Shokugeki no Souma or Food Wars! is a 24 episode shōnen battle cooking show. Produced in 2015 by J.C Staff who are more famous for creating some of the best romantic comedies in anime such as Golden Time and Ano Natsu de Matteru. This is some what out from left field from them as they are not really know for stepping into completely action-packed suspense driven shows. This show is basically Japan’s take on Gordon Ramsey’s: Hell Kitchen, with the sprinkles of all the overused anime subplots and tropes we’ve grown to love. Surprisingly Food Wars actually makes them feel new and original.
Food Wars story focuses around our main protagonist Yukihira Souma, who runs a cooking dinner with his father. One day; out of the blue his father decides he wants to open up a restaurant with an old friend across the world, and decides to send Souma to the most challenging and demanding culinary school in the world to improve his craft, whilst his dad travels and opens up his new business venture. Souma reluctantly decides to attend the school even though his wish is to take over his dad’s dinner and prove to his dad that he also is capable of standing besides him in culinary ability.
Food Wars story is nothing new in anime, it takes the same shōnen storylines and arc based narrative, and decides to put that in a high school like every anime. The difference that Food Wars brings is that instead of super powers and having characters battle for the fate of the world that most shonen’s like Naruto or Full Metal Alchemist do, Food Wars has the premise in a cooking school and characters battle not for the sake of the human race but rather to earn respect around peers, and move up the leaderboard.
Souma’s aims to be the best in the school by being the first seat on the elite 10 council from his arrival, but to do so he has slowly work his way up the ladder to gain enough respect from other and value to challenge one of the seats on the council. Food Wars doesn’t have a completely different story, but rather a well executed story. The comedy is well placed and hilarious most of the time, and the cooking battles are unique and heart racing. The story does not try to reinvent anything, but to rather entertain you and to get you invested in the characters and the challenges they face.
The characters of Food Wars are plentiful, being that Souma stays in boarding house called Polar Star he shares his space with a tons of other students. They all range in diversity and cooking skills, the characters aren’t developed that well since most of them don’t show any depth due to their small amounts of screen time. There are other characters around, all completing and attending school with Souma. They range from an Italian brother duo bent on beating our main protagonist for disrespecting their families name, to a women that is an expert in meat and another who has been blessed with a “God’s tongue”. Most are one-dimensional, but fill their character roles enough whilst hinting at something more. Alongside Souma is the other main character and dorm mate to Souma; Tadokoro Megumi who is a somewhat of a frazzled chef in training, who through her interactions with Souma learns to have more self-confidence and passion towards cooking. She is by far the most developed character in the show besides Souma. The problem with Food Wars is that its strengths work as its weaknesses too, they have a huge cast of characters which makes for some interesting arcs and storyline, but since most of them don’t even get that much screen time passed the arc they are required in, it seems like their roles are really limited and their potential not fully explored.
J.C Staff is by no means a Top-tier animation company. They do have a lot of shows that look pretty to look at, but none that can be called a masterpiece in animation quality from the studio, something like Nagi no Asukara from P.A Works or Kara no Kyoukai from Ufotable or even Hyoka from Kyoto Animation. Food wars looks good, especially in their intense cooking scenes and challenges but nothing too remarkable. It shows that the budget for the show wasn’t extremely high and J.C Staff had to work within their means. The show is better than most, but not quite the level of top-tier animation from the studios know to have amazing looking shows. The show does dip in animation quality at certain moments between character interactions such as when Alice eyes become just large circles with no details or by not showing Shun’s eyes and instead having them blocked out by his hair. This was obviously done in an attempt to save money so it can be spent were needed. Although I understand the reasoning behind it and that most studios have to do this, it still doesn’t make those scenes easier to look at.
I quite enjoyed the sound of Food Wars, it fitted the scene to a T without overpowering it. The music used during the final presentation of the food cooked is especially noteworthy since it captures the scene perfectly. The opening song is nothing special as you’ll find yourself skipping it most of the time.
The few glaring negatives about the show is sadly because it takes elements from shonen’s the main character Souma is ridiculously overpowered. I can understand that he was trained by his dad, and he’s really talented but their has to be a line. Souma is so much better than everyone around him and the only reason why he’s not crowned the best is simply because he hasn’t earned enough reputation to challenge the bests of the school, nothing feels like a challenge to him or at all difficult, in scenes where he’s back is against the wall and he seemed to be really struggling, it still didn’t seem to me that anything bad is going to happen to him since he is so good.
I started watching Food Wars at 10 o’clock at night and watched it in its entirety until 6am. That just shows how addictively good this show is. It has an engaging story, interesting characters although the huge cast sometimes works to it’s detriment and most are underdeveloped. The animation is good but nothing exceptional, whilst the sound is good. This show should be watched by people who really like the shōnen formula but feel like it’s overplayed nowadays. Food Wars brings a unique spin to the shonen genre by establishing a different premise. Food Wars is a testament to the fact that unique stories are the only think worth watching. Food Wars shows that execution of said stories is more important than it’s originality.
[see end of review for weighing]
For a different anime that shares the same arc based system of storytelling as well as having an elite council of students that are much more powerful than the average student, whilst having the main character try to work their way up the ladder to challenge the one at the top would be Kill la Kill.
Another would be Koufuku Graffiti which is more on the slice of life cooking rather than the adrenaline rushing competitions in Food Wars. It still is heavy on cooking and the joys of food, but in a more subdued way than Food Wars.
[story+characters+animation+sound] + [enjoyment]