What They Say:
Shokugeki no Soma centers on Yukihira Soma, a middle school student who is determined to surpass his father s culinary skills. One day, his father decides to close down their family restaurant and hone his skills in Europe. Before leaving he enrolls Soma in an elite culinary school that is extremely difficult to enter with a graduation rate of only 10 percent. Will Souma be able to improve his skills, or will the kitchen prove to be too hot?
For a Blu-Ray release, we have a 5.1 English Dolby Surround release and 2.0 Stereo in Japanese – nothing wrong with either track (actually was fine on the default settings, watched the first disc in English and the second in Japanese – no problems with the synching or with the subtitles) with the dub needing no adjustments in volume quality which is a first as usually I do need to adjust after the initial listen, no glitches I noticed with music, foley, background noise, etc – I’d safe to say this is definitely one of the better releases in terms of quality audio wise from Manga.
Set with the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio format, we have HD quality with combining a bit of CGI with some of the wide scenes, to the in your face animation (literally with some of the food porn scenes – also extends to the scenes which could be close to porn…) – the animation is very bright and with a variety of colours due to both the cast and nationality of many of the crew with hair and skin, also the amount of food on display showcases a lot of research and love for the show, this flows well because there is so much scenery with the amount of talking, no real shortcuts, no repeated animation or slowdown, and it is definitely in your face as a show. A quality release.
There was no packing for this test release, however, if you order the special edition, the release is packed inside 14 mm Blu-ray Case, with a Plastic O-card, Rigid Collector s Box, Art Cards and Bonus Poster.
The menu on all three discs is pretty basic – each disc has a character on it with a food background (Soma on disc 1, Erina on disc 2, and Ryo/Akira on disc 3) whilst the menu is on the left with the knife and fork symbol as selection, no select all as selecting the first episode goes through them all or from what episode you start from the next one will be in that order, with languages and on disc 3 extras as your other selection. Very basic and whilst does its job *pop up menu is available on the show* and is very bright, not as eyecatching as the actual show.
The only extras are on disc 3, with the cleaning opening and ending, and an also available from Sentai Filmworks trailers, which for once does feature mostly shows which have been released from the UK, only Girls und Panzer Jer Film hasn’t, the rest being Amagi: Brilliant Park, Himouto! Umaru-chan and School Live! Disappointed there wasn’t even any recipe cards, best rewatch and take notes…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Food Wars (Shokugeki No Soma) is one of those more recent series that caught my eye in recent years – I was a fan of Yakitate Japan as a show revolving around food almost in an Iron Chef style way, however with the manga of that really not ending well in my opinion, Food Wars which is still ongoing was something that caught my interest and hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside.
I will say this, if anyone watches this and their parents are visiting, certain scenes may make you think this is a hentai. There’s a reason this show has been called ‘foodgasm – the anime’. But aside from making your mother water with all these amazing dishes and giving equal fanservice due to their reactions, is it actually worth watching?
Our lead is Soma Yukihara, a young and talented chef who is working with his father Joichiro’s diner also named Yukihara, a popular diner with locals with both father and son being very experimental with their cooking to create interesting results – both good…and not so good (let’s just say the squid tentacles in peanut butter or yoghurt brings us the first ‘are you sure this isn’t hentai’ moment…). The first episode demonstrates Soma’s character – a businesswoman tries to demolish their restaurant but they refuse with Soma even saying if they can’t make a dish she wants, he will let her do as she wishes. So of course the next day she and her thugs sabotage their food and then claim they want a giant steak knowing well the meat is ruined.
So Soma does an epic dish using the bacon he bought for breakfast with potatoes – even citing that it came from a failure, forcing her to literally eat her words. He saves the diner and nothing is going to stop him.
