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Food Wars! Season 2 UK Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read
© Yuuto Tsukuda / Shun Saeki / Shueisha

A shorter season seems to cut more than expected and a bit rushed… doesn’t mean it’s bad though…

What They Say:
Food Wars! ~ The Second Plate contains episodes 1-13. At the Tohtsuki Culinary Academy, the first rule is survival of the fittest, and if you don’t have what it takes to become a master chef, you need to get out of the kitchen before you get burned. With the wheat of first-year students separated from the chaff, cocky former diner cook Yukihira Soma is one of the handful of kitchen whizzes still standing. As the next round of the Autumn Elections gets underway, can he survive a brutal bento boxing match with the chemistry-obsessed granddaughter of the Academy’s director? And which of the other contenders; Megumi, Ryo, Akira, Hisako, Takumi or sinister dark-horse Subaru; will advance to fight for the gold medal? Get ready for another cut-throat season of eat, beat, and defeat!

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu on both discs pretty basic – each disc has a character on it with a food background (Soma/Erina on disc 1, and then Soma, Ryo and Akira on disc 2) 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 eye-catching as the actual show.

Extras:
There were no extras with this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Food Wars is becoming one of the more recent popular shounen-esque series of recent years – the DBZ esque ways of cooking and showing food combined with a good range of characters makes this basically Iron Chef: The Anime. The first season ended in a set up for a tournament which is the basis of season 2 which is a half season compared to a full season – and it also goes into another arc…on one regard, that does make it feel a bit more rushed but at the same time it still does some interesting development and character interactions…

Because of this, it feels like it goes all out straight away as episode 1 is the first match, and it’s Alice vs. Soma. Alice has been developed as a super boss due to her being related to Erina and also her skill in technology and gastronomy so the fact these two are in the first round is a bit of a surprise as you can guess who is going to win. The idea is that there is a theme dish to present to the judges – in this case bento – which Soma wins as Alice’s use of technology meant whilst her sushi bento was amazing, it was basically could have been a sushi contest whilst Soma considered his customers who had more fun and still delicious Nori bento. Points for some fun Alice reactions though…

…the other matches however were far more interesting. The second one is Ryo vs. Megumi in a ramen contest – Megumi is probably my favourite character in the series and this episode showcases why. The two are polar opposites – Megumi is shy and reserved whilst Ryo is hot-headed and competitive – even spooking her a bit…however her development continues as one of the better wallflower characters written as she cooks her own style and isn’t afraid (in her own way) to fight with Ryo to the point when they try each other’s ramen, Ryo actually respects her – the downside is Megumi does lose (though this also gives Ryo some development) though it hints that she has amazing potential…

The third battle is a bit of a throwaway as Akira is the other big boss character and because he didn’t face Soma early, it was clear he was going to beat Hisako – two things however happen here which are interesting. First Hisako’s character gets a bit of a drubbing due to Akira pointing out she was only interested in being Erina’s number 2 (which gets interesting in the later arc plus even gives Erina some development as despite her reputation, she clearly cares for Hisako and goes a little to pieces without her helping out) – the big thing though is that it introduces the mystery 8th competitor Subaru. From the end of the 1st season, you may remember one spot was undecided and it looks like was going to be a tie between Marui and Shun…however we see at the last minute another chef presented a dish and that was Subaru – a rather big muscular dark skinned man whose style is very different. Basically his gimmick is that he is able to trace/copy other chef’s dishes and then improve them one step further so that he wins – from this, he has won many Food Wars and has taken the most important tool from their competitors, even at one point a knife belonging to a chef’s deceased mother. This sets up that a) he’s the first true villain of this arc (albeit we later learn someone was pulling the strings for this) and b) sets up the last match perfectly…

Subaru is taking on Aldini, who if you recall, has a friendly rivalry with Soma considering similar backgrounds. So Subaru is using this to his advantage and actually calls a Food War during their battle with his best tool on the line. Subaru’s calculations are immense and almost stalker like level and causes Aldini to lose – which in fact was part of the greater scheme as it is clear that his real target is Soma. As the two will meet in the semi finals, Soma who clearly has no respect for Subaru and wants to avenge Aldini agrees to a Food War…putting his career on the line in exchange for all the tools Subaru has won. With the theme being western food, he even tells Subaru he plans to do a beef stew – however he isn’t sure how to win. He gets some help unexpectedly from Erina (by bribing her with some manga :P) who in her blunt way, says his dish isn’t suitable for the topic. With this in mind and help from meat master Ikumi, he plans an oxtail dish but Subaru again has managed to trace it…

…however Soma improvises by using different cuts of meat on the fly which stops Subaru’s improvement of bacon garnish by using all types of meat as garnish with hints from everyone and everything he has learned from. Soma wins which actually stops Subaru’s bad guy shtick as Soma wants him to become his own chef…also interestingly is that Aldini doesn’t ask for her mezzaluna tool back…saying he wants it back when he defeats Soma himself. Hmmm…

