Fifteen-year-old Souma Yukihira dreams to one day surpass his father's cooking skills and take over as the chef of their small family diner. However, his aspirations come to a halt when his father announces the closure of their restaurant, as he must travel abroad for cooking-related business.
In the meantime, Souma is urged by his father to attend Tootsuki Culinary Academy: a world-renowned school where expulsions of incompetent students are commonplace. Due to the curriculum's rigor, any student that manages to graduate is recognized as a chef of great caliber. Reluctantly agreeing to the proposition, Souma heads to Tootsuki's high school division for the entrance exam. Little does he know, he will soon begin a new chapter of his life—one that entails new friends, daring rivalries, and sleepless nights.
Some of the recipes used in the series are compiled in the manga volumes by the collaborator chef, Yuki Morisaki. A recipe book was released June 4, 2015 featuring both recipes from the manga as well as new ones exclusive to the book, written by Morisaki with illustrations done by Shun Saeki.
Shokugeki no Souma has been published in English as Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma by VIZ Media under the Shonen Jump Advanced imprint since August 5, 2014. It has also been published in Polish as Kulinarne Pojedynki by Waneko since November 2016.
So once again it's a familiar scenario, another long running shounen manga couldn't fulfill its potential after showing some early promise.
Shokugeki started off as a one of the shining stars in the magazine, with its simple focus on cooking and its exaggerated battles. With its fantastic art, a confident male protagonist and a colourful cast of characters, it managed to draw attention despite having the tried and tested shounen formula. However after a certain point, the story suddenly started falling apart, and eventually reached an underwhelming ending. What exactly happened? Let's find out in the following review.
As it can be gathered from the synopsis, the
manga follows the journey of a 15 year boy called Yukihira Souma, who dreams to surpass his father as a cook, and has to face many trials and tribulations along his way. The first half 130 chapters of the manga follows the usual sports manga format- lots of cooking battles which are called "shokugeki", other competitors with their own aspirations and development, nice twists in the story, innovative cooking with appealing art, and so on. What made shokugeki so entertaining is how it managed to keep the premise both simple and refreshing. However, after all these chapters, the story suddenly throws an antagonist into the mix, for the sake of creating some drama. This is a major turning point of the manga since for the first time, the series introduced a primary antagonist. Sounds exciting right?
Not really, since the story's quality quickly goes into a downward spiral after this.
Shokugeki never really needed an over-the-top antagonist in the first place. An enemy, who has some ridiculous plans while trying to bring a revolution into the cooking world, sounds quite odd even for shokugeki's exaggerated standards. Bringing such a twist into the story means quite a few implications. The readers are introduced to some new fodder characters as "villains", who eventually prove to be stepping stones of success for the main cast, giving hardly any reasons to care for them. This also means that high stakes hardly have any meaning now, a stark contrast compared to the tension created in the earlier parts of the story. Even for the battles, results can be predicted from far away. Evil judges? No worries, good guys will win anyway as the food will overwhelm everyone. Any structure of power levels for characters? That's obsolete too.
So after all that, this can't get worse right? Not really, after such a long drawn out arc with poor pacing, comes an even worse antagonist. If the previous adversary ruined the plot of the manga, then this guy helped to destroy the characterization of the manga. Main heroine's character is again used as a plot device to set up the new arc, side characters hardly having any meaning now, Souma's growth as a character stalled, and the list goes on. What about cooking? "Dark chefs" using tools like chainsaw, apparently there is no such thing called suspension of disbelief. At this phase, the story completely lost its touch with reality.
As a result, the manga eventually goes through the last arc with a very rushed pacing, shoehorning a major plot point in the process, and further concludes with an even more disappointing ending. What's even worse is the fact that these antagonists are given major sob stories just towards the end of the manga, when it's already too late.
Being the main character, Souma's fun, confident and unpredictable nature proved to be quite a success for the manga in the first half. Trying to learn from his failures, desire to try out creative techniques, there were quite a few standout aspects of his characters. However, when the main character gets too powerful in a shounen manga, it can always be a problem, and that's exactly what happened. His character's development eventually reached a saturation point, after which everything seemed to be a repetition of the previous events.
Erina, the main heroine of the series, gained some major character development in a major arc, but it didn't take too long to see all her growth getting reverted in one of the subsequent arcs by the typical "damsel in distress" arc.
Talking about the side characters overall, it's truly a pity to see how the likes of Takumi, Megumi, Alice or many others who actually started as promising characters, were pushed to the sidelines as the story progressed. New villains with rehashed motivations were added after every few chapters, to keep up with Souma's pace of growth as a chef. As a result, these side characters along with their motivations and ambitions, slowly started to lose their relevance in the story. Characters like Nikumi, Kurokiba and many others were almost entirely forgotten by the end of the manga.
