Never watch this show on an empty stomach.
Hello all readers of What’s A Geek! My name is Kimi and I’ll be contributing anime reviews from this point forward. Today, we’re looking at Episodes 1 & 2 of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, or as I’d like to call it – food porn to the extreme.
I mean this both in the literal and figurative sense. The setup of the show means that it is unabashedly shounen in it’s appeal – a teenage demographic that likes its big adventure stories, plucky hero and dirty jokes. Shokugeki no Soma is unabashed in offering all of that in equal measure. At the same time, it features some of the most exquisitely detailed depictions of food I’ve seen in an anime.
A failed experiment by Soma, roasted squid with peanut butter. It may sound disgusting, but it still looks visually appealing.
Our protagonist is the red haired Soma Yukihira, a graduating middle schooler who has aspirations of running the family diner Yukihira. Yukihira is run by the two man team of Soma and his dad, who are both seemingly exceptional chefs to the point where it becomes a neighbourhood affair when the two decide to have a cook off. Soma is all about surpassing his dad in producing great food and eventually take over Yukihira.
Yukihira’s existence is threatened by the appearance of the villain of the week, land shark Minegasaki. She comes in with her gang of thugs and makes thinly veiled threats to take over the land that the restaurant stands on, because what’s a shounen series without some early peril in it? Soma doesn’t take this lightly and responds that as long as he can fulfil what the customer wants, Yukihira will never close.
This of course means that Minegasaki goes to the extreme of ruining all of Yukihira’s fresh ingredients and coming in as a customer, demanding that Soma serve her some succulently juicy meat. Because she’s used to super fancy food from the best restaurants around the city, there’s no way that a chump like Soma could ever make something that could match – especially with no fresh ingredients.
How wrong she was.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma – taking the word foodgasm literally.
Soma manages to whip up an amazing roast pork using nothing more than bacon, potato and various seasonings. It’s very clear that the anime is well researched, because all of the “action shots” of the ingredients being cooked are surprisingly accurate. The juice of the roast pork bubbles viciously on screen, while the bacon wrapped around the mashed potato crisps and shrinks satisfyingly with a brown sheen. The result is nothing less than Minegasaki and her thugs backing down, all while enjoying this luxurious offering from our plucky protagonist.
Everything is better with bacon.
Episode 1 ends with a suprising twist – that despite Soma’s work in fending off the villain of the week, this show is not about keeping Yukihira going in a vastly adverse environment. Instead, Soma’s dad tells him that he accepted an offer to cook at another restaurant for a friend and Yukihira will be closing for three or so years. This means that Soma is no longer going to be the protector of his castle Yukihira, but rather he’ll be enrolling at the prestigious Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy to better his skills.
It’s one shounen archetype after another, but for some reason I can live with it. What becomes greatly apparent with the show is that it is very aware that it is a series aimed for certain markets – foodies and the young male demographic. It is self-indulgent, with lovingly detailed shots of food combined with the flashy effects and ritual of a coming of age shounen anime. It whets the palate enough to make you want more, because you’re simultaneously drawn to the attention to detail and Soma’s forth coming adventures.
This feeling is crystallised coming into Episode 2, where we actually see Soma taking the transfer exam to Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy. It towers above the landscape like a monolith to cooking excellence and Soma is immediately made to feel out of place with his rough and ready attitude. His pedigree is the neighbourhood diner while other applicants come from multinational restaurant chains, top end suppliers and the like. You can already feel yourself rooting for Soma, positioned as the underdog like this.
The most important part of this episode is that we’re introduced to Erina Nakiri, a blonde arrogant and indomitable third year student with a “god palette.” We’re treated to her history as a child genius who has nowhere to go but up. A self-proclaimed occupier of Gourmet Paradise, she refuses to waste her time judging and instead tells all of the would be applicants to get lost. She tells them that they can make a dish with egg as the main ingredient, but none of them would offer any food that could possibly satisfied her highly refined palate. So she’ll give them the easy way out and they can all leave with their dignities intact.
I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her.
Enter Soma, who of course is going to show that he can produce food to impress her and gain entry to the school. Which of course he does, but not with a few jokes at the expense of Erina. Erina is portrayed to be the highly experienced foil to Soma’s heartful style of cooking and she openly scoffs at what he prepared – egg on top of rice. But because Soma is our protagonist who will show up everyone – his rice turns out to be the most fantastic thing she’s tasted in a while.
And it actually involves highly advanced techniques too, featuring aspects of molecular gastronomy to have the egg transform as it’s on rice.
Because Erina refuses to let Soma show her up, her pride makes her fail him and refuses him entry. This is where Episode 2 ends and we’re left wondering – is Soma going to get in? Is Erina the future love interest of this show? Will we get more cooking challenges like this? And how could the possibly up the tasty factor of this show when we’re already salivating at our screens?
Courageous upstart hero meets refined and stubborn girl, the perfect storm for future actions
I was very glad that I watched this show after eating a meal, because I probably would have been too hungry otherwise. It’s the kind of show that you can kick back and enjoy without thinking too hard about it, with some fanservice that comes off more amusing than erotic considering the context. Any show that would put flashy effects on cooking is already good in my books and as long as it keeps up the detail and keeps Soma likeable, I think we’re in for a good season.
Episode 1 & 2 Rating: 4/5 Stars for a strong start, great animation and a likeable protagonist.
Episode 1 & 2 Gastronomy Factor: 3.5/5. The surprise factors of Soma’s roast pork and egg over rice (tamago kake gohan) puts unusual twists on familiar food. I’m looking forward to more unusual ingredients and preparations
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is broadcast every Friday, with a simulcast available on Crunchyroll the same day at 8:25pm IST.