Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 13
I was about to give up on this series — I only read it for the food, and there are only so many times I can watch a cook-off — when this volume did something different that reignited my interest.
But first, Food Wars volume 13 has to finish off the competition from the previous book, in which we find out whether Soma’s everyday cooking will make him the final champion of a tournament that began seven books ago. After 103 chapters, a winner will be declared.
As we wait to find out whom that will be, there are cut-aways providing more insight into the personalities of some of the challengers, including putting on the page just what makes Soma such a great chef: his determination. That’s to be expected in this kind of competition manga, a validation of willingness to work hard and never give up. We also get the melancholy backstory of Akira, the spice master.
About a third of the way into this book, a new twist is introduced. The students are sent out on internships, which gives them (and the reader) a chance to see how a working restaurant operates. This is the stagiaire challenge, named after the French for “trainee”. They’re paired up and told they need to make a “visible accomplishment” during their week on site.
Soma works with Hisako (former secretary to Miss Erina) at a neighborhood restaurant dedicated to Western cuisine in a location near a train station. The place struggles with huge waves of customers based around the train schedules. Meanwhile, Erina and Megumi have been sent to a fancy French place.
(The showpiece of the “Western cuisine” is a Napolitan, which is a plate of spaghetti with sauce made from ham, onion, ketchup, and soy sauce. I have always wondered about the way tomato sauce has been replaced with ketchup in the Japanese take on Italian food.)
Not only did the internships allow for a nice change of pace from cooking for its own sake to looking at the details of working in the food industry, but the focus on just a few characters allowed me to not feel so lost. In the “everyone against everyone” cookoffs, it’s easy to lose track of who’s who. This provided a new challenge that I found more interesting to read.
On a side note, I also found this an entertaining self-commentary on how the consequences in the series have ramped down:
This volume also contains a chapter drawn by Ryo Nakama (Isobe Isobee Monogatari) which is mostly about how hard it is to draw a cooking manga without a food expert writing it. Plus, there are two short pieces, the first about what the kids wear on their days off, the second showing previous students. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)