Art has been always one of the best aspects of shokugeki, but it's interesting to notice the slow decline in the art as the series reached its last phases. A careful inspection will reveal that the earlier chapters have more appeal in this aspect, with various kinds of facial expressions and more background details to gain the attention of the readers. In some of the later chapters, the linework seems more inconsistent, especially how the expressions are drawn for some of the characters. The dynamic effect created due to the art in the earlier chapters seem to be missing later on, especially as the fanservice aspect gets pretty bland and unimaginative too. This might be seen as decline in creativity as a result of the boring story.
All in all, shokugeki is another shounen manga with wasted potential. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", but for some reason the manga tried to overcomplicate itself by deviating from its simple storyline and hence ruining everything in the process.
What was once a shining star in the overall mediocrity of Shonen Jump’s catalog, finished its run worse than the likes of Death Note and Fairy Tail’s endings. I kid you not. Yes, I said Fairy Tail, and no I don’t think I’m being facetious. I have no words — I mean how could I?
There is nothing to say, nothing whatsoever. Any effort would be a waste, and yet this intellectually fickle mind is doing it regardless. Take that how you will.
There are no ideas to be portrayed, no textures to be defined, and not even a single
contention to be had. It is at the point where criticism is in of itself a completely benign endeavor. It is baffling, but it is also reality. Yes, this ending does exist, and no, it is not a tumbler-esque fan fiction. I apologize, I really do. All those page turns and bubbling oddities were nothing more than a cover up for the nothingness that remains hidden under platitudes.
The ending is a slight on all that is good and kind. My good friend Paddington would have more than a few words to say to this abomination. It is dissonant in the workings of satisfying character/plot progression and conclusions in ways one could not feasibly picture in their bulky weeb brain.
Emotional it is not. Just ask the Azami’s flaccid plot twist to instantly become a likable character to fit the plot. Visceral it is not. Tosh is a god, but the flat story boarding is most definitely not. Someone needs to take notes from the friendly neighborhood Eiichiro Oda. Endearingly bombastic is it not, it’s annoying, if anything, at this point. It is a bastardization of all the effort that has led up to this point, from both the creators and the reader.
And yes, I’m a sentimental fool who will give it a 6/10 regardless. Sue me.
Shokugeki no Soma is a textbook case of a manga that lost itself along the way.
Somewhere along the line, the story stopped being about a cooking school and over-the-top villains came into picture and the manga became a hot mess after that.
After a very, very long arc with the first over-the-top villain, another one came into line, and by God, it's the worst character. Yeah, the worst character. Not the worst character in the manga. Not the worst character in WSJ mangas. Not the worst character in any manga. It's the worst character in any given story I've read.
This character ruined the power levels of
the manga, helped Soma regress all his development as a chef, ruined Joichiro's character AND his status as the final boss, it's in the process of ruining Erina (as of chapter 289) and the whole story. There were people that hated the first over-the-top villain. I miss the first villain dearly.
It's such a pity. The art is top-notch, the cast is memorable and likeable (you know, when Tsukada bother to write about them), the story was really great for most of the part (even in the Central Saga, in my opinion).
When I read, Shokugeki no Soma weekly, it's like watching the Hidenburg being gulfed in fire. 'Oh, the Humanity", indeed.
One of my favorite mangas in the past, I don't recommend it to anyone by now. My grade isn't lower only because of the memory of greater times. I don't drop this clusterfuck because I've been reading it for so long... I'm too committed. At this point, I only care about the shipping aspects, and even then the fanfics are a better option than this once great manga. The only scenario I'd recommend someone to read Shokugeki no Soma is if they want to see the rise and fall of a title. If you want to read a good story, maybe consider reading until chapter 260 something, that should be enough. Or don't read it all.
"Look how they massacred my boy" - Vito Corleone, The Godfather & T-Hawk, Reading this series every week.
Shokugeki No Souma has been a staple of Weekly Shonen Jump for over 6 years now and at times it sat near the top of the mountain as one of the most unique ongoing shonen series out there that took your typical battle manga and flipped it on it's head. It seems however that the best days of this manga have long gone by and what we are left with is something that is a shell of it's former self, begging to just be put out of it's
The problem's arising here is not one isolated to this series but in fact often shared with many other series under the same publication and within the industry. Just like in the fall of Bleach or the consistent escalation of villains and power in Dragon Ball and just about 80% of battle manga. The problem with Shokugeki No Souma is that it keeps on going on and on. To be able to consistently write a consistently entertaining series for years all the while under the pressure of the weekly demands of Shonen Jump is extremely difficult to do and it's not surprising to see author Yuto Tsukuda fall into the pitfalls so many before him have done.
So just how has this once new titan of Weekly Shonen Jump fallen?
- STORY -
The story of Yukihira Souma was once quite simple. Our protagonist Yukihira Souma runs a diner with his father of which he has near daily has cooking battles with to determine who is the better chef. Souma has never once defeated his father in these cooking battles and due to his father is worried that Souma will never grow as a chef. So in order for our protagonist to grow to the level where he might some day defeat his father and be worthy of running his own diner, he is enlisted to become a student at the most elite culinary school in Japan where quite similar battles take place, titled "Shokugekis".
