Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 3
The cooking competition manga Food Wars kicks into high gear with all the students heading out to a luxury resort hotel for a training camp and a new challenge.
The “Friendship and Team-Building Cooking Camp” in Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma volume 3 has big consequences for the aspiring culinary students — if they don’t pass the assignments, they will immediately be sent back to school to be expelled.
The challenges are set and judged by school alumni, making for another set of bizarre personalities with huge egos making snap judgments about who stays and who goes. This is classic shonen, with an annoying but talented hero, a motley collection of friends and competitors, a few girls to show off their bodies, and a nice, shy girl for the hero to eventually get involved with. Here, that’s Megumi, whose “lovely, rustic beauty” captivates two of the elite chefs immediately. Her challenge is to gain confidence in her skills.
For what it is, it’s well-done and surprisingly involving. As with many American superhero comics, it’s easiest to read if you can tolerate the fan service, but it’s minimal this time around, with only a few panels of visual depictions of the food experience. For some reason, tasting good food makes the women who do it incredibly busty. However, in this book, there’s also a naked, heavily muscled man, for some kind of balance.
The challenge our hero Soma first participates in is a simple but surprising one — to make a Japanese dish using only what they can find on the grounds (which includes a river and woods) in two hours. Most everyone goes for grilled fish, the obvious choice, but that bores the judge. An Italian hotshot who holds a grudge against Soma manages to prepare an outstanding duck dish, but Soma thinks more creatively and surprises everyone.
Like Soma, the half-Italian kid gained much of his experience working in the family restaurant, demonstrating the virtue of hands-on work over classroom learning. And he’s able to translate his home cuisine into a Japanese version. Soma realizes that having a good challenger is a valuable learning experience, while the other boy has too much ego involved to gain the necessary wisdom from the pairing.
The sequences of the cooking are impressively illustrated, with plenty of action flair. The recipes for the focus dishes are also included, although with the emphasis on native Japanese flavors, finding the ingredients in the US might be a struggle.
Megumi gets more attention here, too, with her country background having an unexpected benefit, as shown on the cover. She works well paired with Soma, with his brashness balanced by her quiet knowledge, but in a solo challenge, she’s set up to fail by a sadistic chef. In a no-win situation, she has a clever solution, but it offends the judge’s ego. The resolution will be revealed in the next book.
Also included in Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma volume 3 is artist Shun Saeki’s debut work, a one-shot called “Your and My Romance Counseling” that takes up a quarter of the book. A boy has a crush on a fellow student, but she’s also an amateur model, so he’s convinced she’ll never notice him. It’s rather predictable but a bit sweet, too. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)