I decided to review volumes 12 and 13 of Food Wars because they’re so interwoven in their start at this point of the series, that it makes more sense to just discuss them together. As with any manga volume of an Shonen style story, it’s not set up to be a standalone story. it’s not like an American graphic novel which typically has a goal of each volume standing on its own. With that, volume 12 gives a bit of rollback conclusion to volume 11. Then volume 13 is the conclusion to volume 12 and the fall classic. If you’re watching the second season of the anime, then you should just stop reading this review because I’m very sure that the conclusion to this story arc is going to be the entire second season of the show which does a hell of a job following the source material.
Volume 12 sets up the three-way showdown between Soma, Ryo and Akira which is of course the first time in the history of the school. The ingredient is revealed as well and while I actually won’t tell you what it is, it’s deceptively simple. This factors into the story of course because Soma is behind the curve compared to his two other opponents. The big day comes and we get to see what trick Soma has up his sleeve and of course what the other two are up to as well. What’s particularly interesting about volume 12 isn’t the outcome or the battle. Instead it’s what we learn about Soma and the forces at work behind the scenes that are trying to defeat him. There’s a great scene flashing back to his dad’s visit that is really important to the entire series because it lays out the creator’s views of what makes Soma special.
In volume 13 we of course learn who the victor is from the fall classic and I won’t spoil it for you. Frankly it doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t factor into the next chapter of the story, but instead builds a three-way friendship between the three cooks that faced off. Which is probably the most interesting development thus far. The rest of the volume is spent on the next challenge that is a bit like the student’s time in the hotel hell week. This time they’re sent out on location and asked to make a visual accomplishment… which is vague to say the least. Thankfully this part of the story only follows Soma who is paired with Hisako Arato aka Erina’s assistant. Erina is paired with Megumi which is pretty damn great though I found how they both passed the test to be a bit strange. Erina takes over the kitchen completely which I think would go against the point of the test and Megumi made one alteration which was really the only thing to happen. The rest is just funny because of Megumi’s personality and responses.
The next volume will continue the Stagiaire Challenge which should provide some interesting challenges depending on where the creator goes with it. Otherwise the character development for Soma and his cast of characters continues to be spot on and well-paced. I’m still not particularly fond of the harem-esque quality that the story presents as it doesn’t seem to do anything for the overall story and has hinder one character’s development, but it’s a minor gripe in the scheme of things.
The artwork is of course great because you don’t get into a top monthly manga without having great art. In particular I enjoy the comedic moments and artwork more than the serious moments, but they too are great looking. Also I appreciated that it didn’t get too crazy with the “foodgasam” parts during the final test because it really wouldn’t have taken away from the outcome which is basically what everyone wanted to see. That’s smart storytelling on every level.
If you’ve been reading along with Food Wars, then these are the two volumes you’ve been waiting for and they are worth the wait. I continue to be really impressed with this series and can understand why it’s been one of the top new franchises. It goes to show that great idea aside, great storytelling will stand out more.
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