Food and sex. Individuals have an endless fascination all around the world with both, and why not? They are inextricably linked with our most fundamental drives, survival and procreation. The late Japanese director Juzo Itami poked fun at both in his landmark comedy, Tampopo, and who, needless to say, hasn’t seen 9 1/2 Weeks? Now think of those themes in a fighting high school anime setting, and you’re prepared for Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma. Actually, I may be overstating the case a little on the sex facet of the show, but I got your attention, didn’t I?
The series’ chief protagonist, Soma Yukihira, is the son of Yukihira Restaurant owner and star chef Joichiro Yukihira. Soma’s gastronomic creations have the inclination cause diners (at least in their own minds) to lose their clothing and inhibitions upon their very first taste. Of course, he also has the inclination take his individual food explorations into the realm of the absurd, as he does when he prepares grilled squid with peanut butter. The reactions of his unwitting victim to that special cuisine is graphic and hilarious, to say the least.
The series follows Soma’s adventures from his family’s restaurant, which his dad closes in order to travel and cook abroad, to the esteemed and highly elite Totsuki Culinary Academy, in which his dad enrolls him to finish his high school instruction. Additional information can be located about Shokugeki No Soma here. A commoner among elites, youthful Soma understands nothing of the finer points of international gastronomy, however he does possess an extraordinary gift for cooking and creating narrative through food, an innate knowledge of ingredients as well as the way in which they work together, and an unshakeable belief in his own means that friends and enemies alike often blunder for arrogance and cockiness. He becomes the only transfer student to pass the stringent entrance exam that year, and at the entry ceremony brazenly announces the school is just a stepping stone for him on his path to culinary supremacy. This sets up a string of competitions and the introduction of a plethora of vibrant characters who are out to destroy this little upstart commoner.
And of course, among the elites are the bad guys, most notably Erina Nakiri, the granddaughter of the academy’s director and holder of the coveted top position in the very best ten students in the school. Soma, obviously, isn’t impressed or intimidated, and seeks the area for himself. The way that pupils compete with each other is through the school’s sanctioned events, called Shokugeki, hence the title. There are three judges who decide which pupil’s cuisine is the best. There is an air of Iron Chef that encompasses this competition. The cost for losing is often being expelled from the school and their cooking livelihood at an end.
There’s a lot going for this collection. That said, it appears the subtleties lie more in the foods themselves, and not too much in the characters. They appear to be presented more as vehicles for the food than as creations that could “walk around the corner,” as one friend of mine set it. www.ShokugekiSoma.com is covered more thoroughly on this website. However, this really is an extremely interesting show to watch, and if you want to cook, you can definitely glean some new thoughts from the foods presented, which are actual cuisines from around the world.
The tasting arenas are, of course, fan service at its most obvious, but who cares? This really is simply not an anime with some deep meaning to show (at least, not yet), nor is it striving to uphold some high standard of storytelling superiority. In the timeless tradition of fighting anime, the actions, characters, and also the stories themselves are blown way out of proportion, and exaggeration is a portion of the bargain. The actual star of this series is the food itself.