And then his father closes the diner anyway as he is travelling overseas (the first indication there is definitely more to Jouichiro) and asks Soma to instead attend a rather elite cooking school. Soma is initially very dismissive of this as he already can cook well with his experience, but here he meets the God’s Tongue Erina Nakiri, a very haughty perfectionist girl who gives critical remarks here, there and everywhere. All the other transfer students immediately bail when the passing quota is to make a dish using eggs to her satisfaction. Soma, not having a clue, just wants to make his dish. Erina pretty much sees his food as commoner’s food, but Soma’s skill seems to slowly turn her round as it is clear she likes it, but her pride at a commoner making a common dish she enjoys clear hurts her pride. She fails him out of spite…but unknowingly her grandfather and chairman of the school sees this, tries his food…
So much to her shock he makes it in and declares himself he will be the top student of the school (unknowingly pissing off most of the kids, though a select few clearly admire him and/or see him as a worthy rival as we shall see) – our first other main character is probably one of the best shy girls in recent years due to development in Megumi Tadokoro. We later see she is clearly a very skilled chef, but her nerves means that when it comes to assignments she always fails, and if she fails one more time, she is dismissed (the school is very harsh). She is forced to team with Soma, and with other students hating him, their dish is sabotaged by some kids, but thanks to some quick thinking (the show is very good in teaching about food via explanation) they pass, and later Soma passes the dorm test to be accepted into the dorm Polar Star…and his first thing is of course to bump into Megumi whilst she’s having a bath…
So yeah, some classic tropes and a bit of a classic dumb oblivious to love protagonist, but clichés aside, we meet all the dorm members who do get their moments in the latter half of the series with their specialist skills (Yuki – game meat, Ryoko – fermentation, Shun- smoking and Zenji – research) but the one that catches the most interest is Satoshi, who is a very goofy eccentric sempai…but also one of the Elite 10 along with Erina which leads to Soma wondering if he beat him could he be in the 10? And this is where the Food Wars title comes in as people can challenge others for things, but only if something of equal value is also on offer. Erina for example tends to demolish clubs she deems unworthy for one of her many labs making her a bit of an antagonist. This leads to Soma challenging one of her followers, Ikumi Mito, in a meat battle (her speciality) using donburi rice bowls as she threatens to close that down.
Soma does beat her (emphasising the rice when knowing couldn’t beat her on meat quality) forcing Ikumi to join the Don club but makes a new friend (and crush as well) as this school is definitely quite harsh. The training camp saga which basically kicks you out if you fail one thing introduces us to the fan favourite Aldini brothers, two Italians who have a similar background to Soma in having 12 years experience in the kitchen and the young one Takumi definitely has a rivalry towards Soma but it is pretty comically and later more borderline friendly. The brothers and the Soma/Megumi pair pass the initial test, as well as a later one (Soma thinks he finishes first but surprised that Erina did – beginning to realise the level of skill here) and learn more about some of the graduates, specifically that Gin, the highest ranked was best friends with Jouichiro, and the French specialist Shinomiya is very defensive of his recipes…so much that when Megumi has to find an alternative to make her dish good as she was knocked away from grabbing the best ingredients, he failed her despite the dish being good and thus she leaves. Thus leads Soma to do a Food War against Shinomiya….with him also leaving if he loses.
This does show what Shinomiya had to go against as a Japanese chef in France which turns him into what he becomes, and whilst he does actually beat them, after trying Megumi’s cooking, he realises what he has lost on the way and lets them stay (and Soma actually hates the fact he lost) – with one more big challenge on the horizon, making a breakfast buffet…which Soma actually nearly fails as he didn’t understand the concept as his dish of choice deflating and doesn’t stay warm for the duration. He manages to change his strategy and pass in time, also introducing two other key character, Erina’s cousin Alice, and her aide, Ryou…
There are a couple of other mini-arcs before the big one, like Jouchiro returning and seeing how far his son has progressed, and Soma returning to his home town and trying to keep it on his feet with a fried chicken place taking over their businesses (which does lead to some plot development as one of the Elite 10 is involved with that, and even invites Soma to join him which he refuses, so you sense there is going to be some revenge down the line), the big final arc is the Autumn Elections where people are picked for a tournament as a way of scouting and judging for their future – with the theme being curry. Jouichiro tells Soma and Megumi of an allumini who works for the school Jun who is a specialist so they do, and also discover her assistant Akira Hayama, who is also in the tournament with his skill being an incredible sense of smell and is clearly the favourite with this theme…which of course spurs Soma on more.
