Quarantine Post #23: Food Wars/ Shokugeki No Sōma

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It has been a while since I spoke about anime or manga. So let me get back to that. I have recently gotten into Food Wars. It is my love of the Food Network and anime/manga rolled into one. Culinary Battle shonen. (It gets a lot of flack from meatheads but I enjoy whooping ass in various ways.) I can’t be the only kid who wanted to be on the Iron chef. (Fun Fact: My siblings and I used to watch it and be mortified at the secret ingredient and try and figure out what Emeril or Bobby Flay was going to cook. Sometimes we still watch it. Good times, good times.) Here is another series I came to late. It has now been announced that the series is coming to an end. It is in its final season. So join me as I do that thing I do and tell you why this is a great show. 

Now it is probably because this was how I originally envisioned my life after high school. Like I would move back to NYC and enroll in a prestigious cooking school… and become a top chef… I would be the iron chef… etc etc. Anyways, this reminds of good times in my past life. Fun times. 

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Yukihira Soma strives to become a chef like his father Joichiro. He wants to take over his family restaurant and ultimately surpass his father’s skills. (Add Joichiro to the list of great anime dads.) It is a quaint story, to begin with, but it abruptly changes when Joichiro ends up taking a job traveling around the world and closes the shop. Joichiro tells Soma that he has been enrolled at the Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute.

The series is set mainly at Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute, an elite culinary school located in Japan, which only a handful of students graduate from each year. The students are mostly from Totsuki’s junior high school, but transfers (like Soma) are taken provided they pass the entrance exam. Soma manages to pass the entrance exam and the rest of the anime/manga shows his adventures at the school.

The top 10 chefs at the school make up the Council of Ten Masters. This is the council is second only to the Director. Students can initiate a shokugeki (anime: food war), a cooking fight with stipulations on the line, with any other student or alumni. Battles could be for cooking utensils, research society facilities, council membership, or even expulsion from the school. (Hence Battle Shonen)

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So let’s break down some top moments on the show. As is the way I do it… these will be in no particular order. So I have to announce SPOILERS or people will come after me… (although at this point you should know.)

