Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 12
Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma volume 12, story by Yuto Tsukuda and art by Shun Saeki, finally brings us to the cooking competition finals, a challenge that began in volume 6. Because the judges couldn’t pick a winner in the semi-final competition in the previous book, for the first time, there will be three competitors in the last cook-off, another way to extend the storytelling.
Our hero Soma, the champion of “common cuisine”, is facing off against Kurokiba, a bad boy who’s skilled with seafood, and Hayama, a spice specialist. The theme is an ingredient that represents the fall season: mackerel pike, a common fish that allows chefs to demonstrate a variety of skills.
The rest of the book follows the competitors as they prepare for their life-changing time in the kitchen. They visit an early morning fish market, to emphasize the importance of ingredient selection and conduct an impromptu sashimi preparation session. Soma’s got to come up with a creative, unexpected approach, since he doesn’t have the abilities of the others. That’s the usual way he succeeds, through imagination.
Much emphasis is put on there being no substitute for time and experience in developing skill. It’s something of a let-down in that way, since these teenage chefs have already been working since they were kids, so it’s as though someone interested in learning to cook is already washed out of the possibility. But that’s typical of competition genre manga, that those involved are the best of the very best, with almost supernatural skills.
Ceremonial elements give added drama (and the artist something to draw beyond food and stoves). As a casual read, I’m still vaguely interested in Food Wars, mostly to see what dishes are created. Imagining the taste of the extraordinary food is my favorite part, and I have learned facts about cooking and ingredient combinations. We’ll find out who wins, and why, in the next volume. (The publisher provided a review copy.)