Food Wars, or Shokugeki no Soma in Japanese, was one of the most hyped and awaited animes for this last anime spring season. The series follows Soma, a young cook who works in a restaurant with his father. Soma’s goal is to beat his father at cooking. However, one day his father has to leave to Europe so he sends Soma off to the best culinary school in Japan. This review will NOT contain spoilers.
I’m gonna be honest. This is the only cooking anime I’ve seen, so I don’t really have any references to compare it to. When I first heard the premise I thought I wouldn’t be into it since gastronomy is not one of my passions, nor do I watch MasterChef. However, I heard many people talk about this anime and I started wondering how you could do an exciting shonen out of cooking, so I decided to check out the first episode. And oh boy, I don’t regret it: this could easily be my favourite anime of the season.
Usually, shonen animes that don’t focus on stories with epic battles and fighting techniques have the risk of coming out as a bit ridiculous. Why? Because they want to make everything epic, even ordinary stuff. This is something that also happens with sports anime, in which regular plays are overly exaggerated. This is also the case with Food Wars, only that… it’s not that ridiculous. Food Wars manages to find the perfect balance between making the cooking interesting and exciting without being out of proportion.
On the other hand, what’s really out of proportion are the reactions that people have when tasting food: the perfect representation of a foodgasm. One of the main characteristics of this anime is that it shows exquisite food tasting as some kind of oneiric experience that usually represents itself as orgasms or running through a beautiful field on a spring day. And, I don’t know about you, but I never really tasted anything that made me that delusional. Because of this, the first episode scared a lot of potential viewers away while it also intrigued many others. Especially since many of these reactions are very sexual, with heavy elements of ecchi. And it’s not that strange considering that the author was previously a hentai artist. But if you learn to see past that, you’ll definitely enjoy the rest of the anime.
Soma, our main character, is very charismatic and likable, which is something you cannot say about most shonen characters nowadays. He’s incredibly confident and fearless, to the point that he’s oblivious of the high competition and doesn’t really seem to care how difficult the school is. In that sense, he kind of reminded me of Luffy from One Piece. He’s also a very nice person and has the ability of making friends quickly. As per the rest of the characters, they’re also very unique and you learn their personalities and traits easily. Maybe some backstories to make us really care about them are lacking, but I guess it’s still too early for that anyway.
You better get used to hearing the word ‘shokugeki’ a lot since there are plenty of cooking competitions in this anime. In that sense, it’d be like the equivalent of a fighting battle: they put on their aprons epically, say some “you’ll never beat me” cliché phrases and proceed to cook as if their lives depended on it. This is, again, kind of justified since usually, they make ridiculous bets for the ones who lose and, in some cases, losing means getting expelled from the school. Manga readers also speak very highly of these competitions and hint at Soma not always having it easy as there are many exciting competitions coming. To be honest, is one of the things that I’m looking forward to the most.
Lastly, animation-wise, both art style and animation are really good. Produced by J.C.Staff (Toradora, Maid-sama, Bakuman…), the preparation and presentation of the dishes they cook will have you drooling. In that sense, it reminded me of Hannibal (except that this time you won’t feel disgusted or guilty about wanting to eat people).
Many people say that whether you’ll like this anime or not depends on whether you can stand those ridiculous reactions. Some people are freaked out cause it’s too bizarre for them, others like it and just laugh it off as the comedic scene it is. We also have to keep in mind that this is a series about cooking. Its goal is not for the main character to save the entire world or to liberate his country. There’s no fighting, there’s no epic battles. The series knows its goal and, until now, it’s managed to stay interesting, exciting and incredibly entertaining, more than I could have imagined for a cooking series. The series knows its limits and it’s doing a great job so far. As long as it doesn’t grow out of proportion, I can definitely say that this will be one of the most entertaining non-fighting animes of the year.