The obvious lead-in for a review of a series like Food Wars (Shokugeki No Soma) would be to preach about how it is a wonderful fusion of battle manga with Hell’s Kitchen. This is true of course and is just as good as it sounds, but what if we mixed up the recipe a little bit? Yes, Food Wars is a battle manga about cooking but also a coming-of-age story and a school comedy, mixing all of these ingredients together to create one deliciously entertaining series.

Soma Yukihara always dreamed of being a chef and running the family restaurant but when his father leaves to travel the world he is enrolled into Totsuki Culinary Academy, a cutthroat school for chefs in training. Here, Soma must endure challenges designed to weed out those not capable of becoming world-class chef as well as cooking duels between students called Shokugeki.

If you’re a fan of shonen battle manga and school comedies, you’ll find a lot to like here. In addition, if you’re a fan of delicious food how could you resist?

  • Shun Saeki’s artwork is simply fantastic. Character designs are memorable and drawn with a pleasing style that is clean but stylized. Most importantly, the drawings of food featured are drool-worthy and keep the reader constantly anticipating what will be featured next.
  • The comedy is over the top and hilarious, just like I’d expect from a series of this genre. The food based humour is a particular highlight, and the portrayal of characters in the midst of a reaction from eating a piece of food is always entertaining to see. In addition, the story is comfortable with its overall ridiculousness and lovingly embraces it by dialing the intensity in every situation.
  • This volume is an excellent introduction to the series, introducing the main characters and setting memorably and without clutter. I appreciated the sense of focus displayed by Tsukudo in getting straight to the point and making it clear that the series has an overall direction.
  • Soma is a great shonen protagonist, combining a certain optimistic cockiness with a heart of gold. He’s endearing right off the bat and you’ll be cheering for him throughout the volume to conquer the odds.
  • VIZ did a great job with this release, including the original one-shot for the series as well as a couple recipe inserts for the ones featured in the story. This was a nice touch!
  • The series does a surprisingly good job limiting its fanservice to a reasonable degree, but a particular scene in the first few pages of the volume does not leave a great impression and could potentially turn off readers from the series. I wish that Saeki had been less eager to shock and had let the strength of the rest of the volume speak for itself.

I was a little bit skeptical beginning to read this series, but Food Wars Vol. 1 quickly won me over with its blend of food based comedy and action. This volume is a promising appetizer, clearly introducing the main characters and setting to the readers and enticing them with its fantastic art. If this series is an excuse for Saeki to demonstrate his talent at drawing food porn, it’s an extremely welcome one as it grows beyond that aspect to deliver a hilarious and entertaining story.

Food Wars (Shokugeki No Soma) Vol 1. was published by Viz Media on August 6th, 2014. The series is currently ongoing in Weekly Shonen Jump and an anime adaption by J.C. Staff is airing right now on Crunchyroll.

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