Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volumes 9-10
The quarterfinal matches of the Fall Classic cooking competition continue and conclude in these volumes. The showdown began in volume 7 and extended into the previous book, where the contest between our hero Soma and the molecular gastronomist began; she presented her bento box there. Here, in Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma volume 9, we see Soma’s entry, a twist on a seaweed bento, using some of the fancy cooking science techniques.
Although technologically advanced, Soma’s dish is focused on fun as well as taste. He also uniquely suited the theme, which results in a completely gratuitous nude shot of his female competitor, because his food is so great to eat. At least she’s not the only one — the older leader of the school also disrobes randomly when he’s eaten a wonderful dish. (And he’s quite well-muscled for such a patriarch.)
Most of this volume, though, is dedicated to country girl Megumi’s battle against tough guy Ryo, where the dish is ramen. The two have to perfectly choose and combine noodles, broth, and toppings.
Megumi is finally developing some confidence in her abilities, thank goodness, and she’s choosing hometown ingredients that play to her strengths. Where Soma’s story demonstrated the value of emotion in cooking, Megumi’s contest shows the virtue of cooperation, learning from others, and being nice to other chefs, in contrast to Ryo’s view of the kitchen as battlefield. She picks the right dish to match her level of skill, demonstrating a maturity that impresses the judges.
The last chapter sets up the meeting that concludes in Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma volume 10 (out February 2), with a hamburger battle (“any cooked patty sandwiched between two buns”) between a “spice master” and a “medicinal chef”, focused on the healing properties of food. First, though, the reader has to get through a few pages of a live turtle being butchered. Not the right end note for the squeamish.
Against the turtle burger is placed a combination of kebab meat, kofta, and pita, in a umami-based exotic twist on an American classic. I’m not sure I buy the lesson that a good burger requires both “some kind of sauce” and pickles to be great, but the descriptions of the dishes are mouth-watering, as always.
That battle is remarkably short, in order to get to the last quarterfinal: a showdown in which the loser must hand over his knife, the tool of his trade. It’s a dessert battle, and after three other showdowns, layering on a personal grudge is the authors’ (story by Yuto Tsukuda; art by Shun Saeki) way of keeping the reader’s adrenaline up. One competitor is Italian, out to protect his brother’s reputation; the other is a stalker who wins contests by observing what his opponent will make and making the same thing, only better. It’s an odd tactic, but effective, so far. And boy, I really wanted to taste that semifreddo cake, which sounded amazing.
The stalker is also planning to go up against Soma, who’s working on a Western-style entree. There’s a new character who’s amusing, a wannabe reporter who’s shadowing Soma for the never-before-mentioned school newspaper. With all the competition going on, it’s nice to have someone for him to talk to that he isn’t going to have to cook against. (The publisher provided review copies.)