Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!) (Chapters 170-172) – Review Discussion

Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma):

Chapters 170-172

Reviewed by: Tom

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If only he were my personal chef….

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.

When the Polar Dormitory is also in danger of being shut down, Soma strikes back, challenging council of ten member Etsuya Eizan and defeating him in a Shokugeki. Despite this victory Soma and the Polar dorm crew are a long way from stopping Azami’s far reaching plans for the Academy. After a series of Shokugeki’s, many of the Institute’s cooking societies/clubs have been dismantled and Azami’s plans are put into full affect. 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:

Chapter 170 Review:

When we last left off Soma was ready to serve Erina a dish that would snap her back to her senses. Here she asks what the dish is and, surprisingly, it’s a Tempura Egg bowl. For those not in the know, Tempura is a type of food where, say, shrimp, is deep-fried in batter, leading to some big questions as to how Soma deep-friend a raw egg without it breaking into a disgusting mess.

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With magic.

Even Erina is confused, and It’s a pretty fun little mystery to start the chapter off. Soma eventually reveals that he froze eggs in the freezer, allowing it to survive the cooking and come out as is in his dish. It’s pretty cool and I’d say one of the more interesting cooking details in recent chapters.

Erina isn’t too impressed of course, and there’s the big question of whether she’ll even enjoy Soma’s new dish or not. She is the Divine Tongue after all. I’d be very surprised if she didn’t end up enjoying it though, I mean, she’s suffering from character development and this is obviously the catalyst that leads to a new Erina. However the question of Erina enjoying this dish is called into even greater question as it turns out Soma bought a whole bunch of cheap on sale eggs and Erina is used to high quality ingredients.

Erina takes a bite before anyone of the others can barge in and stop her. She immediately berates the dish, but then admits that even if it’s only meant for commoners it has her foodgasming and disrobing!? It’s mostly for plot of course, but there’s also some technical food science reasons behind it, as Soma explains the benefit of freezing eggs. In fact, due to the signature sauce he used, a bland egg is the only good choice here.

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Hey! Don’t you go knocking super cheap eggs!

Erina wonders why Soma used an egg (Although I should’ve thought this was obvious last chapter when Soma talked of settling things between the two of them) but he reminds her that the very first dish she instructed him to cook involved eggs.

Erina gets uppity with him, complaining that the real goal for chefs is to look for quality ingredients, not turn crap into gold. Soma argues that it’s more fun this way and if you only ever see one answer you’ll never discover anything better. It’s a pretty good argument against Azami’s line of thinking, and speaks to treating cooking like an art rather than a science. That said, I don’t think it defends the Totsuki institute’s previous practices, which screamed of elitism. In fact, Soma’s argument doesn’t address that divide between the two ideals at all. I’m hoping this isn’t where the conversation ends, as I think there’s a lot of places this arc could go.

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Twist: Yukihira is actually a clone of his father so that Soma can conquer the world through cooking.

Erina flashes back to Soma’s father, when she met him as a child, and remembers how he revealed that he never knew he was setting out to cook a good dish, it was always a gamble, an attempt to create new things. Soma then mirrors exactly what his father said back then, that it’s no fun if you already know the outcome. That snaps Erina through the rest of her character development as she chows down on Soma’s dish.

Chapter 171 Review:

Erina has several pages of introspection here where she flashes back to various things Azami and others have said about rebuilding the institute, what makes quality food, etc. and Erina rejects each and every statement.

Soma taunts Erina to admit his cooking was good and praise him, but Erina ignores him and instead says she’s made up her mind, before ordering him to gather all the first year students in the dorm. Soma agrees, but he’s still hung up on getting Erina to talk about his dish.

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One track mind, the boy does have.

The next morning Soma has everyone gathered and they’re all waxing and waning about how their done for at the upcoming advancement exams. Erina appears and tells them all that they lack hope and if they’re just going to despair they might as well leave right now (She channeling Yhwach from Bleach?) The students complain that there’s nothing they can do, but Erina praises their cooking for its freedom and expression, even if the results weren’t always palatable. She berates them for wallowing in their doom and gloom rather than fighting back. Erina tells them they can pass the exams through the sheer strength of their cooking and it becomes clear that while Erina retains much of her tried and true personality, her beliefs have fundamentally shifted.

