationship that seems completely lost on Joichiro.
The Dean intervenes and assigns the teams himself: Team Dojima, consisting of Dojima himself, Megumi and Aldini. Then Team Saiba, with Joichiro, Soma and Nakiri. The Dean then assigns them the dish, a time limit of fifty minutes and finally– no talking. They must work together and construct the dish in silence. The onlookers are aghast, wondering how they can possibly work together under such conditions. Even Megumi feels that way as she watches Gin begin his preparations. But Aldini jumps in and is already helping. Megumi realizes that she needs to watch her teammates and follow along with the recipe in her head. With that Team Dojima is already coming together.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Team Saiba, as Soma and his dad are already at each others throats. The dean reminds them that talking is a disqualifier. It’s a tad predictable, but the art really sells Soma and his dad bungling their side of things thanks to their ego.
The turn about here for Megumi comes awfully fast. We don’t spend a lot of time with her or Aldini floundering, and while Soma and his dad are having issues, I can’t help but feel like we’re moving through this training a lot faster than the manga would have done previously. I think it’s another hint that Shokugeki may still be on the ropes. It’s rankings have still been very middle of the pack of late, making me believe that we’re rushing through this arc, despite the flashback, in the hopes of moving onto something that’ll win floundering sections of its audience back. I guess only time will tell.
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 (198-200) will be compiled and released sometime next year.