Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) 229-234 – Manga Review

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?

Review:

I’m finally back with Manga reviews after a significant break required to finish reviewing the Summer Anime season and doing the first episode previews for the Fall, which includes talking about Food Wars! latest season, adapting the beginnings of this very arc we’re still in the death throws of. I’ll be doing something a bit different this time around. Usually I review no more than 4 chapters in a go, but that means I play an awfully long game of catch up. This time I’ll be reviewing six chapters, bringing right near the doorstep to the manga’s most recent chapter. Hopefully this way we get back to covering things sooner rather than later, but let’s dive in.

Boy I hope flem and snot is an ingredient he’s going for, because that’s what he’s going to end up with if he keeps doing water ablutions in the winter.

Chapter 229 opens with everyone still on break between their matches, and easing up for the days events. I’ve been awfully hard on the manga up till now, but when coming back to it for this set of chapters I feel like much has improved. The character work and tension is a lot stronger, perhaps in part due to focus on long standing characters we all love, like Megumi, Aldini, and of course Soma himself.

There’s some good comedy here as we take a break from the back to back Shokugeki nature of the series and overall it feels like a really good chapter to jump back into things with. We do, of course, end up doing yet another flashback waaaay back to when they were still preparing for this team shokugeki match up. This time it’s revealed that Chef Shinomiya was pulled into the fray to train Megumi, who’s perhaps got the biggest gap in power during this fight to beat Azami.

Chapter 230 Spends most of its time detailing how Shinomiya eventually managed to pull some confidence out of Megumi. It’s a better flashback, I think, compared to one’s we’ve gotten before. It helps that Megumi’s personal struggle with confidence is long standing, making this character arc feel more poignant, and it has some fun comedy in Megumi’s obsession with Shoujo manga. The one thing I’m not entirely thrilled on is the present day Shokugeki ingredient draw, as again the enemy’s specialty is drawn. I’ve talked about this before, but Shokugeki has a clear formula, and that formula has been so beaten to death that it’s got tell signs out the wazoo. One such tell is the ‘building up of the loser.’ Basically whenever a character seems to have everything staked in their favor, it means they’re going to actually be the loser for this match up. It’s not quite 100% true, because on rare occasions it’s subverted, but it’s true often enough that it takes much of the tension away.

Whew boy, you are so lucky these kids don’t use social media, Mr. Teacher.

Oddly, Soma and Aldini’s ingredients draws are skimmed over hard, not that I mind but the two are basically shunted to one page of the chapter.

Chapter 231 FINALLY, FINALLY gives me what I have been waiting for this entire god damn Shokugeki TEAM arc and that’s actual team work! I still find it annoying how little we saw up till now, turning this whole team idea into an excuse to just have concurrent Shokugeki. Here we actually see the three working together and that really helps to liven the proceedings up. The chapter also tries to remind us that either team, Azami’s or the Resistance, is sitting on the edge of destruction. That if either team loses here they’ll be left with just two people.

And I actually find that disappointing. Why has every match up so far been in absolutes? One team wins out right or the other team does. Why not a two to one end? I’d love for the manga to throw us a new outcome, rather than repeat the conclusion to one of the last two match ups and have either team smoke the other yet again.

Chapter 232 opens with our heroes visiting the ingredients storage warehouse that apparently everyone’s been using to collect what they need for their dishes this whole time? Not that I mind an explanation for where all this food is ultimately coming from, but it kinda feels like someone wrote into our authors asking this very question. Otherwise this chapter focuses on Soma’s match up with Saito and I have no complaints or significant praise to dole out concerning that. What I do want to talk about is the tease at the end of the chapter between Azami and Senzaemon, where Azami accuses Senzaemon of essentially constructing the 92nd class, Soma’s class, almost like some conspiracy. It goes a long way to explaining why nearly everyone we meet from the 92nd class is some bad ass, astounding chef at such a young age.

Giant apple or tiny hands? You decide!

Chapter 233 backs up to briefly focus on Kuga and Nene Kinokuni, our losers from the last couple of Shokugeki match ups. It serves little purpose outside of building up Soma’s presence as a cooking bad ass (Like we didn’t know) and furthering the tease that Azami dropped on us about Senzaemon constructing this class of exceptional pupils. Otherwise we get more team work focus, which is great and brings a very different flow to this Shokugeki, helping to keep these chapters fresh.

But that doesn’t stop Chapter 233 from diving into formula again, offering another flashback to define how Aldini improved over the Stagiaire. The chapter then has Aldini’s opponent, defanged Estuya Eizan, who’s already lost to Soma previously, lay on the thick taunting that makes up the Food Wars! formula. Anyone familiar with the series knows this is a huge sign that Eizan himself, despite the trash talk, is likely to be the loser here. It’s still a real problem and makes Food Wars! borderline predictable.

The last chapter we’ll be discussing today is Chapter 234. Here we go full focus on Eizan as he taunts Aldini and reveals his nasty tricks for this match up. We finally delve into something I’ve actually been wondering about for some time: the way one dish can affect another. Eizan’s entire plan here is to use a dish that leaves a sweet aftertaste behind, effectively ruining Aldini’s own dish. I’m sorta surprised it’s taken this long to mention something like this, as I find this happens all the time where I eat one thing and that affects how the next tastes (obviously not to such a ruin-able degree though.)

You guys are aware you’re in Food Wars! and not Rurouni Kenshin, right?

However, the trouble with this revelation is it really just hammers home how likely it is Eizan is going to lose. Food Wars! often lays it on thick, and Eizan’s declarations and manic personality here just continue to give the game up. Some might argue since Food Wars! is a comedy that makes this okay, it’s all part of the humor. But I think even comedies need to not be quite so obvious with their tells.

Overall though these chapters are a marked improvement from what I’d reviewed last time. It still has issues, and continues to wallow in its insanely tired formula that’s quite obvious to any long time readers for how things will play out, but offers just enough new developments, and fun comedy, to keep it from feeling quite so tired.

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 22 releases on February 6th, 2018. Chapters discussed today (229-234) will be compiled and released sometime next year.

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