Sunday, 6 September 2015

Food Wars!, Volume 1: Shokugeki no Soma Review (Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki)

15 year old Soma Yukihara is already an accomplished chef whose dishes are so good they have the bizarre side effect of inducing orgasms in the diner! The flip-side is his experimental meals can be so bad they make the eater feel assaulted! One day, Soma’s single father decides to up stakes and go on a cooking trip around the world, leaving Soma to attend Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute, Japan’s premier cooking school, where he goes up against nemesis Erina Nakiri. 

Shinto is officially the Japanese national religion but unofficially it’s food (with good reason too - Japanese food is amazing). The Japanese revere food more than any other people I’ve ever met - so much so that it’s a manga sub-genre! And while it sounds a little too thin to work as a series, writer Yuto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki’s Food Wars! manga is really good. 

The food orgasm angle is obviously the silly side of the book which Tsukuda plays up in the fantasy scenes where the consumer is naked and roiling around in ecstasy. Similarly, when Soma feeds a high school friend peanut butter squid, she’s drawn being molested by a squid, a wink at the Western perception of anime schoolgirl/squid porn (then again she is underage so it’s still creepy). 

The imagery in these fantasy cutaways is deliberately sleazy in a satirical way, though in one scene towards the end there’s a gratuitous upskirt shot in the non-fantasy scenes. Cool it on that shit, Saeki - Food Wars is walking the line between mocking the stereotypes and becoming one and I’ll only keep reading if the series remains firmly in the former! 

Saeki draws the food gorgeously and Tsukuda’s dishes are inspired. “Joke Roast Pork” and “Morphing Furikake Rice” are so imaginative yet are also central to the plot as Soma saves his family’s restaurant, gets admitted into the elite school, and saves a fellow student from expulsion. 

This first volume sets up the cast of characters, the rivalries, and the series direction really well though it is bonkers that Soma’s dad would abandon his teenage son so readily - and where’s his mum again? This is also another manga where all of the main characters are teenagers - why is that, Japan? 

Food Wars also has a very positive message about taking chances, being creative and trying new things which is a worthy sentiment and surprisingly weighty too given the subject matter! The first volume has some oddities that I’ll chalk up to cultural differences but I mostly really enjoyed Food Wars. It's a playful, fun comic and I'm looking forward to reading more of this series.

Food Wars!, Volume 1: Shokugeki no Soma

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