So the tournament happens and to be honest, the best showcase is with Megumi who people still are mocking for her previous failures and then is able to cut a monkfish from a hanging board (considering extremely difficult even for adult men) and then all the cast pretty much gets to showcase their skills including a few new ones (like Nao, the creepy girl with an obsession of Erina, but then in turn is defeated by Erina’s aide Hisako who finally gets to shine on her own with her medicinal food, and Miyoko – a Chinese specialist who grew up in a misogynist world and is disappointed Megumi beat Shinomiya because she relied on a man) – all the Polar Star group gets their moments and skill and all are highly ranked, but the big set up is that of the first group Alice, Hisako, Takumi and Megumi qualify, whilst in the second is a bit more out there as Akira, Soma and Ryo all qualify, with the 4th spot seemingly tied between Shun and Zenji, but the suggestions suggest neither of them made it…and also whilst Akira got the highest overall score in their block, Soma actually beat him in scores with 3 out of 5 judges so if it had been a Food War….
This series is one part shonen, one part fanservice and one part utter fun. Plot wise, it is very generic – lead protagonist wants to be the top chef in an establishment he is shunned from with a lot of upper class twits mixed in with more down to earth characters. Add in some rivalry – both friendly and not so, a tad of romance with the oblivious protagonist, and some surprisingly good character development in a series with a lot of characters, this is definitely a bit of a sleeper hit show.
Soma himself isn’t quite the invincible hero which I like. He loses to Shinomiya and to Akira, and has nearly 500 losses to his father but he does learn – he makes things that were failures and betters himself so they become successes – this was showcases in the 1st episode and clearly takes after his father, and clearly has a goal with Erina, but also has compassion – an early moment is Megumi out of competition is a very good chef, as her rice balls and tea are done to perfection and her style of cooking is very homely, so when she is failed on something because of Shinomiya’s stubbornness, he clearly recognises Megumi’s skill and defends her, even putting his own place at the school on the line. His frustration in losing means he actually begins to understand why his father sent him to the school as he learns a bit of his father’s history at the school as well, and recognises rivals and friends alike and wants to better himself…though he has his idiot moments as well, like forcing his childhood friend and Megumi to try some of his more…unique…creations, and the fact several girls seem to like him is pretty standard that he doesn’t notice.
It is fairly standard shounen fair in many other methods, with lots of characters, all with their skills and there are some choice moments (Takumi in particular seems to worry almost as much as Megumi and Ikumi about Soma – I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a popular choice for yaoi fans…) and as said, the plot is standard fair and clearly a sequel is on the way with the tournament. I will say there are a few things though that makes it stand out. One is the fantastic animation – food porn is quite literal with some of the reactions, though the fanservice does service both sexes – Satoshi in his apron is definitely the big one – but combining with the actual explanation in easy ways as well as the sheer amount of research done (Jouichiro is clearly skilled with all styles of cuisine) and the likeability of the Polar Star dorm with all their quirks makes it they are all going to be involved more so in the future.
The second thing I really like is the character of Megumi. A favourite type in term of anime is the shy girl, with usually blue or violet style hair (Ami from Sailor Moon and Hinata from Naruto two of the most popular examples) with Megumi following in that tradition. The main thing though is how well she develops as a character – she seems a failure, but it is showcased that her style of cooking is extremely good, both from her hometown flashbacks and her cooking outside of competition. Soma says why she can’t do this in the class and she slowly begins to develop. At first, she admittingly relies on Soma, but during the match against Shinomiya she has to be the head chef and it is here you can see that if she focuses on the dish herself, she is very talented and she breaks out of her shell (does all the other challenges by herself, she even beats Soma in the breakfast one with her dish) and then her calmness in cutting up the monkfish and being qualified for the final 8 – sure, she still was shy and wasn’t even noticed until the end, but you feel no matter who she is up against she needs to truly battle, and she is clearly more confident by the end. It does feel she may also like Soma a bit more than just friends, but we’ll see if anything happens with that…
The major weakness is that there is no direct antagonist apart from Erina, and to be honest outside of being a bit snobbish, she hasn’t really done much in this series. It is however, enjoyable and one of the more fun series out there and the closest to a Shonen style series without being overly long…
Food Wars is a delightful if a bit ecchi at times shounen jump like series with a hero protagonist who isn’t fully untouchable, a likeable side cast (especially Megumi), a potentially interesting antagonist if the story goes further, and a lot of great animation. There is definitely more on the way and with a lot of characters getting highlights but not much known about them at the moment, it just whets the appetite for the inevitable sequel. Looking forward to it.
Cleaning Opening/Ending, Trailers, Episode Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 28th, 2017
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.