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The Spring 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

How would you rate episode 1 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma ?
Community score: 3.6

Hope Chapman

Rating: 2

The first episode of Food Wars! has put me in between a rock and a hard place. It's not a bad show by any means, and I can definitely see the appeal of a foodie-centric Shonen Jump adventure. Still, this episode is pretty hard to get through for two very different reasons, like you're paddling upstream through its runtime in between Scylla and Charybdis.

On the Charybdis side, there's the vapid sucking whirlpool of the show's banal production values and story. There's not much to say on the story side, because this is a paint-by-numbers "Wanna Be The Greatest" shonen tournament story with a spritely protagonist approaching the steps of a prestigious cooking academy after proving his passion as a maverick chef--you've heard it. You have heard this many times before. Material this familiar usually lives and dies by its execution, and on that front, the show is barely alive. It's a J.C. Staff joint, so your expectations should be metered going in, but the visuals are downright disappointing by first episode standards. From its garish color work, to its bland character models, to its rough and busy shot compositions, Food Wars! is just kinda ugly. This is the very beginning of the series, when even the most conservatively rendered anime should come out swinging, but there's nary a fluid shot to be found in this episode, and all the slapdash herky-jerk shots are incongruous with the sumptuous intent of their scenes. (That is to say that the episode's many bouncing boob shots are stiff and awkward, the very antithesis of sexy. The food preparation bits suffer the same fate.) People made jokes about last season's Gourmet Girl Graffiti being a primer for the far more anticipated Food Wars! this spring, but that now seems unfair to Gourmet Girl Graffiti. That show illustrated dishes worthy of the Food Porn label, and this show pales in comparison. The Food Porn part does bring us to the show's Scylla though.

On the Scylla side, there's the off-putting depiction of foodie bliss as literal orgasmic ecstasy throughout the episode. When our hero's schoolmate tries his fried rice dish, her legs clench together, a hot blush spreads up her face, and she "aah~"s out her approval. When she tastes his appalling experiment of squid tentacles drenched in peanut butter, she writhes around while imagining said tentacles groping her from head to toe. It only escalates from there as later dishes cause patrons' clothes to explode off their bodies while fantastical meat grease and butter douses their nether regions and liquefies in their mouths. It's sort of funny in theory, but I think it's meant to be erotic or visually impressive, because it goes on for way too long to work as just a joke. Even if you're not offended or grossed out by the imagery, it's just tiresome to sit through, as with any comedy bit that isn't funny and goes on for too long. As an anime, Food Wars! just seems like the result of several really bad adaptation choices. It's a fun premise that's not any fun to watch either because it's ugly, because it's boring you, or because it's being gross in a failed attempt to be fun. There are so many barriers to enjoyment, and it seems like at least one of them could have been avoided through sharper adaptation.

At their worst, I expect Shonen Jump anime to be bland or predictable, but Food Wars! was actively difficult to sit through. Its food fixation might very well be to your liking, but the concept could have been much better executed. The taste level is way below par on this one. With managed expectations, there might be something in the story to chew on later, but keep a barf bag ready in case you happen to have the same reaction I did to its gaudy presentation.

This series is available streaming at Crunchyroll.

Bamboo Dong

Rating: 2.5

I'm having a difficult time organizing my thoughts about Food Wars, because while I intensely loved 65% of the show, I also passionately hated the other 35% of the show, almost to the point where I felt put off enough to not want to watch next week's episode. I was warned in advance by readers of the manga that Food Wars is filled with fanservice. And not just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill big tits, pouty lips fanservice—full-blown, quasi-pornographic, orgasming fanservice that features a depiction of tentacle rape in the first scene. Those same readers have all assured me that it "gets better," and that the fanservice gets dialed way down in subsequent volumes, which makes me wonder if it was even worth it to include it in the first volume. Sex sells, but surely not the kind that makes the audience intensely uncomfortable or repulsed.

