July the third saw the premiere of Shoukugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara (Food Wars: The Second Plate), a follow up to last year’s adaptation of popular cooking manga Shokugeki no Souma. While the manga has been published in Weekly Shounen Jump since November 2012, the anime introduced it to new audiences all across the world giving them a twenty-four-episode taste of the delights on offer and people loved it. Here’s just a few reasons why.
Yukihira Souma helps out around his dad’s little restaurant, mainly as sous chef and waiter, but his fifteen year old heart is set on becoming head chef, even if it is just a family owned business. When his dad packs up to go cooking around the world, he also ships Souma off to ‘Tootsuki Culinary Academy’, the most prestigious cooking school in the world where only ten percent of students end up graduating. While reluctant at first, Souma sees this as just the challenge to prepare him for taking over Yukihira Diner, declaring at the opening ceremony that he’ll take the top spot amongst the students. However, Souma is blissfully unaware that this will mean aiming to become the first seat of the ‘Elite Ten’ students, a group who together are given as much authority as the director of the academy. How will he get there? Excellent grades of course… and more than a few shokugeki.
Shokugeki, or ‘food wars’, are just one of the many ways the academy separates the wheat from the chaff. Students are allowed to bet anything they have in a shokugeki; their favourite knife, their research society, their seat in the elite ten, or even their own expulsion. These battles, as well as training camps, festivals, and various other school events throughout the year, allow students to build up a reputation, not just in Tootsuki, but in the culinary world itself. All the best chefs are either alumni, students or staff of Tootsuki, and the academy has ties with any producer worth procuring ingredients from. This truly is the place for Yukihira to strive for greatness, and the audience might just pick up a few cooking tips along the way.
While the thought of learning how to cook from a manga or anime might seem odd, the depth of cooking science that goes into Shokugeki no Souma is absolutely incredible, from simple flavour pairings to ideas of molecular gastronomy. Much of the time it’s reasonable to believe that it’s all being made up, but the story is actually conceived with help of professional chef Yuki Morisaki, who makes sure the cooking is as accurate as possible. However, one thing that is most certainly not accurate is the reaction to any given dish by the consumer.
In the world of Shokugeki no Souma, every time someone eats something delicious it elicits a rather odd response. It usually takes the form of a visual taste explosion, followed by some drawn out simile, like ‘I’m being carried away by cherubs made of rice’ or visions of the chef in some form of historical or mythical roll, such as an ‘alchemist’ or ‘gladiator’, with a visual representation of such. It is also typical that the taster finds themselves naked in their vision, while having something that can only be described as a near-orgasmic experience. This somewhat notorious feature of the anime and manga allows it to be placed in the ‘ecchi’ genre (meaning perverted), but it honestly takes nothing away from the show and is generally well used for comic effect. And with plenty of great young chefs to go around, you’re bound to see this spectacle a couple of times an episode.
Here’s just a few of the culinary wizards that you’ll find making people strip at Tootsuki:
- Yukihira Souma – Our protagonist, with all the typical aspects of a shounen lead. From a dream of grandure, to an easy going attitude that draws everyone towards him, Souma is unmistakably the most important character, especially seeing as how his name lines up perfectly with the title of the show. Once enrolled at Tootsuki, he finds himself living in the ‘Polar Star Dormitory’ with a handful of other perfectly capable chefs.
- Tadokoro Megumi – Shy and not very confident, Megumi is also a resident of Polar Star, who’s caring attitude comes across in her cooking. Coming from a fishing village she specialises in seafood and has mastered advanced techniques in the field of preparing fish. Despite this, her innocence and timidness caused her to fail several classes in Junior High, leaving her place at Tootsuki hanging in the balance.
- Satoshi Isshiki – Another member of Polar Star and current seventh seat of the elite ten. Isshiki is kind and approachable despite his fierce skills. Souma makes it his first order of business to challenge Isshiki to a cook off, if only to test the skills of the so called ‘elite’.
- Takumi Aldini – Yukihira’s self-proclaimed rival, this Italian youngster travelled all the way to Japan with his brother, Isami, to learn at Tootsuki. With his family owning a famous restaurant, the ‘Trattoria Aldini’, he also considers his skills to be a cut above the rest.
- Nakiri Erina – Although being a first year, Erina is granted the tenth seat of the elite ten. Not only does her family run the whole academy, with her Grandfather Senzaemon being the director, but she has been gifted with what many refer to as ‘God Tongue’. Her superior sense of taste is utilised not only to critique the work of other chefs around the globe, but also to allow her to craft dishes capable of pleasing any palate.
And that’s a taster of Shokugeki No Soma. The first season is currently available on Crunchyroll, while the second season is also being simulcast there and the manga is being released in the west volume by volume. It’s hopeful that the manga will see our junior chefs make it through the three years to graduation, but after four years of being published they’ve not even made it to the end of first year. Here’s hoping this will be a long runner!
GS Blogger: Kyle Hutchinson