The Fall Classic continues, with clothes flowing loosely, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Story: Yuto Tsukuda
Art: Shun Saeki
Contributor: Yuki Morisaki
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Production: NRP Studios (Touch up art and lettering), Izumi Evers (design), Jennifer LeBlanc (editor)
What They Say:
The Fall Classic finals have begun, with the theme of the first round being bento boxes. It’s a battle of the egos as Soma clashes with Alice Nakiri. Her bento gets rave reviews from the strict judges, but Soma invents a boxed lunch unlike one anyone’s ever seen! Then, no sooner does the first round end than the second begins!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When repackaging a weekly or monthly serialized work into discrete volumes, important decisions must be made with pacing. For the Fall Classic, the editors at Shonen Jump had to take into account that the volume breaks would create artificial speed bumps where none previously existed, as there would be a much shorter and generally regular interval between serial installments, not the necessarily lengthier wait between collected volumes. With something as exciting and pacing-dependent as a tournament arc, you have to get the timing down just right. So, the decision they’ve made with the current storyline (already apparent from the previous volume) has been to break off in the middle of an ongoing battle.
If the aim was to create the tension and excitement commonly arising from cliffhangers, it does work enough. For those who can’t put down a story and are used to consuming it in the more “marathon” form of collected volumes, there is a certain disappointment at having to leave off in the middle of a battle, your taste whetted for a conclusion left hanging for another couple months.
So, we start with this volume finally getting to the conclusion of the opening round fight between Soma and Alice Nakiri, who wowed the judges in the previous volume with her chilled sushi bento extravaganza. Soma’s competing bento, a seemingly normal seaweed bento, appeared headed for defeat or worse in most of the spectators’ eyes. Of course, that’s been the standard setup for this series, where most people count out Soma’s low-brow dishes in the face of high-level cuisine from those at the top of the food preparation pyramid. And, of course, following that same script, Soma completely upends expectations with his unique and creative take on a pedestrian dish. It’s a formula, but there is a reason why formulas continue to be used time and again—they sometimes work very well.
So, formula or not, the creative way that Soma manages to overcome Alice is quite enjoyable to see. Fortunately, the author and his artist have come up with new ways to entertain us within this framework. It appears that Senzaemon Nakiri, the Academy Director, has a unique way of “foodgasming”: he disrobes. If you can make his traditional Japanese robe fall off his shoulders, you have done something right. The traditional foodgasms from the other judges (and one contestant) in the Fall Classic are there too, but continuing in the toned-down style that has prevailed for much of the series.
Further, humor continues to flow from character behavior to relieve minds that might get somewhat tired of all the cooking (in some ways, the cooking aspects can be the dullest parts—something oddly rendered less problematic when animated since cooking may best be enjoyed by seeing it in moving form). Thus Alice’s crybaby routine after defeat is well-matched with Yuki’s excessive fan promotion of Megumi in the second match, with additional nods to many other members of the cast and their usual schticks. At this point, many of them (Nikumi, Takumi and Isami Aldini, Marui) serve as seasonings to help lighten the heavy load of cooking and competition thrust before us.
On the much more serious side, we get another all-too-brief peek inside of Erina Nakiri’s inner life, showing that the imperious queen may well have some sadder (and softer) tale to tell in future.
The second and third matches of the first round take up much of the rest of the volume (with a brief interlude between the end of the second and start of the third). Megumi faces Ryo Kurokiba (the aide of Alice Nakiri) and it takes little imagination to guess that he overpowers her…though Senzaemon later recognizes that it was not quite the steamrolling victory most of the audience believed it was. The third match pits “Spice Boy” Akira Hayama against Hisako Arato, the medicinal food master who is closely tied to Erina. (Warning: Animal lovers might feel a bit uncomfortable with Hisako’s cooking). As happened with the first match, this one too is cut off in the middle, though it’s anyone’s guess as to who will win.
About the only other major addition this volume provides is that we finally get a name attached to the character who was left out of the anime adaptation, the last qualifier for the Fall Classic. While he looks like a biker punk, he’s oddly fastidious and detail-oriented: Subaru Mimasaka. Clearly, we have more build up for a future match.
So, as a volume, this one manages to deliver similar kinds of highs and lows as the previous volume did, giving us a thrilling conclusion to Soma’s match while leaving us on the cliff regarding whose cuisine will reign supreme between Akira and Hisako. The pacing of the chapters is one of the real strengths of this work, as there are regular attempts to lighten the mood and even provide some downtime in-between bouts. All that heavy ingestion of food warring can get a touch tedious otherwise.
Soma comes out ahead of Alice Nakiri in the Bento Battle as his creativity outshines her cutting edge techniques. In the second match of the day, Megumi tries to face up against the brute strength of Ryo Kurokiba in a ramen contest, but is overpowered by him. Finally, Hisako and Akira Hayama compete over who can make the tastiest burger with the result left up in the air for now. There is a formulaic nature to these tournament chapters, but good pacing (on the chapter level; volume division might leave you a little disappointed in having to wait) helps to keep things moving forward. Despite all the action, there is some comedy (including a few unexpected touches) to lighten the mood. This is no deep thought involved in consuming Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, but plenty of entertainment.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Package Rating: B+
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Released By:Viz Media
Release Date: December 1st, 2015