  1. Sōma meets Erina – In order for Sōma to secure a spot at the Totsuki Academy, he has to impress Erina, the granddaughter of the dean. She is a bit arrogant and rightly so since she has been deemed the “God’s Tongue” meaning that she has a superhuman ability that grants the wielder an ultra-acute sense of taste. This early in the series… many of the students are turning their nose up at Sōma because he works in a diner… Erina is one of them. Everyone else comes from upscale or gourmet backgrounds. Sōma enters the hall where Erina is waiting with her assistant. She introduced herself to the applicants as one of the judges. She tasked them with cooking a dish with egg as a basis, but she also added that they had one minute to withdraw. Everyone except Sōma leaves… including the guy who in the scene before was trying to clown Sōma for having a family diner-style restaurant. He tells Sōma that Erina was a feared person in the culinary world, and any person who gave her an unsatisfactory dish can consider their cooking careers over. Erina is a spoiled brat and I didn’t like her to begin with so when he prepares  Transforming Furikake Gohan and she refuses to acknowledge that she was impressed by the dish…. (Ugh classism at its finest.)  Sōma’s cheeky comments infuriated her further, causing her to immediately deny him entrance to Tōtsuki. Her grandfather tastes the dish after who left the room… and overturns that decision and allows Sōma into the Institute.2020-09-01_8-47-272020-09-01_8-47-55
  2. Yukihira-Tadokoro Vs. Shinomiya ”Shokugeki” – The first event that Sōma has to complete is Tōtsuki Friendship and Rapport Training Camp. Satoshi tells his dorm mates the camp is where dozens of students were expelled each day. He warned them that this was the first event to begin to whittle down the numbers of their class. He warned them that this was the first event to begin to whittle down the numbers of their class. On the second day,  Sōma has to make a 9 Vegetable Terrine, He passes with flying colors. His dorm mate Megumi is fired because she made changes to the recipe without asking. Sōma faulted Kojirō for the bad cauliflower and that Megumi was worthy to stay. Sōma challenged him to a Shokugeki to preserve Megumi’s future. Sōma and Megumi arrived at a basement kitchen in the Villa where the Shokugeki was to be held. One last condition is added to the Shokugeki, Megumi must be the head chef because the duel was to show Megumi’s potential, not Sōma’s. After completing their dishes, Kojirō presented his dish, a Chou Farci first, which was well received by the alumni. Megumi’s Rainbow Terrine received praise from the judges and Sōma gave Megumi a smile for her efforts. When judgment time arrived, the result was a complete, one-sided loss. Kojiro allows Megumi and Sōma to remain in camp. Megumi is a favorite of mine because she has the worst nerves and Sōma’s behavior can push her anxiety at times.
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  3. The Karaage War – On his summer vacation, Sōma returned to Sumiredōri Shopping District to air out Restaurant Yukihira. He isn’t intending on running the restaurant without his dad. However, when his former classmates and many of the Sumiredōri residents flocked to the restaurant. Sōma notices that there aren’t as many customers in the district as there normally are. His friends point out Sōma that a Karaage store in the train station had been drawing attention from the shopping district as of late, causing profits in the district to sink. Sōma decided to challenge the Karaage store but  Sōma needs as much help as possible. Sōma decides to call an expert on meat to help him out with his challenge: Ikumi. After scouting out the competition, Sōma decides that the best solution was to make “a karaage that you could eat while walking”. In a matter of three days, Sōma’s karaage idea began to draw large crowds to Sumiredōri, all who had heard of the shopping district’s newest karaage sensation, the Sumire Karaage Roll.
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  4. Sōma vs. Subaru Mimasaka – This was such an interesting match up because up until this Shokugeki, Subaru was dominating the competition by copying everything his opponent does. He managed to win the prized Mezzaluna from the Aldini Brothers. (Well most prized possessions from his opponents.) As with Subaru’s Quarterfinal match, he convinced Sōma to accept a Shokugeki for their match with his knife on the line in exchange for Takumi’s recently relinquished Mezzaluna if he lost. Sōma called Subaru the pathetic chef and then changed the conditions of their match. The return of all 100 knives Subaru had won from his Shokugekis if he lost while Sōma decided to quit being a chef forever if he lost. During the match, the control of it constantly switched between Sōma and Subaru. Every time it had seemed that Sōma managed to surprise Subaru, Subaru continuously revealed that he knew what Sōma had been doing up until the minute the cooking period began. Sōma used Beef Tail as the basis for his stew as did Subaru. Subaru presented his Beef Stew with Bacon Garnish first, and his dish was well received by the judges and told Sōma to enjoy his final moments as a chef. Sōma presented his dish to the judges. At first, it had seemed that his dish was nothing more than a random assortment of beef parts similar to Yakiniku, but Sōma assured the judges that the beef parts were actually his garnish. After a single bite, the judges were engrossed by the harmonious flavors of the dish. Impressed by Sōma’s creativity and tenacity, he was unanimously declared the victor of the match, handing Subaru his first loss.
