If you have flipped on cable in the last ten years (or maybe more) you know food television is the rage. There’s a new show with a twist every week and we can’t get enough. May I interest you in a food manga? Food Wars is not new–we’re on 33 volumes and running–and it even has an anime to back it up. That said, having only dabbled in the series and randomly picking up the 33rd volume I have to say you’re missing out if you’re a foodie, a Food Channel connoisseur, or if you love fun twists this edition of Food Wars may be just the thing for you.
This volume is all about the start of The Blue tournament, but before it gets underway the lead character Soma Yukihira has a conversation with his father that sets up the competition wonderfully. In it, we gain good insight into why Soma is doing the tournament and what he’ll do when he wins. It’s all about family and he wants to take it further than it has ever gone before. It adds a nice sentimental angle to Soma’s story and makes us want him to win.
The competition is set up to get through four gates or challenges. We soon learn Soma and his friends are at a disadvantage as others, including the horrible Noir gang, get to start later in the series. This works to set up Soma and his friends as the underdogs but also keeps the Noir folks on the side for later. This volume takes us through the first two challenges along with a surprise at the end. Both challenges are incredibly exciting with twists and turns to keep your interest up. That goes for the recipes Soma comes up with, but also the detective work required to beat the challenges. Soma isn’t just making dishes, but figuring out how to win over the judges. It’s a fun angle that makes it more about cooking and requires Soma to be clever.
The first challenge involves an old retired vet who cooked in his past. How it subverts our understanding and throws in a wild twist that makes Soma quite a good judge of character, is inspiring. How he wins is quite clever and it may even bring a tear to your eye. The second challenge involves a 7-Eleven and it’s creative in how it twists your expectations. You might think it’s all so simple but there’s a nice double twist in there.
The art by Shun Saeki is quite good, especially the explanation/recipe panels which show the food glimmering like gold. There are some creative cutaways to characters to convey how they feel–like a woman judge practically naked to “take the shirt off yer back”–that adds a layer of creative splurges. Most importantly the drama is raised to 11 (out of 10!) quite a bit thanks to the attention to framing. The story gets you anxious in a good way and you’ll be rooting for the heroes, even more, thanks to the smart cuts to close-ups and food.
This series is deliciously entertaining and clever. Don’t pass this up for its smart ideas and great food porn sensibilities.