Time of the Season Spring 2015 Edition: Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Food Wars: Shokugeki no Souma was only one of two series that appealed to me when I looked at the 2015 List for Spring Anime. I’ve been on the hunt for another great, over-the-top anime to wet my appetite and this cooking centric anime looked to be have the knowhow and animation style to be earn Michelin Stars.

I consider myself a chef; I love cooking and watch Food Network more than I would like to admit. It’s gotten to that point where the Hybrid One himself refers to me as “Gumboman.” So I know all the ins and outs to cooking from the importance of using seasonal ingredients, to the science of applying meat to different forms of heat and the chemistry of baking. This show goes beyond traditional Japanese cooking, making it easier to access. But does Food Wars leave you wanting for more?

Director: Yoshitomo Yonetani

Series Composition: Shogo Yasukawa

Original Author: Yūto Tsukuda

Character Design: Tomoyuki Shitaya

Original Artist: Shun Saeki

Animation Production: J.C. Staff

Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks

Streaming: Crunchyroll

Synopsis: Sōma Yukihira’s dream is to become a phenomenal, full-time chef in his father’s small, family restaurant and surpass his old man in cooking ability. But just as Sōma graduates from middle school, his father, Jōichirō Yukihira, closes down the restaurant to cook in around the world. Before leaving, Jōichirō enrolls Soma to the prestigious Tōtsuki Culinary Academy where less than 10% of students graduate from the strict teachings and cut-throat student body. Can Sōma overcome his stigma coming from a small diner and become the best chef the academy has ever seen?

Food Wars is so close to being amazing; so close you can actually taste it. And that is no joke, because the animation really understands how cooking is such an enthralling, creative activity. Many of the sequences where characters prepare food is done with spectacular flair, where we see how people can take simple ingredients can transform them into memorable experiences. Never for a second do you get bored watching people interact with one another or educate the audience about specific cooking methods.

I was pleasantly surprised at how all the characters were written to be very dynamic, but passionate people. Our titular Sōma is very entertaining lead, as his cock-sure, bold nature never deters him from people who try to talk him down. I knew I immediately liked this guy from the moment he knocked down a preppy kid who saying he was not good enough to be at the academy. His foil is the top student Erina Nakiri who keeps a confident, detached sense of entitlement from having the world’s best tasting palette. They retain really solid chemistry as they constantly surprise one another with their talents and reactions to events going on.

Yet for all the praise I toss onto this show, I can’t give it a full on recommendation. This show is a casualty for putting in too much uncomfortable fanservice that one can handle. Even for someone who knows about the existence of food porn, Shokugeki no Soma goes way too far pointing out the orgasmic nature of the food. We all can acknowledge when food is so good that it transcends taste itself, but do we really need visualizations of tentacle porn or busty girls moaning in pleasure/agony?

This show could have been the beautiful fusion between Kill La Kill and Iron Chef. But falling back on fan service for tired gags is the bad, over-salted fries to this show’s tasty burger of a main course. Sometimes the show can even be funny when over exaggerating the reactions to food, the best examples being Erina’s first words as a baby and a fasting monk who denounces his faith to eat Jōichirō’s food.

To the show’s credit, it puts more focus on technique over T&A as Sōma informs characters how certain culinary properties work. I might know that you can turn chicken stock into gelatin or honey can tenderize meat, but how many other people know that off the top of their heads? Yūto Tsukuda really understands how to inform the audience about new cooking techniques while keeping all the character’s dialogue interesting without pointing out the audience. Combined with Shun Saeki’s stylistic art, it makes me want to keep watching for the food discussions alone…but I’m forced to endure flow-breaking fanservice.

Now that’s the hot steamy action I want to see!)

It makes the show awkward to recommend when there are so many unusual aspects to weigh it down. I don’t know why Sōma has a quirk to combine seafood with strange condiments. The original manga has scenes where food makes people over-react with pleasure, but not to this extent with long shots of steam and squeals. The OP and ED are also fairly forgettable, with the opening having some noticeably off-key, strained singing. If the combination of fanservice with the over-the-top nature of the characters cooking doesn’t bother you, then this is a treat. But for me, I’m concerned to see if it can keep its head above honey. If you give a show like this too much leeway, the future episodes or seasons will forget about food and become all about the funbags.

This receives a Cautious Continue (Current Rating: 6.5 out of 10)

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma is licensed to Sentai Filmworks and currently streaming on. Crunchyroll. The original manga is ongoing, written/drawn Yūto Tsukada and Shun Saeki respectively. It is published by Viz Media and Weekly Shonen Jump.