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  5. Sōma vs Akira and Ryo in the Finals – A three way final. I am here for it. Akira, the spice beast vs Ryo, the seafood master vs Sōma, the Underdog. It was steep competition for our MC. The Finals was held during the evening. Sōma, Akira, and Ryō entered the arena and headed to their station. Akira and Ryō immediately pulled out their pacific saury, which glistened in the light. However, when it was Sōma’s turn to pull out his saury, his was covered by a thick coating of beige powder. The judges for the finals then revealed themselves, consisting of Gin Dōjima, Senzaemon Nakiri, and Leonora Nakiri, Alice’s mother. Leonora was interested to see what Sōma had in store for her since he defeated her daughter in the quarterfinals. The three participants quickly set off to work once the Moon fully emerged above the arena. Sōma began his preparation by preparing his other ingredient base. However, he was the first to touch his saury, quickly washing off the mysterious powder, much to Ryō and Akira’s curiosity. Sōma continued to cook his saury on his shichirin and prepare his dish as Ryō and Akira presented their dishes before him, both of which were well received by the judges. With time ticking down, Sōma finally finished his dish and presented it to the judges. Sōma’s finished product was a takikomi gohan, perfect to entice those whose diet consists of rice as the base. The judges were impressed by the permeation of the saury’s flavor in their mouths and could even stand up to Ryō and Akira’s dishes. Sōma brandished a pot, stating that they should hold off the judging until they try his dish with the contents of the pot on it. Senzaemon was interested enough to give Sōma’s dish a second taste. With the white liquid, revealed to be soy milk, Sōma transformed his takikomi gohan into a Oja-Style Pacific Saury Takikomi Gohan. Thanks to Sōma’s soy milk blend and pickled plums, the ingredients blended harmoniously which made the entire audience see that even though Sōma had no special talent like Akira or Ryō, he was fighting them on equal terms. The judges handed praise to each of the finalists; commending Sōma in particular for his creativity which was easily the best out of the three. However, even with Sōma’s impressive creativity, it was not enough for him to win the match. Akira was declared the winner of the 43rd Autumn Election with Sōma and Ryō placing second.
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  6. Satoshi vs Julio – Satoshi is the representative for the Polar Star Dormitory and best embodies what the dorm represents; quirky, spontaneous, and rebellious. He cares deeply for his fellow residents at the dorm, defending them when people look down on them. Behind his benevolence and slack personality, however, is a serious and cunning opponent. (Beware of the anime characters that are deceptively cunning.) Satoshi tends to hold back during casual challenges against opponents clearly under his skill level. His focus and tenacity made him an Elite Ten member and his cooking skills and cunning tactics kept him there. During the Règiment de Cuisine, after Erina and her father agreed on a 3 vs 3 match, Satoshi, Megishima, and Sōma decide to participate in the first round. Julio Shiratsu was frustrated at Satoshi for not taking their duel seriously and even more so for not even remembering who he was. Julio makes the sad mistake of attacking Satoshi’s fellow Polar Star members. Julio could not comprehend why someone of his caliber was aligned with the Rebels rather than Central, even stating that the Polar Star Dormitory was holding him back. Upon hearing this, Satoshi promptly silenced him and immediately filet the belly of a live eel with a single stroke, stunning the crowd into silence. Angered by his insults Julio flung at his beloved dorm, Satoshi promised to go all out against him. “Maybe I’ll get serious about crushing you.” Julio presented to the judges first and was well received. The imprisoned Polar Star student noticed that the ingredients that Satoshi was highlighting were prototype ingredients that they had been making. Satoshi brought them together to create Hitsumabushi: Polar Star Flavor. Satoshi handed the final version of his dish, complete with eel-liver soup to Julio, demanding that he eat it. Julio scarfed down Satoshi’s dish and promptly  apologized for his previous statements, leading to Satoshi’s victory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnKBwrMkZHo
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  7. Sōma learns French Cuisine from Kojirō – Now remember the Shokugeki that Sōma and Megumi had with Kojiro earlier? Well they have to work together again during the Stagiaire. The Stagiaire event is a mandatory event where the First Year students are assigned to various cooking locations across Japan, from public or high class restaurants to food related corporations and enterprises. But because the restaurants and companies trust Tōtsuki and accept its students for the internship, failure would result in an immediate expulsion. In addition, students would be given a week to achieve a “visible accomplishment”. Sōma went to his second Stagiaire location, Shino’s Tokyo, a new restaurant in Japan opened by none other than Kojirō as a part of his restaurant chain. Sōma knew he would have to accomplish a “visual improvement” in an unconventional way with Kojirō in charge. Completing the interior work, Shino’s Tokyo’s pre-opening week would begin the next day. For the next few days, Shino’s Tokyo would undergo a trial period, building up their reputation while adjusting their menu to suit the future patrons of the restaurant. Kojirō also informed Sōma and the staff that there would be a Staff dish competition on the last day. Sōma decided that he would use that competition as a way of leaving a visible improvement for his Stagiaire second stage. As the first day of the pre-opening week began, Sōma had no trouble with the preparation work, but as the customers come in Sōma starts falling behind. Sōma was reprimanded for his actions by the Head-Chef Abel Blondin who refused to acknowledge him as a member of the team. Sōma apologized for his mistake and resolved to improve enough to be considered a member of the main crew. Over the course of the week, Sōma quickly learned everything he could in order to keep up with the crew. By the end of the week, Sōma was able to finish orders before the others had to tell him. Sōma asked if he could participate in the dish contest, stating that he spent the entire week designing his dish. Sōma created a quail dish that utilized the concepts of a donburi as the basis for it. Kojirō was visibly impressed by the depth and blending of flavors. Abel was curious as to how Sōma managed to stuff the dish properly, which was revealed to be cabbage, taking inspiration from Kojirō’s Chou Farci. Kojirō commended Sōma on his dish, but informed him that he could not put the dish on his menu, at least in its current state. Kojirō offered to teach Sōma how he would cook his dish in his style and Sōma gladly accepted the offer. Spending a few hours, Sōma learned from Kojirō and thanked him by calling him “master” much to his embarrassment. The next morning, Kojirō bid farewell to Sōma and told him to seize the top of Tōtsuki. A few days later, Shino’s Tokyo had its official opening with Kojirō’s rendition of Sōma’s donburi dish, Quail Stuffed with Risotto and Eggs ~Brazen Youngster Style~ on the menu as a specialty.
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  8. Sōma vs Eizan – Eizan is a douche. So I couldn’t wait for him to get an ass whooping. Once Erina’s father takes over the school, they start removing all people and programs that they don’t feel have what it takes to create gourmet dishes. One their shit list is the Polar Star Dormitories. Polar Star was ordered to be closed down, as it posed a threat to the new system of Tōtsuki. Sōma and his crew is hellbent on not letting that happen. He challenges Eizan to a shokugeki. 2020-09-12_21-43-19
    But Sōma quickly learns that Central has fixed all Shokugeki’s. (I think that this is a sign though. I mean if you feel like you better than everyone else why do you need to fix the shokugeki?) With the Shokugeki approved by the board, Sōma arrived at the venue with his opponent. Eizan made it clear that the judges were biased once more and more importantly, he had sent a small army of his goons to evict the Polar Star residents out of the dormitory that day. Despite his intention to apply pressure onto him, Sōma merely brushed off Eizan’s news and officially began the challenge, stating that their theme would be Jidori Chicken. As Sōma started cooking his dish, deciding to prepare it into a gyoza, Eizan sat back as he waited for the confirmation of the eviction. Eizan soon called them out of frustration and found out that the Polar Star residents had been repelling them. Sōma told him that Eizan has only been coming at him indirectly through sneaky methods. (Cause he is a loser with no friends.) Sōma put his all into his dish in order to defeat Eizan. After a strong presentation by Eizan and the judges snide comments towards Sōma, he managed to prevent the judges from passing down a preemptive judgment by taunting Eizan. He stated that Eizan was too scared to face him head-on. one of the judges refused to eat his dish, but the aroma alone enticed the other two. His Cheese-Feathered Hanetsuki Gyōza managed to silence Eizan and the judges as well.  Unable to lie about their true feelings, the judges unanimously voted in favor of Sōma. Returning to Polar Star, thanks to the efforts of Sōma and the residents, the dorm was still standing and in operation.
