Food Wars has been a really great, consistent manga title so far. Every month has been a lot of fun, with great characters, enjoyable writing and humor, and great looking artwork. Volume five is poised to end the first big story arc of the series, Food Camp, and move the story forward from there. Can it stick the landing on its first major arc?
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Vol. 5 (Viz Media)
Written By: Yuto Tsukuda
Drawn By: Shun Saeki
Translated By: Adrienne Beck
The students of the Totsuki Institute have one final big challenge to complete at their cooking camp. Not only must they come up with a new breakfast dish for the hotel they’re staying in, but they must also serve 200 dishes of their meal, buffet style, to a variety of guests and judges. It’s a very daunting task, one that made most students stay up all night long, but it may prove to be even more difficult than Soma ever imagined! Then after that craziness: deep fried chicken!
I also think her clothing abandoned her as well. Poor thing.
After a rather intense volume last time, this outing of Food Wars feels much more relaxed. Oh sure, the volume opens up with a very tense and desperate situation for Soma, but beyond that opening, the manga didn’t have nearly as big of stakes this time around. While it could be a bit disappointing if you liked the tone and the feel last time, this new volume is still a lot of fun and sets the stage for the next big event to look forward to.
The story here wraps up the first big arc and starts building things up for the next big event, the Fall Classic. The ending for the camp storyline was very good, formally introducing some new characters (Aka Alice) and providing some more character development for Soma. Specifically, the final challenge in the story really pushed him to limit, having him actually fail initially at his assignment when his food he served started falling apart (presentation was important to attract customers in order to pass) and then having to claw his way back, just barely passing. The resolution to the challenge and what happened afterwards were great, ending things off just right and having a few last minute surprises that’ll make you curious about what’ll happen next.
After that, the manga starts slowly building up the Fall Classic, this special event that will allow first year students who did very well during the camp to show off their skills in a competition. However, we don’t learn too much beyond that and that the Council of Ten (this mysterious group at the school) is running it. What we do really focus on more is a very small arc about fried chicken and Soma helping out some old customers of his from back home. It’s about four chapters long and at first, it doesn’t really seem to do much outside of develop some side characters, feeling rather slow in the process. However, it does turn out to have some unexpected consequences at the very end that’ll actually have some effect in the Fall Classic. Despite that though, and after everything in the series up until now, it’s probably the weakest or least interesting story portion of the manga. It’s not bad, but there’ve been better storylines up until now.
Don’t worry, I’ve seen this work before in the Ninja Turtles Movies from the 90’s. This disguise is foolproof!
Character-wise, there was a lot of good development going on here for a variety of characters. Our lead Soma was the most obvious in terms of development, seeing him struggle with his failure and having to learn from it quickly in order to pass the final big challenge. The best part of it is that he actually accepts his big mistake and fully intends to learn from it when everything is over, not wanting to slip up like that again. There are a lot of series I’ve read in the past where the heroes and leads just don’t seem to learn their lesson and it feels refreshing to hear a character want to improve. Then there is Megumi, who doesn’t have as much focus this time, but who still seems to be growing and developing from her face-off in the last volume. It’s even more evident of her growth when we learn she was nominated as one of the forty contestants for the Fall Classic, something that is only for the best of the best. It offers a great comparison between where she is now and where she was at the beginning of the series, just one failing grade away from being kicked out.
There were other characters that got development, some more than others and some in rather subtle ways. For instance, Marui had some subtle development when it was learned that he was picked to be one of the people in the Fall Classic. That comes across as a big and neat surprise, especially considering the running joke in the food camp storyline where he always looked half-dead or ready to pass out after every test. There was some minor bit with Erina and Alice, showing a bit of their backstories here. However, the biggest developments were with both Ikumi Mito and Mayumi Kurase.
Mayumi was basically a tiny side character who only appeared in the first chapter; just a girl who had a slight crush on Soma and was taste testing for contest between he and his dad. The fried chicken arc put her front and center, actually giving such a minor character a lot of development and expanding more on her personality (similar to Megumi, but with more confidence). Ikumi, also in the same arc, was given time to show how much she developed as a character from her last big appearance when she was an antagonist. While still a bit high and mighty, she was much nicer and even showed that her skills as a cook were developing, having learned some new tricks since joining the Bowl Society. The characterization in this series is great and still remains one of its strongest points.
The writing in general is also still very strong. The story structure and pacing are both good, but like usual, the overwhelming amount of exposition when the manga explains the food and recipes tends to grind things to a halt at points. Speaking of which, the exposition in the manga is still pretty strong at explaining things and even making the food dishes sound wonderful, but it can still be a bit too much in areas. The dialogue and narration otherwise are fine, still having plenty of great, funny, and even heartwarming lines at points. There are some stereotypical shonen manga messages about trusting and believing in your friends that can be cheesy, but the visuals and the way the messages are delivered never get too corny. The humor still hits most of the time, even with the silly foodgasms and visions people get. I really like how the writer has done a good job with establishing all of the styles of cooking the characters have. Every one of the big named characters have a style or focus when it comes to their cooking (Alice takes a more scientific approach, Megumi is more about food that shows concern for its eaters, etc.) and how it reflects their personality well, giving the book a nice and extra dynamic to it.
The artwork is still stellar and hasn’t slipped up yet. The characters are well-drawn, still easily identifiable and have an impressive range of emotions in their faces and body language. The food and cooking look so good and really make you hungry when you look at it, with a highlight being Soma’s little cooking show he did. The layouts are constructed well, the visual humor is great, and the manga is still capable of small and minor details that you might not even notice (for instance, if you look in the background when Ikumi is walking around in the mall, you can see several guys staring at her and their girlfriends getting angry with them). The quality of this artwork really just continues to shine more and more.
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Vol. 5 is another great volume of the series, wrapping up the first big arc and setting things up for an exciting future that is just on the horizon. While the story gets a bit slow and not as exciting as previous volumes in the middle, the writing, characters, and artwork more than make up for the small issues. This is still one of the best Shonen Jump series that Viz is currently releasing and something you should not miss out on.
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma is available from Viz Media with the sixth volume coming out in June. The series is currently available in digital format and as each new chapter goes up in Japan, a new chapter becomes available to read here. There is a light novel of the series being released in Japan as well. Also coming soon for the series in an anime adaption set to start airing April 2015, so get ready for that.