Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 8
First, as the finals to determine the Classic participants conclude, Soma faces off with Akira, a spice expert, in making curry dishes. The importance of aroma in cooking is emphasized, as dishes are described as fragrance bombs. The descriptions are heavy on the virtues of various spices in “detoxifying the blood” and “refreshing … the entire body”. Thankfully, the ridiculously exaggerated images by artist Shun Saeki, meant to convey the eating experience visually, stay away from the usual scantily clad women in favor of muscular smackdowns that emphasize the power of the flavor, as the judges are punched in the face by the taste.
(I had to take a break during reading to make myself some food, since reading this series on an empty stomach isn’t a great idea — it causes too many cravings.)
Soma (as expected, since he’s the hero) has a strong showing. I was impressed by how his recipe serves as a callback to some of the earlier chapters; he incorporates ingredients and techniques from dishes he’s made previously, nicely emphasizing the learning component of this school experience. Soma is, as a result, praised for his stubbornness and determination, reminding us that this is ultimately a competition manga. And the recipe for his dish is included, along with instructions on making temari sushi.
The dashing fellow on the cover, by the way, is Isshiki, who’s best known for normally wearing nothing but an apron. He’s started his own business, requiring different attire, and that effort leads Soma and Megumi into my favorite encounter. They’re asked to teach a class of kids how to make pot stickers.
Some of the students are challenging: they’re distracted or resistant or too easily discouraged. The chefs’ flexible approach, with a variety of fillings, giving the children chances to customize their dishes, is encouraging. It made me want to give making dumplings a try! Particularly since instructions are included. This chapter was heart-warming, my favorite part of the book, since it most directly expressed the series theme, that of cooking with emotion making dishes better.
The main competition is going to be particularly entertaining, since the theme is bento boxes, a particularly Japanese combination that allows for plenty of creativity. Soma’s up first, competing against Alice Nakiri, a prodigal chef who emphasizes culinary science and molecular gastronomy and travels with her own suite of appliances. Soma, in contrast to her snootiness and elite tools, chooses to make the “simplest of all bento” with his own indomitable touches. The goal is a lunch dish that “should be full of bright delicacies and interesting surprises”, which is coincidentally also what I look for in manga. The cliffhanger promises to reveal, in the next volume, why Soma’s preparation was so surprising.
This volume also includes a bonus story about “Erina’s Summer Vacation”. It makes up for the lack of fan service in the rest of the book by featuring lots of busty girls in swimsuits. There are also a few reader-submitted recipes that won a contest for ideas for donburi rice bowls. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)