Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 7
In contrast to the previous book, which emphasized the emotional, personal discovery, Food Wars volume 7 jumps right into the competition, which means the book is a never-ending parade of creative food dishes, provided by a revolving list of student chefs with quickly definable quirks. There’s a character page at the beginning you’ll find yourself referring back to. Don’t read this volume just before dinner, either, because it will make you crave some variant of curry, the theme of the super-important contest.
Aside from favorites Soma (the weirdly inspired newcomer to the world of fine cuisine) and quiet country girl Megumi (who uses her rural knowledge to great effect, plus gets a flashback to what brought her to the school), this competition includes
- the heir to a prestigious Chinese restaurant who struggles with being respected as a woman in the kitchen (maybe not wearing a cheongsam dress slit to her waist would help)
- a goth-y stalker called the “cauldron witch” who makes a black noodle dish that reeks
- the aide to a high-ranking school official who uses Chinese medicinal cooking with mutton
- a stuck-up judge brought low by a lobster dish with cognac
- a fermentation expert
- a kid called “the professor of taste” due to his book knowledge
- two brothers who prepare dishes with Italian twists
- a practitioner of molecular gastronomy
- and a presenter who’s jealous whenever people stop listening to her introductions
There are two rounds of the contest, for a process that produces a total of eight finalists and a setup that allows for two different moments of suspense, as we wait to see who’s going to make the cut. Since the winners are determined by a panel of judges, each tasting means a new score and a potential new lineup to continue to the next round.
Re-reading the book made it clearer that lots of the questions early on — along the lines of “why did the chef do that unusual thing?” — are answered as the dishes are presented later. I wasn’t paying that much attention on the first time through; instead, I was letting the procession of outrageous recipes wash over me, imagining what the effects might be from this combination of spices or that cooking technique.
That’s when I wasn’t skipping past the fan-service. The fantasy images inspired by the way the food tastes have returned, focusing on the women’s bodies. Most of the female students are drawn in ridiculous clothes even outside of the imagination sequences, particularly the meat specialist who runs around in a dog collar, Daisy Duke cutoffs, and a bikini top. I focused on the food, not the bodies, distracted by everyone’s grudges and deep motivations.
Seven books in, this competition manga still feels fresh due to what I’m learning about different ways to combine ingredients and prepare food. I enjoy reading about the creative dishes suggested. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)