Part of my disparate feelings about the first episode is due in large part to my immense love for food, food preparation, and eating. I was already drawn in by the beautiful drawings of food—I wanted to shovel the fried rice in my mouth until I saw a girl orgasm after her first bite, at which point my hunger turned to an uneasy "no thanks." (This was even before the "peanut butter tentacles," which made me ask myself why I end up watching so many anime series in which I have to tell myself, "ya know, this would be better without rape." If there's a smidge of dignity in that scene, it's that the narrator concedes, "the flavor of the tentacles took a turn in the wrong direction," although my realization that the viewer is supposed to find humor in that scene made my stomach do another flip.)

In fact, all of the food in the show (minus, I guess, the peanut butter tentacles) looks really, really good. The opening theme is enough to make your eyes pop out of your head, and it's clear that the many shots of food preparation are intended to be as mouth-watering as possible. As a devotee of anything related to food—food shows, food photography, food science, food culture—I greatly enjoyed the scene where protagonist Soma is challenged to create a juicy meat dish for an over-the-top villain who's hired her goons to trash the restaurant he works at with his dad. With close-up scenes of butter melting into a red wine reduction, and potatoes soaking up bacon fat, the only thing that makes it better is when Soma then describes his cooking process. But any goodwill I felt towards this scene was sucked out the window during the reaction, when the villain and her thugs are writhing around in orgasmic pleasure, some bound like pork loins, with meat juices gushing onto their groins and into their mouths. I wouldn't have even minded so much were it not for the juxtaposition of Soma's spiteful face leering over the villain, who's begging for more of his meat juice. I usually love ridiculous food reaction shots (I adore Yakitate!! Japan), but the visceral, sex-slathered atmosphere of Food Wars just made me uncomfortable.

I know the manga is very popular, and from what I can tell, this first episode is true to its source, but I really wish they'd toned it down. I hate being in the position where I feel like I need to make excuses to keep watching a show. I'm intrigued by the next step in Soma's journey, which involves a ludicrous culinary school that spits out 90% of its students, but I already expect that I'll need to whip out my anime blinders yet again, at least for a little while.

Nick Creamer

Rating: 2.5

Soma Yukihira works with his father at their family restaurant, concocting crazy recipes and dreaming of one day inheriting his father's shop. Though he's never beaten his father in a cooking competition before, he's confident he'll manage it soon - and when predatory land sharks make a move on his father's land, Soma is forced to put his skills to the test. Working off a meager assortment of potatoes, bacon, and other fixings, Soma whips together a fake roast that absolutely demolishes the villainous prospectors - only to learn his dad's planning on closing the shop anyway, and is sending Soma off to the roughest, toughest, most cooked-or-be-cooked culinary school in all of Japan.

So yes, this certainly was a first episode. Food Wars! essentially takes the intensity normally reserved for the final episodes of a shounen sports tournament, applies it to a teenage boy cooking rice or bacon, and then turns the fanservice up to eleven. Continuing in the vein of last season's Gourmet Girl Graffiti, food in Food Wars! is an extremely sexual experience - but aside from the food porn, the main dish being seasoned here is a shounen action show. So you've got Soma and his burning spirit, you've got the dream to one day move beyond the Food Horizon, and you've got sweeping, dramatic shots of Soma gleefully shaking salt onto bacon, or haughtily explaining just how he defeated you (spoilers: with food) while his opponents stare in shock.

Food Wars! is a very silly show. And honestly, it all pretty much works - the show is over-the-top in everything it does (an unpleasant squid-based dish is awkwardly represented as wayward tentacles, the final bacon dish is so good it blows its consumers out of their clothes and into a glorious fountain of meat juice), but if you're on board with the show's premise, the execution certainly has plenty of energy. There isn't much animation, but the direction adds a suitable dramatic flare to actions like, say, Soma chopping up onions and mixing them with mushrooms in a frying pan. The show moves well, hits all the classic shounen touchstones with total earnest commitment, and has a lively color palette to keep things visually interesting. The character designs aren't terribly unique, and the writing is basically just boilerplate “I'm gonna be the strongest!” fare without much distinguishing personality, but the whole production has enough confidence and momentum that the relative mundanity of the ingredients isn't a big problem. Food Wars! is what it is - a straightforward shounen sports show with an absurdist twist and a lot of enthusiasm. If you're looking for hot-blooded cooking and fanservice, you could do worse.

Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

Welcome to the show that brings a new meaning to the portmanteau “foodgasm.” Soma Yukihira is an amazing chef at only fifteen, working at his family's little restaurant with his dad, whom he strives to surpass. The Yukihira men are such good cooks that a mere bite of their food can send the taster into, well, an orgasmic paroxysm, which the anime (and, to be fair, its parent manga) takes great pains to illustrate: clothing shreds, girls squirm their upper thighs together, and – and there's no way to put this delicately – juices spew from people's groins. I know this is supposed to show us how unbearably delicious the food is, but if that happens when people eat the chopped liver I made today, I think it'll be a very awkward meal.

“Awkward” is really how the fanservice element of this Shonen Jump cooking show feels. The scenes of cooking food and plated food are exquisite, with not only the preparation looking suitably impressive, but the finished product enough to make you want to start drooling. So when we see it make a girl's butt grow or her breasts begin to move all on their own, it takes away from the allure of the food, which ostensibly is the draw of this show to begin with. The sexual element, while clearly intended to show us how amazingly delicious the dishes are, instead gets uncomfortable quickly, particularly when Soma, who has gone to some pretty weird lengths to create new dishes, feeds his schoolmate Mayu some peanut butter covered squid: the imagery is that she is being molested by the tentacles, with a clear shot of them opening her legs and shooting between them. It is an added discomfort when, post-credits, she thinks that she kind of liked eating the dish. Had this imagery been toned down or left out, she'd just come off as weird, which might have worked better.

In all fairness, having read through volume five of the manga (and as a note of interest, the opening theme shows up that far), the sexual aspects do get toned down later. While I feel that they were more of an obstruction to the story in the anime because of the added dimensions of movement and sound, it isn't all that different from the first chapter of the manga, which could indicate that it will likewise tone down and focus more on the food. If you aren't expecting it, however, it really can be off-putting.

As far as the story goes, episode one is basically a prologue to the rest of the plot, showing us how Soma ends up at the exclusive culinary high school he enrolls in at the end of the episode. Food Wars continues the anime tradition of showing developers as evil sexy women (think Inari from Princess Jellyfish) as one plots to destroy Yukihira in order to build a fancy high rise. She is Soma's first true test of skill, and the battle does feel tense. It sets the stage for his next challenge, which will presumably happen next week. I'd actually encourage people who like cooking shows to give this one a few episodes simply based on the manga. This isn't a great start with its excessive use of sexual imagery to show the tastiness of the food, but it also follows the manga closely, which could indicate that this will get a lot more palatable (get it?) as it goes on.

Theron Martin

Rating: 2

Review: First, a qualifier: I rarely appreciate sports anime in large part because I am not usually a fan of ridiculously-overblown style being applied to mundane activities. And while this series is technically not a sports anime, it might as well be, because it looks to be all about competition and has style points which feel very similar. Hence it starts with an automatic negative from me.

It doesn't do enough to overcome that, either. In fact, it pushes even harder into extremely-over-the-top style by turning eating food into a veritable sexual experience. Food Wars would hardly be the first to do that, but it plays this aspect up about as intensely as one of the higher-end fan service-focused shows and has no shortage of bouncing bosoms or characters (both female and male) winding up stripped down to symbolize the depth of their reaction to what they're eating. That includes one of the most bizarre tentacle-grope scenes ever when the reaction of one girl to peanut butter-coated grilled squid is imagined.