That was it and of course during the story our protagonist meets friend and foe alike. Now this may seem very generic and boring minus the cooking part but that's because Shokugeki No Souma seemingly purposefully followed the generic trends of your average battle manga and flipped them on it's head with it's battle system. The "Shokugeki" is a genius concept because cooking is not a life or death subject so that means that a lot (but not all) battles in this battle manga don't have physical connotations but instead emotional ones. Pride, hopes, dreams are what is often at stake here, there are times where there are things such as expulsion from the school on the line but those are far less interesting then simply having our protagonist and side characters revealing their motivations and ideals through non-lethal clashes, which means whether they win or fail, we still get to see how they are affected by the results of these clashes.
But here lies the problems with the manga in it's current state, more specifically the last few arcs. There was only so many times that Tsukuda could write the same characters in the same battles with the same motivations and same ideals. So in come the introduction of newer characters with abilities that surpass our protagonist simply because we need someone new for our protagonist to eventually beat. These new characters are very hit or miss but whether we love them or not is regardless but when they're beaten they often seem to disappear off the face or the earth or become just another side character. All the while our protagonist's ability seems to reach levels of a god despite not having even finished his first year in the academy yet. Side characters, once with their own dreams are reduced to commentary, villains turn good just because we have a new villain who is somehow worse and all of the sudden people go from actual cooking techniques to using "spice chainsaws" and that last one isn't a joke.
- ART -
This is where Shokugeki no Souma has shined and continued to do so in spite of the decreasing quality of everything else within the series. Shun Saeki has done excellent with the series and has brought exceptional amounts of life into nigh every panel. One should prepare for a watering mouth at the sight of a singular panel of the food in Shokugeki no Souma, as it's often more appealing than the real thing.
Character designs are so entrancing and unique that despite the character's often short shelf life of appearances within the manga they are always immediately recognizable upon any reappearance and has lead to a cast that is extremely lovable based on the individuality of their design alone and the motions of their often ridiculous actions whilst taking part in shokugeki are illustrated to perfection and usual hilarity.
It can however be said that Shokugeki No Souma perhaps on occasion a little too far into the ecchi portion of the series and illustrations leave little to the imagination. However on the flip side of that, it is not just the girls of Shokugeki No Souma that receive such treatment so the paradoxical nature of the series towards your average Shonen manga is still left intact.
- CHARACTER -
This will be kept brief as it's very similar to the story section of this review but Shokugeki No Souma suffers once more from the same problems most shonen manga does if it runs for any extended period of time. We are introduced to characters that are fleshed out with their own ambitions, backstory, etc. Then they are shoved to the backline in favor of our protagonist and his love interests. People that once were intrigued the reader to wanting more appearances now offer little more than running commentary as they haven't been awarded the same astronomical power boosts that our protagonist has.
Another thing to note about the characters of the series are the villains. Understandable and interesting when they were fellow students who resorted to cheap tactics to advance their culinary skills and therefore contradicting the ideals of Yukihira Souma, however by advancing Souma to a point beyond the academy so quickly, we are left with Tsukuda introducing villains simply for them to be beaten because Souma has already surpassed anyone remotely interesting. Villain comes in, has no motivation other than going against our protag, uses some ridiculous new cooking technique that Souma has never seen before, Souma wins and will use their technique in the future, repeat. Congrats villain, either disappear or join the commentary booth.
- ENJOYMENT -
As you can probably tell with the tone of this review, their was love for this series in my heart at one point and a genuine excitement for every chapter. That love has been lost to say the least and any interest to be found in the series, it's story or characters have waned. The initial arcs are worth reading and for the most part fun, engaging and interesting. However it would be unwise to invest yourself in a new series if when you catch up with it you are only left with disappointment and a bitter taste in your mouth.
Shokugeki No Souma was great. Shokugeki No Souma was enjoyable. Shokugeki No Souma IS average. Shokugeki No Souma IS tedious.
- CONCLUSION -
Looking at Shokugeki No Souma and all I can see is an author who is struggling under the break neck format of Weekly Shonen Jump, desperate to just get this story over with as quickly as possible. It has been a long time since a chapter that could be deemed undoubtedly satisfying and if it wasn't for the efforts of artist Shun Sakei, their would be little to no merit at continuing with this series. This series is a sick dog, reflected in it's sales and decline in the ranks of Shonen Jump.
I'm just waiting for the day where Weekly Shonen Jump tells us all that this sick dog can't be saved.
- SCORE -
Story - 3/10
Art - 9/10
Character - 3/10
Enjoyment - 3/10
Overall - 5/10
There’s just something about anime food that makes us drool with desire, and food has been the main theme of various anime series. If you’re looking to satisfy your food and anime cravings all in one go, get a taste of these fun and interesting cooking anime series.
Amongst the many other fanservice anime out there, Shokugeki no Souma stands out in more ways than one - but not for the reasons you're probably thinking. There's more to this cooking show than clothing-divested women and this article will show you why it's worth your time!