Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 210-212 – 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 201 mainly focuses on establishing Isshiki’s incredible talents, as well as giving us a glimpse into his past and history that conveniently ties in with Nene’s. While this chapter is pretty much tried and true Shokugeki formula, the pacing is better, allowing events to move fast enough that it’s ‘same old, same old’ nature is less noticeable.
We also get a glimpse into why Nene has such disdain for Isshiki, again pushing into Shokugeki’s running theme of effort vs innate talent. Which I feel like the manga often conflates its message. On the one hand Soma himself, at times comes across as a character who achieves great things through hard work, where as at other times it feels like Soma carries some kind of weighty destiny and innate power behind his talents. While people are often a combination of the two, Yukihira seems to jump back and forth depending upon which side the author wants to argue for at any given time.
For example, Nene here has some serious beef with Isshiki, livid at his ability to just innately be good at whatever he happens upon. There’s clearly a good quarrel here, but she first has to contend with Soma, who sort of undermines this entire thematic argument by being such a wishy washy character when it comes to talent vs hard work. It’s weird and I feel like is an indication at how much the manga really struggles with its messaging. It’s a small issue, as thematic missteps aren’t entirely relevant to the average reader, but it strikes me as odd the more I think about how little beef Nene has with Soma, and how odd it feels to have her focusing all her energy on Isshiki and this talent vs hard work argument, especially when Yukihira doesn’t really embody one or the other.
The Chapter ends with focus returning to Yukihira as he shocks everyone by frying his Soba noodles, which you normally wouldn’t do.
Chapter 211 jumps back a bit to flashback to what Soma was doing while we focused on Nene and Isshiki. It’s pretty dialogue heavy as characters explain what’s so odd about frying Soba noodles. We eventually snap over to introducing our three judges and learning about the W.G.O. (World Gourmet Organization) who apparently hold a lot of power is deciding who the best chefs and restaurants are.
While there are three judges, including a snazzy dressed Black guy, a character type you rarely see in manga, we primarily focus on the arrogant and obnoxious young female judge, Une. She’s a pretty standard, quirky, potentially one-off character so I have very few thoughts on her. I suspect we won’t see her past this arc, or at least no more than any of the other judges ever crop up.
Nene serves her food to the judges and we get an elongated ‘what is happening’ mystery with how the food keeps disappearing. The audience has long figured out what’s happening before the judges catch on. There’s a massive wall of text level of explanation to justify this phenomenon. And it totally isn’t needed. At all. I don’t think anyone needed to be sold this hard on the idea that her food is so tasty the judges slurp it all up before they even realize it’s gone. In a manga where clothes rip off the better food is, this concept feels far and away more believable than anything else. The judging ends for Nene’s dish and Yukihira is up, bringing out his crazy dish.
Overall these chapters are fairly good. Outside of a couple walls of texts, particularly unnecessary in 212, everything flows well and keeps the story moving. The thematic issues I discussed are a minor complaint, one bound to crop up in any long running story. It’s especially likely with a manga like Soma, were it’s seen poor rankings and has, very likely, adjusted course several times in order to try and stave off dwindling readership.
At this point though Shokugeki’s numbers have stabilized. While it’s now less likely that Soma will be concluding after this arc, I do have to wonder how the next arc will fare, since we saw the series abandon its progression once already in order to retain readership, doubling down on its bread and butter format.
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 (210-212) will be compiled and released sometime next year.