Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 22 features the thrilling rematch between Soma Yukihira and Akira Hayama. This is the first time the duo has competed since Hayama bested Yukihira during the Fall Classic, and with an ingredient as difficult to manage as bear meat, Yukihira has to pull out all the stops to avoid a repeat of their previous match. Does this volume keep up the series’ trend of exciting cooking competitions and gorgeous-looking food?
Come to this volume with an appetite, because as with every chapter of Food Wars!, Shun Saeki’s art will leave your mouth watering. The food in this series is always drawn and textured in an appetizing way that’s only heightened by Yuto Tsukuda’s descriptions. Even when the characters are cooking dishes that don’t sound like things I’d normally enjoy, they are represented so lovingly by the creators that I can never help but want to try a bite. I would be remiss without mentioning the deep dive into chemistry Tsukada always plunges into when describing the science of how particular flavors act and react when combined with one another. The science of Food Wars! adds an extra layer to the competitions that conveys a great amount of effort and knowledge on Tsukada’s part.
In Food Wars!, delicious-looking food is always accompanied by people enjoying it so much that visualizations of them losing their clothes in ecstasy are used to give the series a humorous, over-the-top gimmick. Because this volume covers a cook-off between two expert chefs like Hayama and Yukihira, characters lose their clothes quite a lot and it’s often funny how campy the series gets over great-tasting food.
Less funny is the fact that two characters in this volume who are extremely sexualized in this way are a pair of fifteen-year-old girls. Not only does their ecstasy over the cooking strip them naked, but at one point they’re even visually represented as “well-trained pets” complete with a disembodied hand holding a whip. Kinks are fun, but with characters this young, the humor fell flat with me and made me very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, all the human characters are rendered cleanly and consistently throughout, and Saeki’s background work is especially pleasing during outdoor scenes. There are a number of trees and mountains that look almost photorealistic and show that Saeki pays attention to more than just food when drawing the series.
Where the volume succeeds more is through the developing rivalry between Yukihira and Hayama. It’s clear that Hayama has his own motivations for rising through the ranks of the Totsuki Institute and is uninterested in Yukihira’s competitive nature. Tsukada does good job of writing Yukihira as a character who’s able to goad people into agreeing to cook-offs while not letting that competive side make him unlikable. The pacing of their competition kept me on the edge of my seat and the character work done to establish their rivalry made the emotional stakes feel as important as whether or not Yukihira would be expelled for losing.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 22 is an exciting, funny volume that kept me invested in the characters while maintaining focus on intense, mouthwatering cooking competitions. There are some uncomfortable moments regarding the nudity gimmick, but the volume is a fun read nonetheless.