This leads to Ryo vs. Akira and in a surprise, for the first time there is no clear decision – all the matches up to this point have been a 3-0 or 5-0 victory…this one is a 2-2 which is surprising as it seemed it set up Akira vs. Soma as the final but Ryo also garnishes in – with the 5th judge undecided, for the first time the final is going to be a 3 way match between Soma, Ryo and Akira in a pacific saury battle. There, Soma/Megumi meet up with Ryo/Alice as they learn how to pick the best saury which Ryo, who specialises in seafood and Akira whose scent skills allow him to get the best one, Soma is at a disadvantage (with a nice moment though that Ryo respects Megumi that she trusts her despite her being friends with Soma that the sashimi they prep can prove Ryo’s was better) – Soma takes a different route and asks his friends Ryoko, Shun and Ikumi about smoking and aging – with this in mind and some character flashbacks, the three make their dishes, and whilst initially Ryo and Akira’s seem better, Soma reveals a trick to change the flavour of his seemingly weaker dish into a new level. With the reveal that it was one of the Elite 10 (Eizan who was also part of the karage arc last season) we also have a new potential villain but in a final twist, Soma DOESN’T win. Akira is the victor which leads to potentially more development as the three of them almost are volatile best friends now trying different dishes and making food…

The problem is that because the matches were pretty much one episode each rather than a bit more time to develop (there are some manga chapters that are not in these arcs which are only briefly referenced) it does feel they were just needing to get to a certain point which makes it slightly weaker – albeit there is still some development (especially when you learn Akira’s past and his meeting with Jun) but with Akira’s win, you may feel jipped – granted Soma not winning is a surprise but Akira’s gimmick of smell almost seems overpowered and a one trick pony (Ryo even calls him that, and his dish in the final was his way to prove he wasn’t as only used one spice but even then feels a bit gimmicked). That said, whatever the next arc hits with these characters may step up some stuff in the future…

There are 3 more episodes though which is the Stagaire arc where students take up in other restaurants and as the cooking school is so cut throat, if they fail their assignment (improving the restaurant) they will be booted out. Soma interestingly enough gets paired up with Hisako, who because he butt heads with Erina, the two (well Hisako really) get a bit hot-headed…combined with Hisako being upset about what she calls ‘failing’ Erina (who ironically is paired up with Megumi for some amusing moments) means there is a bit of trouble. Fortunately Soma’s experience with dealing with a lot of people with Hisako working behind the scenes seems to be doing OK – Soma realises that the restaurant is very set in their ways and could struggle again when they leave with the rush of orders. So instead of cutting the recipes, they suggest to go via reservation route which does work and also encourages Soma to return to Erina so the two seem to be on good terms now…which will be interesting the next time Soma butts heads with Erina…

The last two episodes however brings the return of Shinomiya, who if you remember was the guy who nearly got Soma and Megumi expelled – however thanks to Megumi’s rainbow terrine dish he has changed a bit and now Soma in his solo expedition is working for his new Tokyo branch. Shinomiya’s style is a lot more challenging for Soma who struggles to keep up at first, but he slowly learns and preps earlier and genuinely asks the staff for help and learn new techniques for his cooking a la his father. He enters a competition which could see him pass to create a food that is his ‘speciality’ which comes into a French style chicken and egg rice bowl but using quail instead (and I was drooling when I saw this – this show STILL make you hungry) – whilst he seems to fail…it was only because Shinomiya wants to refine the dish so it can be on the menu, which leads him to pass. The show ends with Soma ready to take on the world, so we’ll see how it leads after this…

Being familiar with the manga this does feel a bit rushed as whilst am aware adaption’s have to change to fit in (especially as of this current writing, season 3 has just finished and is getting close to where the manga is currently at) – it still hurts a bit though that it felt like each episode had to go through quickly and only the actual final was there some good focus and time dedicated to it. Akira’s victory means Soma’s goes through not quite the invincible protagonist and more akin to an Ash Ketchum back in the day of doing well but not winning and then having to get better. But whilst Soma isn’t getting new Pokémon, he is going to be learning new techniques (indeed, a clip at the end of the series suggests he is accepting battles from anyone and if he wins, the person he beats as his condition has to teach him their techniques) to advance his style of cooking, as a conversation with his father suggests he sees why he sent him to Tootsuki now. This gives Soma definite focus and whilst he is still a bit cocky, he is much more wary and understanding now he realises he isn’t invincible and is eager to learn.

The other matches stand out as working their way to the final – the introduction of Subaru may be a surprise to those who hadn’t read the manga because of the way the 1st season ended but gives a true villain (though you learn that it was in fact Eizan behind everything) where even he gets redeemed when he loses to Soma – even Hisako who was just cannon fodder for Hayama gets some slight development when she feels like she’s not worthy for Erina and has to team up with Soma for the Stagiure which could be interesting when Soma interacts with her and Erina in the future. All the other characters also get some form of development albeit shortened – Hayama with his past with Jun, Ryo with Alice, Megumi developing much more braver, and Alice being more humbled. I guess Aldini got the short end of the stick but even he has a set up with not wanting his tool back and wishes to challenge Soma for it so despite the rushed nature there is still enough given to the characters that stands out. There’s even a seed of friendship between Erina and Megumi which could prove really interesting considering their relationships are quite different with Soma…

With the final arc and the return of Shinomiya and his nature definitely changing, that influence will definitely lead to Soma improving – there is a hint of what is going to happen for the next arc and whilst this was definitely rushed, it certainly wasn’t bad. It entertained, gave just enough in what it could, you just wished it had been expanded a bit more.

Summary:
The second season of Food Wars suffers by being half the length of the 1st season but granted with the characters established and the battle arc dragging this isn’t the worst thing in the world. Whilst we have one new character introduced, the rest get enough moments in the sun and development to make the show worthwhile and Soma’s development in particular is now shining. Definitely need to watch after the 1st season and sets you up to drool at more food in the next one…

Features:

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 13th, 2018
MSRP: £34.99
Running Time: 320 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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