Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 207-209 – Manga Review
Reviewed by: Tom
Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 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 upheaval 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?
Chapter 207 focuses on getting the ball rolling for this confrontation against Azami. Outside of a little character comedy, and tease that we’ll finally get to see Isshiki cook, the main focus is on introducing us to Soma’s latest adversary: Nene Kinokuni. She’s appeared briefly before as one of the Elite Ten, but this is her first real introduction. She has an ice cold persona, one that apparently breeds a sort of masochist fandom.
As introductory chapters go, Soma keeps it very by the book and I think my biggest issue cropping up with these current chapters are the same problems I had with One-Punch Man in my last review: Food Wars is trapped within its own formula. And while it’s a pretty good formula, one that ultimately got me hooked on the series, it’s been worn through so much use that it’s ability to draw me in has severely waned.
Nene warns Soma that she’s an expert at Japanese Cuisine and when Soma goes to draw what their theme will be for the match he inadvertently draws Soba, seemingly dooming himself. After a bit of comedy through disbelief at Soma’s recurring bad luck we’re into the food preparation. While Nene goes for the meticulous, seasoned, refined expert approach Soma announces that he’ll be making Instant Yakisoba. It’s a very Yukihira thing to do, but so much in line with his character and this manga’s usual progression that it hardly seems surprising. In fact, I can’t even fathom why his classmates are surprised. It’s a growing issue I feel with Food Wars!: It’s initial formula and use of frequent Shokugeki’s worked, but unlike other battle manga, and Soma is really a battle manga, it never really evolves past that.
For example Food Wars! has periodically worked in class events, school events, and tests of strength type events to break things up. But ultimately many of these are interrupted by a Shokugeki and while Shokugeki should always be the bread and butter of this manga, they occur and interrupt all too frequently. Heck this exam arc lasted for all of two events before immediately jumping back to the Shokugeki format. And while I suspect that’s been in part due to floundering rankings, the need to always return to the series main element is ultimately going to really hurt it in the long run.
Continuing from the last chapter we get a bit of backstory for Nene, learning of her stringent work ethic and disinterest in socializing. Much of it seems based around building Nene as a credible opponent for Soma, and perhaps offering readers a more recent example/idea of her abilities, since it has been awhile since we’d seen her perform.
We get a lot of details for how she’s preparing her noodles and then snap to a flashback between Yukihira and his father, reminding him that his secret power is Family-Restaurant Cooking. In the present this comes out as Yukihira using a Noodle Maker to create his noodles, rather than hand rolling them, which gets a big laugh. However, Nene and the others understand that Soma’s use of the Noodle Maker is going to produce something far nicer than if he hand rolled them. While I’m mostly ho-hum about these chapters, I do like just how much detail and thought has gone into discussing Soba noodles and preparation. The series often contains a lot of cooking facts and notes, but this one stuck out to me.
The chapter ends with Nene pondering what Soma could possibly have up his sleeve in order to try and defeat her. It’s here I began to feel like the manga just doesn’t know what to do beyond Shokugeki. Here we’re supposedly getting introduced to a whole new format, a team Shokugeki match where Chefs work together and help each other each prepare their meals. Yet, for two chapters now we haven’t seen any of that and we won’t for Chapter 209 either.
While there’s still plenty of time for ideas to seep in, right now it hardly feels like anything other than the tried and true Shokugeki, a format I feel is overused and I’m quickly growing tired of.
Isshiki interrupts Soma’s preparations to see how he’s coming along. However his attention is called back by his opponent, Julio Shiratsu, who wants to see him take the match seriously, although is completely stunned when Isshiki has no idea who he is.
We learn a bit about Eel prep in between everyone wondering exactly what Isshiki’s cooking is like, reminding the audience that outside of a very early match with Yukihira, we’ve never really seen him cook. Isshiki still seems pretty aloof and spacey though, unfocused on the match. But when Julio insults his friends, calling them lowly commoners, and hinting at Isshiki having some kind of noble/prestigious heritage, we see a different, more serious side to Isshiki.
His cooking ability is demonstrated through an impressive gutting of the eel as his features change and Isshiki promises to crush Julio. Despite the lack of changing up the formula, I do at least like how we’ve focused on an underused and generally ‘mysterious’ character. It’s nice to see ‘Naked beneath the Apron guy’ get the spotlight.
Overall though my interest in Food Wars! is waning. As someone who’s grown tired of the same old same old these chapters hardly do anything to keep me engaged. But if you’ve yet to loose interest in Soma’s tried and true formula, then I can see these being pretty solid chapters none the less.
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 19 (Chapters 155-163) releases on August 1st, 2017. Chapters discussed today (207-209) will be compiled and released sometime next year.