Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 16
After several volumes that explored the food business, I thought Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma volume 16 was a distinct step backwards, from the exploitative fan-service cover to the repetitive plotlines.
Soma’s once again facing off against a high-ranking school council member. This time the competition involves running a booth at the school festival. There are a number of rules in place (established in the previous book) that mean Soma risks leaving school if he loses. There’s nothing new here, although that’s part of the structure of the series, an escalating series of contests that demonstrate Soma’s innate skills and willingness to work hard.
However, in this case, so much of the challenge stems for Soma’s stupidity in wandering into a significant challenge without checking out the history or rules that it’s hard to care much about what happens. And his ability to keep up with a 12-person group of well-trained chefs is ludicrously unbelievable. There are a few bits of well-earned practical wisdom about running a restaurant sprinkled in, but not enough of them for my taste.
Given how tired this latest incarnation of the formula feels, I was looking forward to the change of pace promised by the second half of the book, but it was even more off-putting. It sets up the premise of how Erina, the remote leader of the school, was abused by her father, alternately neglected, ignored, and belittled. (That’s what the cover refers to, although thankfully, the salaciousness it portrays isn’t in the actual story.)
He seems to treat everyone that way, though. He believes great cooking is a matter of breeding, not talent, and he’s launched a coup to take over the school. It’s a particularly timely storyline for some readers, as dissent is no longer tolerated, and he issues orders, having confidence he’ll be listened to, without consideration for whether they’re thought-through or even consistent.
I’m not interested in reading about it, though, particularly since it all seems to be setup for Erina being rescued by Soma. Too bad her storyline isn’t about what it’s like to be her from the inside. (The publisher provided a review copy.)