That brings up two of the three good points about the first episode: that teen protagonist Soma's battles with his restaurant-owning father not only over who makes the most orgasmically tasty dish but also who has had the nastiest experiment (sardines covered in strawberry jam?) and that some characters imagine the tastes of things in comedically odd ways. The other good point is the description of the dish Soma makes on the fly to deal with some zealous “urban planners” (implied to maybe be yakuza-connected) who are trying to buy out their store for a new building project. Pork roast made by wrapping bacon around softened potatoes and then baking it is something I am almost inclined to try myself. In fact, I would love to see a Web site which posts the recipes for the various dishes that Soma is going to concoct.

The basic premise is that 15-year-old Soma Yukihara doesn't just dream of following in his father's footsteps as the cook for the family restaurant; he intends to eventually best his father and claim the right to take it over himself. Despite fending off the “urban planners,” that idea goes south when his Dad reveals, out of the blue, that he's going to shut the restaurant down for a couple of years to live and work with a friend. That results in Soma getting shipped off to a culinary school which turns out to be Japan's top institution of that type, one where utter ruthlessness in producing the best (only 10% graduate, a figure that no true school would ever be proud of) is overblown practically to a Kill la Kill level.

The first episode has enough spirit, and looks good enough, that it should have some appeal, but it is not my cup of garlic-and-jalapeno-flavored tea.

Zac Bertschy


Middle school graduate Yukihira Soma lives with his master chef dad, running a popular restaurant that the locals can't get enough of. They're in heavy competition with eachother, with Soma constantly losing to his father in a series of culinary competitions that only stoke the fire of his competitive heart. A busty real estate shark shows up looking to close down the restaurant, and when Soma refuses, her goons trash the kitchen and deface the sign out front. She challenges him: make a juicy meat dish that rivals the best, and she'll leave their little plot of land alone. Naturally, Soma whips up bacon-wrapped potatoes so good that her clothes explode off and enormous geysers of bacon grease hose her and her naked henchmen down like a fire hydrant on a New York summer afternoon.

Then Soma's dad announces that he's closing up shop for a few years to work in Europe, and sends Soma packing to Engetsu Teahouse Culinary Academy, a fearsome, hardcore institution with a 10% graduation rate. If he can make it here, he can make it anywhere.

So Food Wars! is a massive hit manga, and this is the questionably-animated TV version we all knew was coming. I wasn't sold at first – the show opens with a girl eating fried rice so good she has an orgasm, and there's an awful gag up front involving Soma making peanut butter octopus tentacles so bad she feels like she's being raped by the octopus, complete with NSFW visuals. Immediately this struck me as yet another foodie comedy, this time with a crude sense of humor, and it was taking forever to get to the point.

Then after about 17 minutes of enduring unfunny comedy the show finally tips its hand and goes so far over the top it's practically satirizing anime's tendency to substitute an overreaction for a joke – when the real estate shark eats his bacon-wrapped potatoes, it triggers a scene that goes on for way too long and involves firehoses of meat juice blasting her henchmen in the junk while they scream out in orgasm. If they're going to cover a story this well-worn and set it up with this many Shonen Jump clichés, I'm happy they're at least breaking off the absurdity knob in their quest to help this show stand out. I didn't think the rest of the episode was particularly funny, the setup is kind of dull and the immediate switch to TOURNAMENT SCHOOL is disheartening and makes me want to skip this completely, but if they keep having little nuggets of gold in there maybe I'll give it another chance. I realize there's an enormous demographic of people who watch Food Network all day, so the detailed explanation of how meat juice can flavor potatoes will probably work for them, but I'm not really part of foodie culture so it fell flat for me and padded out the episode even further. There's a metric ton of fanservice, the show is preoccupied with huge breasts and orgasm reaction shots, and the animation kind of sucks – it's stiff and uneven, which is extra noticeable when they can't keep a pair of breasts the same size from shot to shot. Food Wars! feels like total junk food, but I can't write it off completely. It did make me laugh. Maybe it'll do that again. We'll see.

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