Food Wars!, Vol. 1

By Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki. Released in Japan as “Shokugeki no Soma” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

The initial reaction to a series is very important, even if it turns out later that it changes. And just like some people read one volume of a series and can’t get over the unlikeable characters, even knowing that their development is the purpose of the narrative, so sometimes I read the start of a new Jump series and am so appalled by a piece of fanservice that I debate whether I even want to continue. I am happy I did end up continuing for the most part, as once you get past the service this is a very good start to a comedic Jump cooking manga, with an engaging male lead. But were I in a bookstore browsing, I think I’d have hit that initial two-page spread and put it right back.


For those wondering what I’m talking about, the manga stars Soma, the boy pictured on the cover. He’s worked in his father’s small local restaurant his entire life, and has inherited his father’s ability to cook yummy food… along with his desire to experiment, even if that experiment turns out to be a taste disaster. And, like a lot of cooking/foodie manga out there, there are many shots of those eating reacting to the food that they taste in a metaphorical way. Indeed, this is not the first manga to have a girl taste something and imagine herself naked. But since the food Soma made is bad, and since the food Soma made has squid as its main ingredient, we get his childhood friend (who promptly vanishes from the narrative, by the way, despite being on the cover and getting a short story at the end) envisioning herself being tentacle raped by a squid.

This really put me off. I was assured by others on Twitter that the service dies down a bit as the series goes on, but we do get at least two other shots in this volume of women basically moaning in orgasm while being sexually assaulted by food, sometimes with bonus little SD-Somas gathered around them leering lasciviously. (The real life Soma, being a Jump hero, seems to have little interest in women.) It sets a tone for the series in general that I ended up disliking. (One might argue I read a lot of series with female nudity used constantly, particularly in Shonen Magazine. But those are generally ‘tee hee, look at the naked bodies in the bath/hot springs’. The reactions here all have a flavor of assault that simply discomfits me, even if it’s all meant to be reactions to food that’s in their head.)

And I wouldn’t have been so annoyed if the series itself had not been as good otherwise. As I said, Soma makes a great protagonist, being confident but not cocky, loving his food and taking offense at those who belittle it, and being generally nice even to the arrogant, haughty girl who seems to be the series’ main female lead (though that’s not certain yet; we do get another potential female lead towards the end, the polar opposite, of course). The food preparation looks fun and completely absurd, things you want in a cooking manga. The premise involves Soma attending an elite cooking school, and I’ve no doubt that much of this will involve class wars and “how dare you speak like that to one whose plate you are not worthy to lick clean”, etc. And that egg dish does sound fantastic. (There is a recipe, of course.)

So I’ll be continuing with the series, which is getting its digital release a few months before it hits print in August. But I still feel compelled to point out it has that unpleasant ‘fanservice assault’ element to it, so I’ll be reading it while keeping a wary eye out for more. Thus, cautiously recommended to fans of Jump comedies and hardcore foodie manga people.