Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: FOOD WARS!, Shokugeki no Soma Volume 1

FOOD WARS!, Shokugeki no Soma VOL. 1

STORY: Yuto Tsukuda
ART: Shun Saeki
TRANSLATION: Adrienne Beck
EDITOR: Jennifer LeBlanc
ISBN: 978-1-4215-7254-3; paperback (March 2014); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
208pp, B&W, $9.99 US, $12.99 CAN

Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma is a shonen culinary arts manga from writer Yuto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki.  The series focuses on Soma Yukihira, a 15-year-old boy forced to attend an elite culinary arts school.

Soma’s father, Joshiro Yukihira, runs a small family restaurant in the less savory end of town.  Soma aims to one day surpass his father’s culinary prowess, so the teen hones his skills day in and day out.  However, one day, his father suddenly decides to enroll Soma in a classy culinary school.  Soma does not believe he needs to go to culinary school, so can he really succeed in a place that prides itself on a 10 percent graduation rate?

Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma, Vol. 1 (Endless Wilderness; Chapters 1 to 5) opens with Soma trying out some horrifying recipes on the customers at Yukihira Family Restaurant.  Soma’ father, Joshiro, challenges his talented son to a cooking duel, which he wins.  The son still has a lot to learn, but Soma believes that he is ready to take over the family business.

Before he leaves the country, however, Joshiro registers Soma at Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute, the premiere culinary school in Japan.  First, Soma has to win his admission.  Standing in his way is Erina Nakiri, the beautiful, domineering heiress of the school, of which her grandfather, Senzaemon Nakiri, is the dean.  She immediately scares away all of the new student seeking entrance into the school… except Soma.  Can he convince her that he belongs there at all?!

[This story contains two bonus stories, the “special short,” Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma” and a side story, “Kurase’s Diary.”]

VIZ Media sent me a copy of the Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma Volume 1 for review.  The publisher first released Vol. 1 for its digital manga app (March 2014).  The print release is due this month (August 2014).

I didn’t think much Food Wars! after giving it a cursory glance, although I am a fan of “foodie manga” like Yakitate!! Japan and Oishinbo (as well as Toriko, which focuses on imaginary food stuffs and ingredients).  After reading Food Wars! Vol. 1, I love it!  I have another item for my full-course manga menu.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma mixes elements of samurai fiction, the culinary arts, and high school shonen comedy, and it certainly is funny.  In Soma, the series has a brash, but likeable young male lead.  His adversaries are culinary, cooking, and foodie snobs like Erina Nakiri and his fellow Totsuki Saryo students.  I don’t want to spoil much more, but Soma’s cooking talents do something both outrageous and funny to people who doubt him and then, taste his cooking.  Soma also has a mad scientist like tendency that gives the series another layer of humor.

The first volume of Food Wars! is a fantastic start to this series.  I hope the second volume proves that this start is not a fluke.  Fans of foodie manga and of shonen comedies aimed at older male teens will like Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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