Based on the hit manga series of the same name, Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma ended its anime TV run in September 2020. Created by author Yuto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki, the manga series was serialized in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump from November 2012 to August 2019.
Food Wars is truly where it’s at where food-themed anime and manga are concerned. For this Food Wars review, Japan Bound will be offering an overview of the hit anime series that ran for five seasons, along with five special OVAs.
Food Wars Anime Review Table of Contents:
- The Joy of Cooking
- The Verdict
Food Wars follows the story of young teen chef Soma Yukihira. From a young age, he’s assisted at the kitchen for his family’s diner, Restaurant Yukihira. Soma’s dream is to inherit the family business, but before doing so, his father enrolls him into Totsuki Culinary Academy.
Totsuki was a culinary school that was once attended by Soma’s father, Joichiro Yukihira. It is the most elite culinary school in all of Japan. However, it’s not just elite, but highly competitive. Totsuki is not a normal culinary school. Students have to fight for their right to cook. One wrong mistake could mean their expulsion, if not in the classroom, in the hallowed halls of the institution’s food battle coliseum.
At Totsuki, students put their pride and prestige on the line to match up to their culinary skills against one another in specialized food battles. A loss in a food battle could mean losing your seat at school, a prized kitchen knife, or a seat on the Elite Ten Council. The Elite Ten consists of the best, highest-ranking chefs in the school, and they are given a high level of authority for the school’s curriculum.
Due to his longtime competitive rivalry with his father, Soma sets out to ascend to the top of Totsuki’s Elite Ten and reach the first seat, which his father was never able to do during his academic career.
However, at Totsuki, Soma has found himself swimming in an ocean of sharks. He didn’t endear himself to the student body early on, and his brash, idiosyncratic, attitude toward cooking and his sometimes unconventional methods are scoffed at by the school’s elite member, such as culinary debutante Erina Nakiri, who is a member of the Elite Ten and granddaughter Senzaemon Nakiri; the school’s director.
In short, Soma has his work cut out for him if he wants to work his way through the ranks and make it to the top of Totsuki. Throughout the series, Soma discovers a plot spearheaded by the Elite Ten and Erina’s estranged father, Azami Nakiri, to take seize control of Japan’s cooking industry, which could mean the end of mom and pop diners, such as Soma’s restaurant. Surviving the food battles is just the tip of the iceberg.
Food Wars is paced and set up like a conventional battle manga. The catch is that the battles are done through cooking and not martial arts. So, the show has the flair and drama of characters being in a martial arts tournament, but their techniques are done with high-quality ingredients, difficult prep methods, or challenging restrictions; like having to serve a large number of customers in a short amount of time.
What makes Food Wars such a special story though is that author Yuto Tsukuda did his homework. All the special fancy dishes in Food Wars are real. That is, all the ingredients are real ingredients. All the cooking and prep methods are real methods. Every dish in Food Wars can be made in real life. All the ingredients depicted in the story are real ingredients. Every cooking technique and method can be repeated or done in real life as well.
Yes, the show does exaggerate the cooking methods and food duels for dramatic effects. Yes, things are sped up for the sake of narrative economy. But every dish, every food item depicted in Food Wars is authentic. That’s why this show is so popular among YouTubers. Amateur cooks, and even pros, like to test themselves by seeing if they can repeat or match some of the dishes made in the show.
There have been cooking or food-themed anime shows or manga before. Look at Toriko or Yakitate!! Japan. The difference is that in Food Wars, there are no literal superpowers. There are no fictionalized food items. Besides the exaggerated effects, the characters are making real food dishes with real ingredients. Even if it’s a new type of dish, it can still be made or fully realized in real life.
I don’t think there is any other anime or manga based around food or food duels that have ever been this authentic before. There are other manga and anime that indulge in the author’s love of food or haute cuisine, but none that take it as far and authentic as Food Wars. This is the power of Food Wars.
In terms of characters, I think Food Wars does its job well. Soma Yukihira is a solid protagonist because he’s not just a blank slate or cipher. He’s not just this average, ordinary kid. From the start of the series, Soma is already an experienced chef having worked under his father at the family restaurant for many years.
Soma tends to have a very energetic, goofy side when he’s not cooking. He likes to experiment with awful-tasting dishes in his spare time, like mixing odd ingredients, such as grilled squid with things like peanut butter. That side of his personality he likely inherited from his mother. It helps Soma with his culinary career because he’s not afraid to experiment or think outside the box. He’s also not afraid of failure.
I think that’s one of Soma’s better qualities. Soma tends to let his failures or his losses slide off of him. Or if he does receive a massive loss, he takes it as a learning experience and becomes even better as a result. For Soma, he’s been battling his father at home for many years, so losing is something he has become used to and is no longer afraid of.
