How did we get so lucky? Over the past two months, Madman Entertainment have been releasing the Food Wars! Manga in pairs, I assume so that they can catch up to Viz Media’s North American release schedule which is already up to volume eight! Despite the reason why, I just hope the Manga keeps coming at this pace because I’ll be damned if I have to go a month without reading at least a single volume of this Shonen Jump Advanced food fest! Yeah, that’s how much I’m liking it so far.
There may be some of you out there who aren’t exactly up to date with Food Wars!, and I suggest that you do not read this review seeing as you’ll be way out of the loop. Instead, why don’t you go and read my review of the first two volumes which can be found here. I assure you, as the person who wrote the review, it’ll be very much worth your while. Who knows? You may even end up grabbing yourself a new Manga because of it!
Now let’s quickly catch you who have read the first two volumes, or at least the review of them, up to speed: Soma, the main character, has entered an elitist cooking academy that boasts teaching excellence and cutthroat classes that will surely produce the world’s greatest culinary artists…if they can graduate. At the end of volume two, Soma and the crew set off on a school trip wherein which only a few of them will return.
The start of volume three sees the students arrive at Totsuki Village; a Totsuki-run resort that, much like it’s school, prides itself on heavenly hospitality and the types of meals that would even make the devil himself believe he’s died and gone to heaven. THIS will be the student’s battleground for the next two volumes, and THIS is where Soma will be pushed to his absolute limits. THIS is Food Wars! Volumes Three and Four.
The “friendship and team-building” camp from hell begins! While most students are already petrified by the threat of instant expulsion for low marks, the unveiling of the teachers responsible for judging their dishes ratchets their fear to a whole new level! Just which anxiety-inducing teachers hold the culinary futures of Soma and the rest of the Polaris crew in their hands this time? Includes the one-shot “Your and My Romance Counseling”! – Madman Entertainment (Volume Three)
Let the shokugeki begin! Soma has challenged Totsuki graduate Chef Shinomiya in order to prevent Megumi’s pending expulsion. However, thanks to a condition levied by Gin Dojima, the match turns in an unexpected direction! With such a foolhardy challenge, can Soma and Megumi win to survive another day? – Madman Entertainment (Volume Four)
At the risk of repeating myself, I have to outline that volumes three and four of Food Wars! were so enjoyable for the exact same reasons volumes one and two were so enjoyable; the series mixes in standard Shonen tropes with the world of expect cooking in ways that I’ve honestly never seen before. In volume three, we’re introduced to the Aldini brothers, the older of which quickly becomes Soma’s kitchen rival as they compete to see which of them, both being raised in their very own family restaurant, is truly better than the other. The introduction of Takumi Aldini and his younger brother Isami brings about a new culinary arc that mostly revolves around a subtle battle between traditional Italian and Japanese cooking seeing as Soma was born and raised in Japan, and the Aldini’s in Italy.
While the clear story arc of the two volumes is that of the “Friendship And Team Building Camp“, it is the continuous war between the two polar opposite chefs burning in the background that really had me excited to continue reading. What made their rivalry so great to witness was just how intricately it was written. Takumi doesn’t necessarily know Soma, and Soma couldn’t really care less about Takumi, but when the older Aldini twin confronts the infamous young chef and details why it is that he’s superior, Soma cannot help but want to put him in his place. From instant enemies, the two begin to develop into rivals, and when Soma lands himself in some serious hot water with one of the camp instructors, a whole different side of Takumi is shown. One that lets the audience know that this aggressive half-Italian isn’t going to be fighting against our “hero” forever.
Now as if Soma didn’t already make a name of himself at the entrance exams, he’s gone ahead and made another big ruckus at the camp by challenging one of the more arrogant and prideful examiners who dared to expel a member of Polaris Dormitory for doing something as insignificant as changing the contents of a dish ever so slightly. This small arc takes up most of volume four and serves as the major complication until the very last chapter wherein which we’re left with quite a cliffhanger. This arc shows a different side to Soma, one that still very much highlights his amazing culinary prowess but one that also shows just how great he can be at being backup for another chef. I found it amazing that, only after taking a back seat to another, have we as the audience been allowed to see just how efficient and dexterous a chef Soma really is, even when comparing it to previous feats of greatness.
With a Manga featuring illustrations as amazingly polished as in Food Wars!, nothing much has really changed from the first volume regarding it’s overall visual excellence. Shun Saeki knows exactly what it is that he’s doing in regards to illustrating action in a series that features, for all intents and purposes…absolutely no “action“. What you’d usually expect from a typical Shonen Jump title still remains in Food Wars! but in a way that you can’t necessarily imagine until after experiencing the Manga for yourself. Anthony Bourdain says working in the kitchen is like being in the military, and no military outfit goes their entire lives without seeing some form of combat…Yuto Tsukuda, the author, understands this well and Shun Saeki knows exactly what he needs to draw to show kitchen combat without showing any actual conflict.
Action through food preparation is the best way to describe the visuals of Food Wars! Whether it be the Aldini twins passing a sharpened Mezzaluna back and forth while creating their masterpiece or Megumi Tadokoro dashing around the kitchen battling her anxiety while trying to find the right preparatory tools, there’s always something to see and appreciate on every single page of Food Wars!. Even during parts of the Manga wherein which the characters are simply interacting as young men and women would, Saeki still knows how to illustrate dialogue dramatically enough to keep you very much interested. Then of course you have the pages wherein which characters react to the food they’ve just eaten which are almost always incredibly sexual and fantastically humorous.
At first, I thought Food Wars! was just a pretty good Manga series with a great deal of heart and a writer that clearly knows his cooking. After two volumes I was fairly impressed with what it had to offer but I never thought it’d be something I would get THIS excited over. After reading through volumes three and four I’ve been reinvigorated with a love for the world of cooking and a grand excitement for the volumes of Food Wars! to come. This is not your average Shonen Jump Manga. This is not your average Shonen Jump Advanced Manga. This is not your average cooking story. This is something on a totally different level, one that I’ve never seen reached before.
Food Wars! features everything we’ve come to love from standard Shonen Jump titles but it features levels and levels of added depth and intelligence that only one who has engulfed themselves in the culinary world could possibly write about. Each and every dish prepared in the series comes packed with it’s very own reasoning and justification alongside an actual recipe that makes it easy for us reading to recreate what it is we’ve just seen. The characters, each of them unique and each of them likeable, interact wonderfully and in much the same way as any other Shonen title.
I won’t lie; Food Wars! is absolutely not a Manga for your average fan of Japanese pop culture. It’s not a Manga for those of you who like Shonen Jump titles, it’s not even a Manga for those of you that enjoy more out-of-the-box series’…Food Wars! is a Manga for the food lovers out there who just so happen to also love the Manga medium. Yes, it has a niche market, but I guarantee if you enjoy watching cooking shows and you enjoy series’ like Naruto, Food Wars! is the combination of the two that will drive you absolutely wild.
Pick up Food Wars! at Madman Entertainment’s online store and dig in!
Volume One: Click Here
Volume Two: Click Here