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  9. Joichiro Saiba is a BEAST – Shoutout to Jōichirō for being one of few anime dads that is actually worth something. He isn’t on my anime husbands list for no reason. (Check out that post.) As the sole parental figure in Sōma’s life, he is a mentor, teacher, and rival to his son, though he never pushed Sōma to become a chef, allowing Sōma to develop that interest on his own. Over the course of the show, we learned that Jōichirō was pushed into sending Sōma to Totsuki, that he went to Totsuki (also rooming at Polar Star) and was part of the Elite Ten. He took the 2nd seat, mostly because he was too lazy and carefree. As his friend, Gin, points out Jōichirō never took the 1st seat, despite him being the best cook of the generation. He was also selected to participate in BLUE, a prestigious cooking competition for upcoming chefs. Some of the upperclassmen felt cheated by his selection over them, so Jōichirō challenged them to a Régiment de Cuisine, where he alone would face off against all of his opponent’s team. Jōichirō proceeded to crush all of his opponents with utter ruthlessness, most giving up because of his fearsome tenacity and his unrivaled natural skill. Previously, Jōichirō was known as a “genius” and “trailblazer”, but the utter despair left after every single match in his opponents earned him the nickname Asura. By his third year, Jōichirō had acquired the 2nd Seat of the Elite Ten Council and became the most notable member of the Polar Star Dormitory at the time. Despite his overwhelming success, Jōichirō began to lose sight of himself, wondering what to if he should win BLUE. Looking at his exhausted, marred appearance, Jōichirō mysteriously disappeared and missed the competition. Senzaemon suggested that he leave the country and do some soul searching. Jōichirō accepted the idea and promptly departed from the academy, never to return or graduate from it. His story is a classic case of “Cooking is what you do, not who you are.” Even after he left Tōtsuki to do some soul searching, his skill remained unrivaled and even world famous. His cooking continued to evolve and improve, leading to worldwide acclaim. Watching him battle the 50 was fantastic. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI0ox5f_vdE)
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  10. Soma vs the 8th seat (Moon Festival) – The Moon Banquet Festival is the annual school festival at Tōtsuki. During which the students can set up a food booth at the festival, after receiving permission to do so. Students may choose to work individually or in a group. The festival is considered a huge event that attracts more than 500,000 customers a day. Among these customers are numerous domestic and foreign V.I.P.’s. Student’s are battling for top sales. Students would need to sell around 1,000 dishes a day if they want to make it to the top of the sales. As a result, certain stand locations are highly coveted and numerous Shokugekis are done to claim a desired location. When Sōma persisted on challenging the Elite Ten, Terunori explained the true power of an Elite Ten’s seat and stated that the current first years did not give them any sort of reason to challenge them yet. However, before the Elite Ten left, Tenrunori mentioned that if Sōma could beat him in any form of cooking, he will accept his Shokugeki challenge. When Sōma told her that he currently had no staff for his booth, Miyoko told him to visit the Chinese Cuisine RS. There Sōma wit nessed the club in action, working woks with raw rice to practice. Sōma watched as each member produced the same dish with extreme speed and precision. Even more so, each dish had the exact same impact. Terunori taunted Sōma, stating that he will need to have 1,000 customers a day. Without a staff or a menu, Sōma would need to work hard to meet this quota. In the beginning, it is obvious that Sōma might be in a bit of trouble. But long lines trip up Terunori and customers waiting in line are easily swayed to buy from Sōma. Though he finally was able to defeat Terunori and the Chinese Cuisine RS on the final day, Sōma was left unsatisfied that his plan to defeat him did not go as planned.

I was able to purchase the whole manga. Odd that is doesn’t have a box set yet. I mean come on, the manga is completely done. I have box sets for manga that is not done yet. (One Piece.) But each volume comes with recipes at the end so as I am a sucker for food and food shows… I have a collection of cookbooks as well. So I guess it is give and take.

I love the show. I am sad that I am watching the final season… but all good things come to an end. As my dad always says “Everything has a shelf life.” If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. It is a bit different and fun. But that is all for now.

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