This is juxtaposed by many of the supporting characters in the show. Many of the supporting characters come from esteemed culinary families, or a long line of elite chefs. For them, failure is not an option. Failure is something they do fear and are unable to accept. Thankfully, from Soma’s influence, some of the characters can come to grips with failure and why it’s something they should embrace and not be afraid of.
The Erina Nakiri and Soma relationship is central to the show. At the start of the story, Erina has a very arbitrary view of gourmet cooking. Soma’s influence helps to expand her horizon. He also helps bring her out of her shell when Erina’s father returns and attempts to assert his controlling influence over her. She meets the other member of Soma’s dorm, the Polar Star Dormitory, and they all become treasured friends.
The other thing I love about the characters for Food Wars is that no two characters in this show are alike. Every character in the show has a unique design, a unique look and silhouette, and a unique attitude. Much like food itself, variety is the spice of life when it comes to Food Wars’ eclectic cast.
The Miracle of Cooking
The other thing that Food Wars does well, besides executing food battles in such a suspenseful and resplendent manner, is to show just how amazing a journey the culinary process is. Food Wars truly captures the “magic” of cooking, and not just the magic, but the transformative elements. Food Wars shows how you can take a few simple ingredients and change them into something completely brand new.
Through Soma and other characters, new food techniques and ideas are discovered. New ideas are experimented on. Cooking and what it’s able to do, and how it’s able to make you feel is a true miracle, and the show pulls this off in spades.
Yes, the show is heavy on the fan service when characters bite into a succulent dish and it makes them have a proverbial “explosion” of pleasure, causing their clothes to get ripped off. However, even that itself is sort of an exaggerated play on a real-life experience. One can certainly empathize with biting into a new, delicious dish that provides that amazing flavor explosion.
That’s another piece of magic that Food Wars catches. The chefs in Food Wars are chasing that amazing, new flavor explosion. When you have that right flavor explosion with a new dish or new food in real life; it’s a magical experience. The anime series captures the magic that comes with trying a new dish that’s cooked and prepared to perfection.
Food Wars – Animation Quality Review
Overall, I’d say the animation quality for Food Wars is very good for an episodic, anime television series. The character designs all look good. The animation quality is consistent from episode to episode. The animation and movement themselves are also consistent and fluid.
Also, the cooking sequences themselves look fantastic and action-packed. They are nicely edited, and they tend not to drag out too long. Besides, the judges are hungry, and they need to eat.
The other thing the animation staff does well is making the ingredients and dishes look realistic and delectable. Even though they are animated, the dishes and cooking techniques leap off the screen. It’s almost like you can smell the food, touch it and taste it.
The animators do such a great job in bringing the dishes and food techniques to life, just watching this series will make you hungry. It is never a good idea to watch this show while hungry because then it will make you all the hungrier.
You will want to try and make the gourmet dishes yourself at home or spend the next several hours searching Google or Yelp on where you can locate that dish from the show for a reasonable price close by.
For an anime series based on a Weekly Shonen Jump manga, the animation for Food Wars is especially good.
Composer Tatsuya Kato does a great job with the show’s music. When the food battles ramp up, it builds the suspense and stakes. While it’s not my favorite anime score ever, it wonderfully services the show, and it’s never too overpowering. Overall, it’s a solid soundtrack.
Food Wars Review – The Verdict: 9.5/10
Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma does tend to lean into a lot of battle manga or battle anime tropes. However, it finds its true strengths with its authentic depictions of gourmet cuisine along with capturing the magic and miracle that is cooking.
The anime series honors the original manga in showing how wonderful it is to try or experience a new dish, and how it can make you feel wonderful or nostalgic.
The story has good pacing, and none of the storylines overstay their welcome. In terms of its cast, Food Wars is made up of a unique, colorful cast of characters, who all have fun and unique quirks to them. It makes the show that much more enjoyable.
Food Wars is the perfect show to like if you like cooking, or even if you just love food. It’s under 100 episodes, so it won’t be as big of a time commitment as other anime shows based on Weekly Shonen Jump manga. And more than anything, it’s a fun show with great comedy and some heartfelt, genuinely emotional moments.
Where to Watch Food Wars
If this Food Wars review made you hungry for more and want to give the show a look, all 86 episodes, plus the five OVAs, of the anime series are available for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll. You don’t need a subscription to watch all five seasons for free on Crunchyroll in Japanese with subtitles.
For some alternatives to Crunchyroll, check out our list of the 5 best places to watch Food Wars.
You can also check out the series on Blu-ray wherever anime Blu-ray and DVDs are sold.
Additionally, you might want to check out the original manga series by creator Yuto Tsukuda and artist Shun Saeki. Details on where the manga can be purchased are available on VIZ.com.
If you’re a fan of other anime adapted from Weekly Shonen Jump manga, check out our review of Black Clover.
What did you think of Food Wars? Do you have any other favorite Shonen Jump anime adaptations? Or any other favorite food-themed anime? Let us know what you think in the comments below!