The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 115 – Food Wars!

Food Wars 1

Continuing to look at anime adaptations of series from the highly popular Weekly Shonen Jump manga magazine, we delve into the world of food – something which any Japanese readers to this column might find comical, given that their stereotypical view of us Brits is that we are the worst cooks in the world, a stereotype that I also happen to fall into. Put it this way, I once shocked an entire crowd at a comedy gig for admitting I had never eaten a poppadum.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, or just Food Wars! for short, began as a manga in 2012, written by Yuto Tsukuda and illustrated by Shun Saeki. The anime adaptation began in March this year. As well as food, this series also fits into that vast category of “anime set in schools that would never exist in real life”, which from now on I have decided to condense into a simpler term of my own invention: “non-schools”.

Non-schools are not new to Shonen Jump. The magazine currently has at least two, both of which have been turned into anime. One is Assassination Classroom, in which the students have a destructive alien as their teacher and they have to try and kill them. However, as this series is region blocked (Boo!) I cannot write about the anime

Cuisine is also something Shonen Jump has covered before. There is another currently running title called Toriko which also covers food, and this has also been turned into an anime, but Toriko is set in an alternative world whereas Food Wars! has a more real world setting.

Food Wars! is about a boy named Soma Yukihira, who wants to become a full-time chef at his father Joichiro’s working class diner and ultimately to surpass his father’s skills. While he is a capable cook, Soma is still not as good as his dad, and he has the habit of experimenting with odd ingredients (e.g. squid and peanut butter). Joichiro then decides to temporarily close the dinner and move to America, while sending Soma to Totsuki Culinary Academy.

Upon arrival, Soma discovers that this gigantic school is for the elite. Only 10% of all the students successfully pass, disputes are settled by cookery battles called “shokugeki”, and nearly all the students are from wealthy backgrounds. Soma is just about the only working class person at Totsuki, and upsets just about everyone on the first day when he attacks his snobbish colleagues. The one who hates Soma the most is Erina Nakiri, daughter of the headmaster and one of the school’s “Elite Ten” students. She is not only the virtual ruler of the school, but she has a palate so refined it is claimed she has the “God Tongue”, with the ability to ruin anyone’s reputation with a single taste. Erina writes Soma’s common tastes off, but Soma impresses everyone else with his ability to make even the cheapest food taste great.

The series follows Soma’s attempts to be the best at the school, including defeating all of the Elite Ten. Also it follows the fellows students of Soma’s dorm who become his friends. These include nervous girl Megumi Tadokoro, and one of the Elite Ten, the friendly and often nearly naked Satoshi Isshiki.

In comparison to last week’s title World Trigger (No. 114), the quality of the animation in Food Wars! is much better, and one of the big selling points. This is especially true in the brilliantly animated and often highly comic “foodgasm” scenes. Nearly every episode features someone eating a dish, which they not only describe in flowing terms, but is mentally depicted by the diner in an over-the-top manner.

For example, if a scene depicts someone talking about a meat dish being glazed in honey, it will feature the people eating the dish themselves being drenched in honey. Sometimes Erina will eat a dish which starts off pleasantly, comparing it to say bathing in a hot spring, but something will be wrong with it, comparing it to say bathing in a hot spring with a gorilla.

Another factor worth mentioning is the amount of “fan service” – the often sexy bonus items – that are included in the show. It is not too overwhelming, and more positively it seems to be equally divided between the male and female characters. For example, one of Soma’s rivals is a buxom tanned girl named Ikumi Mito (the “Meat Queen”), who is often seen wearing a bikini and very short skirts or shorts. Characters like her are levelled out by Satoshi, who often wears nothing except either an apron or a loincloth.

In terms of whether it will become a big future title, it is hard to say. One problem is that the current anime series is rather short at 24 episodes in comparison to other Shonen Jump adaptations. Whether more series will be made after this is yet to be seen, but it certainly has a decent, deserving chance.

Food Wars! is currently streamed on Crunchyroll.