My food is going to embrace you so hard, you will reach the climax of sensation, naked!
Where the cooking battles called Shokugeki dominate and control the entire position of the cooking society, welcome to Shokugeki no Souma! Alongside with simply the most attractive art, be prepared to be taken on a ride full of cliffhangers and tight moments. Furthermore, be sure to bring something to eat while you read through the pages, as you just might feel hungry when you see the beauty in the food shining in front of you.
Looking at these series as a whole, they are not really complex. Far from that. They are actually really simple, but manage to emphasize and execute the matter they bring so excellently that makes you want to read more and more, as well as gets you happy to follow further releases. The primary keyword wouldn't be "food", but "battles". "Food" comes the soonest on the second place, if not later. That would be because these series present their enjoyment focus through some sort of action, so to speak. They focus mainly on our characters facing off in cooking matches, which are judged and winners usually declared by some high-level people in the culinary world.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Some cooks showing off and aiming for the best. Well, I cannot say that's all there is to it, since there is one more factor that contributes a lot towards the overall liking of the series. That focus would be the setting. Our proud main character (highlight "proud") is a long-term cook and helper in his family, special-of-the-day restaurant. His overly manly and hot dad is a mysterious chef who is proven to be one of the best in the world. He sends his son, who clearly wants to surpass him, into the highest-class cooking school, where only rare pass. Here, things run around various cooking battles called Shokugeki. On short, win them and you'll be the main boss. Lose them, and you're out. It's like a gamble that's rather focused on cooking skills over luck. What does that bring us to? A huge, badass tournament, which is entertaining to the fullest.
Basically, if we compare these series to some sort of a supernatural shounen, they present us to the main, official battle to the top, alongside with many smaller, unofficial battles to fill in the gaps here and there, as well as present us to some new characters. The only two differences are that instead of physical fighting, the characters take each other on mentally and through their cooking. Food is their weapon, they are their casters. The second difference lies in quality. These series are those of a higher quality, regardless of their unserious focus through the story. They include a well-planned storyline and present it extremely well, regardless of the slow pacing many worry about.
Through their everyday struggle, our main characters get closer and closer to each other, hinting on a possible romance focus later in the series. What's more, they meet many new characters who get their own screentime. Now, this is where things get a little bit tricky. With so many new characters coming in in packs, many of the already-known characters are left out. They are left out even if they have the role of a main character. For example, at first, Erina has been considered as the deuteragonist of the series. Later on, she gets much less screentime and is set as the tritagonist. As of right now, when more and more characters keep on coming in, she didn't even appear in a few chapters in a row. She is only an example, though. It constantly happens with other characters as well. Now, whether this is good or not is really debatable, but I'd say it's for the better. These series focus on a tournament, and for them to stay fresh and full of enjoyment, our main protagonist has to face various new foes who he'll fight head-to-head. After all, just pulverizing the same peeps over and over again might tend to turn out boring, right? Still, a girl or two that would get at least a page on every second chapter would be good, to keep the main boy & girl setting up. As of late, we aren't getting that.
So, we've got the story full of excitement covered. We also have our gang of characters who build through the series at full speed. What we need now is to have all of this presented to us. This is where one of the biggest, if not the biggest strength-point of the series comes in — their marvellous art. Shun Saeki, the artists who has also drawn the one-shot "Our Love Counseling", does the most splendid job at keeping the characters, the food, as well as pretty much everything in the story as attractive at it gets. In many scenes, there are quite some minorities that get way too over-emphasized and over-dramatized by the art, but as a person reads through some characters, he/she gets used to it and only sees it as something funny, exciting and tight.
In the end, Shokugeki no Souma are some light series, filled with cliffhangers that tease you and make you wait for the next chapter to come out, but you don't get to dislike them for that. Focusing on various food showdowns and over-dramatized actions as well as resolves, they bring that peak of unserious enjoyment, and they do it right. With the whole pack of excitement the characters experience being presented through some excellent art, they certainly are a product worth of reading if you're a type that likes some light read including various tournament showdowns, but are bored of the overused physical violence. Sit down, grab some cookies or whatever, read Shokugeki no Souma, and get the warm feeling of experiencing something light, but most splendid.