When was the last time you ate food that was so damn good it made your clothes fly off?
If two of your favourite things in life are food and anime, you can’t go wrong with Food Wars! (Shokugeki no Soma). This series is the perfect mix of mouth-watering, hilarious, dramatic and over-the-top, and I didn’t even realise I was looking for until I found it. It was love at first watch.
Yukihira Soma works in a small family diner alongside his father, who he is determined to surpass in culinary talent so he can take over the restaurant. But no matter how many times he competes with his father or how much the locals love his dishes, he has never beaten him. Yukihira’s chance to shine comes when his father decides to close the restaurant so he can work in kitchens around the world. Suddenly, Yukihira finds himself enrolled in an elite culinary school where only the top 10 per cent graduate and go on to be recognised as the culinary creme de la creme. Will Yukihira be able to hone his skills, beat some of the world’s most talented young chefs and surpass his father – or crash and burn? The heat is on!
Food Wars! goes beyond the boundary of ridiculous tournament-style anime and ascends into a higher realm, where one bite of food is enough to transport you naked into a field of meadows. There’s equal emphasis on the words ‘food’ and ‘porn’ – if the premise of people getting a bit too turned on by a bowl of rice is the sort of thing you find hilarious rather than eye-rolling, the series is a riot from start to finish.
Season 1 consists of 24 episodes, so my first question was ‘how can you spread out a story about students competing in a kitchen for that long?’ But with a third season soon to air in Japan and an ongoing manga series, the answer is ‘easily’.
Life at an elite cooking school is no picnic and there are plenty of trials and tribulations to be had to whittle down the number of students. And then there’s the show’s namesake, the food wars (shokugeki) in which students challenge each other to cooking duels. Imagine Yu-Gi-Oh! but instead of laying down a trap card you throw in a surprise ingredient that turns an impossible situation on its head.
As you would hope with a tournament-style anime series, Food Wars! has a colourful range of characters and the show would be lacking in something if you subtracted any one of them. Soma himself provides plenty of comic relief as the rough-around-the-edges underdog relying on his passion and intuition to whip up one amazing dish after another. A few of my personal favourites are Ikumi Mito, the meat expert who is never seen wearing anything more than a bra and hot pants; Tadokoro Megumi, whose low self-esteem and nervousness just make you want to protect her; and Takumi Aldini, who’s determined to build a rivalry with Soma who doesn’t reciprocate as much. I could list many more…
Food Wars! has a cult following, with blogs and Youtube channels dedicated to recreating its recipes. I think it’s fair to say that it has certainly inspired even the most kitchen-averse anime fan to try some cooking. The food onscreen genuinely looks good enough to eat!
If you find shows like The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef tense when everything boils down to the last few seconds and the judge’s verdict, I don’t think anything can surpass Food Wars! It gets a juicy 10/10 from me!
Food Wars! is available now from MangaUK!