What They Say:
Ever since he was little, Soma Yukihira’s main goals have been to beat his father in a cooking contest and take over the family diner. That’s why, when his dad suddenly announces that he’s shutting the restaurant down and sending Soma to cooking school, Soma is shocked. However, Tohtsuki Academy is no ordinary cooking school.
This elite institution is filled with culinary giants like Erina “God Tongue” Nakiri, who does her best to keep a lowly short-order like Soma from even making it inside the door. However, if the snobs can dish it out, Soma can serve it up, and when he learns that only a handful of the students manage to graduate every year, he swears that the only way he’ll leave is as number one!
For this viewing, I took in the English dub, which is offered in 2.0. The Japanese audio track is also available, also in 2.0. This is actually a rare situation where the lack of a 5.1 mix doesn’t bother me too much. While there is “fighting,” it’s not really action like we are used to, so the lack of a surround feel isn’t too much of a detriment. And, frankly, getting a dub makes up for a lot of it for me, so I don’t have too many complaints. The channels are clear with no drop out and a bit of directionality.
Visually, this is a good-looking anime. Characters designs are relatively generic, though there’s some good differentiation in it all, and there’s some great animation in the cooking scenes. Some of the lining and colors are soft, though admittedly, that could be just a lack of it being HD than a particular problem. I did not notice any other technical flaws, however.
The packaging for this release is fairly basic. The five discs are contained in a standard size amaray case. The front cover has a montage of the extended cast with Souma in the middle, while the back features Soma in his “action” pose with a series of screen shots and technical details. The discs themselves each feature a character or two but are otherwise relatively unremarkable. It all looks fine for this series.
The menu for this is also a bit basic, but fine. Most of the screen is covered with a picture of one the characters, while the selections are offered to the left. Each episode on the disc is just listed on the main menu with no play all button, though each episode does just lead into the next, so it “plays all” anyway. The series’s theme plays in the background in a 90 second loop (basically, the whole theme plays), so it doesn’t get repetitive.
All that is available on this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Food Wars is an anime that I’d heard a lot of hype about before I sat down to watch it, so I went into it with high hopes. Often, this ultimately leads to a letdown, so I was actually guarding against it and had middling expectations to go along with those high hopes. In the end, it actually exceeded those high hopes. I’m not usually a fan of shonen fighting anime, and its possible this will lose me in the long run (season three is currently airing in Japan as I write this), but this was the most fun I’ve had with an anime in a long time.
Soma Yukihara works in his family’s restaurant. In fact, he takes a lot of pride in his cooking abilities and can think of nothing better in life than to eventually inherit the restaurant and carry on its tradition. Proving he’s a better cook than his dad wouldn’t hurt the ol’ ego much, either. He is so committed to the pride of his family that when a developer tries to shut them down, he shuts her up with a bet that he can make the best thing she has ever tasted. Just another day in front of the grill.
At least, it was until his father tells him the next morning that he has to go on a business trip, that he’s shutting down the restaurant temporarily while he’s gone, and he’s enrolled Soma in Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy, the most prestigious culinary school in Japan. Totsuki is so competitive that only roughly ten percent of students graduate and even one failed assignment can be grounds for expulsion. It’s not for the faint-of-heart. But faint-of-heart is the last thing that Soma is, so while he does not accept that he needs to go to Totsuki (at least, not initially), he also takes on the challenge with gusto. No test is too much for Soma, and he intends to impress even when he loses. And he’s going to need that confidence and drive if he is going to survive the Food Wars, claim a place on the Council of Ten, and prove he is the best Totsuki has to offer.
I said above that I’m not much into shonen fighting anime, which is true, but you might be wondering why I said that when this show isn’t about fighting. It’s because the very setup of this show is entirely something out of that genre. Soma is a hero in the vein of Goku, Naruto, or Luffy in that he is confident without being too egotistical, and his drive to get better keeps pushing him to move forward no matter how many times he is pushed back. He might lose, but he is never defeated.
But then we have the Food Wars themselves. Students at Totsuki resolve their differences with a Food War: a duel where they each make a dish (often restrictions are placed on what they can make or use), and a panel of objective observers taste the food a judge the winner. The victor then claims the prize of whatever wager was placed, and at a school as competitive as Totsuki, the wagers tend to be very high stakes.
Like any good shonen fighter, Soma has no compunction with getting into a Food War. And also like any good shonen fighter, each person he “fights” is a little bit better than the last and has some hidden ability that Soma needs to compensate for. But rather than some psychic power or a strong attack, these abilities are along the lines of being a master of meat or preternaturally good at detecting and using spices. It’s all such a wonderful twist on an otherwise well-established genre that it feels fresh and new even though there’s not a lot of difference.
And through it all, Soma never loses his confidence. He takes his lumps, learns from his mistakes, and keeps pressing forward. He is a breath of fresh air at an academy where outsiders are not welcome and failure is met with the greatest contempt. None of this phases him, and as such, his drive begins to affect those around him who do accept and believe in him, and they begin to become the best versions of themselves that they can also be.
At the end of the day, Food Wars is just a lot of fun. There’s a lot of good humor, some good “action,” and some great characters. I don’t know that it holds up under any kind of close, critical examination, but it doesn’t have to because it is just plain fun. It might lose me going forward—I cannot say at the time being—but for now, I can’t wait to pop in Season Two and see where Soma’s adventures take us. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing Animations.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, LG BP330 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System