Erina’s shift culminates in reinvigorating the Polaris crew and everyone is psyched up again to take on Azami and his ideals. With everyone fired up we learn that the advancement exams, in just seven days, will take place in Hokkaido! This chapter acts as a nice wrap up to Erina’s development, and a good about face for the Polaris crew who were wallowing in doom and gloom. I suppose my one complaint would be this chapter was quite predictable, and nothing happened to surprise me, but now that we’ve completed Erina’s story we can move onto the actual battle of defeating Azami.

Chapter 172 Review:

We’ve got several full color pages at the start of this chapter and alongside the vibrant use of color the art’s looking better than ever. It’s a shame we can’t have Soma and Co. in color all the time.

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Ah, one of those images that makes me wish Manga was in color all the time.

The group is running around playing in the snow as soon as they land and the oddity of the Polaris crew baffles the rest of the student body. But before we continue with the group in Hokkaido we flash back to one week ago, shortly after Erina gave her inspiring speech. At this point Hisako explains how the Hokkaido Advancement exams work. It becomes clear Shokugeki is going to be spoofing Hunter x Hunter and other Shonen battle island arcs.

After the mechanics of this next arc have been explained, Erina dons her teacher’s outfit to carry everyone through on study sessions to prepare them in their battle against Azami. While Polaris is getting study sessions from Erina, other members of the student body are getting pre-exam previews from Azami himself.

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Sexy teacher Erina that still isn’t even legal.

It’s not much of an exam to be honest. It’s basically follow the rules, make the dish as is and boom you pass. And while Azami’s dialogue is perhaps painfully on the nose, it does hammer home the idea that these exams are little more than an excuse to banish anyone who won’t fall into line. Again though, this is part of my big disconnect with Food Wars! current arc. Aspects of Azami’s metholodgy aren’t that bad, and speak against the more elitist minded operations of the Totsuki institute. So outside of how forceful the manga is at portraying Azami as a villain, I’m not convinced his ideals, to a degree, really are. He’s taken his believes to the extreme, but in moderation they actually help to balance things out. I really wish Food Wars! would give us a much more grey and balanced depiction of either side, rather than champing either as wholly right or wrong.

Erina’s exam crunch class continues, and she even ropes Soma into taking it. Oddly, Soma seems now convinced that Central will rig the entire exam so they fail no matter what. It’s a really weird shift for him, seeing as he already defeated them at their own game once, you’d think that would act as a serious boost in confidence. I think it’s poor characterization, and perhaps this little exchange should’ve come from someone like Megumi and not Soma himself.

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Who are you and what have you done with the real Soma!?

Later, Soma and Erina have another conversation, where she makes it clear she needs Yukihira to pass the exams as well. Erina, different now as the ‘on the nose’ dialogue makes painfully clear, doesn’t want to lose anyone during this exam.

Meanwhile Azami’s henchmen head to Hokkaido and Ishhiki prepares himself for battle (although I don’t have any idea what he’ll be doing to help at an exam.) It’s a little confusing as we jump back ahead in time but eventually  Yukihira, Erina and the rest are on buses headed to the exam’s start point. It’s explained that anyone who fails will be bused back to the airport, flown back home, and expelled on the spot. It’s do or die and the chapter concludes just as we arrive at their first assignment!

I’m not going to lie, baring the on the nose dialogue, the simplistic nature of good vs evil, and some odd characterization for Soma in this last chapter, I am pumped for this exam arc. I’m personally hoping Food Wars! cuts a few cast members lose, and we actually suffer some loss here, but I’m also prepared for Food Wars! to stick near what every shonen does, “no one every dies syndrome.” That said, I am very excited to see what the exams entail, and I think I prefer these arcs to the back to back shokugeki we’ve been getting.

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 13 (Chapters 102-109) will be released on August 2nd, 2016. Chapters discussed today (170-172) will be compiled in Volume 20 to be released sometime next year.

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