Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 216-218 – 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?
Formula. Formula. Formula. That’s the entire consistence of Food Wars! 216th chapter as we conclude Isshiki’s match up against Julio and it plays exactly as you’d expect. We get a flashback for how he came up with the crux of his dish, followed by the foodgasm, the explanation and Julio being forced to concede via his own, albeit comical foodgasm.
If you’re still wrapped up by Food Wars! formula there’s a lot to love here, as it hits all the beats you’d expect. But that’s the problem for a series that’s breached 200 chapters– and we’ve talked about this before– it needs to start varying itself up. All the great shonen do and without that variety it’s just going to wear its core audience down that much faster.
Chapter 217 thankfully, depending on your point of view, doesn’t put us through a third immediate, formulaic, shokugeki match up. Instead it skips right over the confrontation by having the match resolved off page, culminating in a gag. A character built up, however briefly, as a bad ass, is easily trounced by Tosuke, one of the former council of ten and a character who’s page time has been surprisingly slim.
I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand these matches have been so by the book it’s not even funny. I continue to feel like you could rip these events and with the most minor of rewriting transplant them into really any other shokugeki event from earlier in the series. So not getting a third, possibly equally formulaic bout is a good thing. On the other hand it feels a bit cheap, like we were cheated out of another match up with the potential, at least, to be interesting.
Either way the two teams retreat to their respective waiting rooms and try to decide who they’ll send out next. Yukihira is bucking for a round two, but people are trying to convince him strategy trounces his thirst for competition. However what is likely to seal Yukihira from competing in round two is when he runs into Terunori Kuga challenging Eishi Tsukasa, daring him to face him in the next bout.
If I were more attached to either Tsukasa or Kuga I’d feel like the character drama might suck me back in. But the truth of the matter is Kuga hasn’t really been given enough of the limelight to allow us to form a real connection to his character. Tsukasa also hasn’t had much opportunity to showcase himself as a villain. Both characters, as I recall, have only had one or two instances thus far where they had any kind of prominence, and generally even then Yukihira himself was still the star.
Chapter 218 opens with everyone else discussing strategy, before we snap back to Kuga’s challenge to Tsukasa. Tsukasa heads off to bring up the idea to his team and this gives us a, sort of, heartfelt moment between Yukihira and Kuga as we get an inkling for why Kuga wants to challenge Tsukasa so bad. Or really we just get the idea hammered home about how bad he wants this challenge, no explanation as to why.
It quickly turns comedic and we’re off to the second match up anyway. As Kuga and the other two take the stage, he gets his wish and Tsukasa is coming out with the enemy team. And with that the second bout is a go. These chapters give me little faith we’ll see anything new in this second round. It really feels like after a string of chapters that received poor rankings in weekly jump, Soma’s answer was to double down on the tried and true formula.
To be fair, if we’re going strictly by rankings, that looks like it might be working, although we’re still in the early stages of these and rankings are eight weeks behind. I think, though, Food Wars! is more likely to burn out its readership in the long run if this continues for too long.
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 (216-218) will be compiled and released sometime next year.