Considering that nowadays we have eighty thousand cooking shows (really, look at it, Top Chef, Masterchef Everywhere, Cutthroat Kitchen, Great British Bake-Off and so on, and so forth) it seems odd that we haven’t had that many cooking mangas.
Enter Shokugeki no Souma, written by Yuto Tsukada and illustrated by Shun Saeki, which basically takes typical shounen tropes, but instead of physical violence, we have characters defeating each other through their vicious flavor profiles.
This manga is all kinds of amazing (the anime adaptation is pretty faithful, I actually started with watching the anime and then getting anxious to learn more and started reading the manga).
The story is pretty simple, we have Yukihiro Souma who enters an elite cooking academy and his unusual ways of “cooking for the masses” rubs all the elites in his classes in all the wrong ways.
Things we have heard about before.
Really, it is so strange that this manga which has all the typical trappings of any generic shounen manga, seems to raise itself above everyone else. It has gorgeous art by Shun Saeki and Yuto Tsukada has crafted characters that are actually interesting to read about. When you start meeting everyone else, it becomes this really fun romp that feels more like Harry Potter and Dragonball Z decided to compete on Hell’s Kitchen. You kind of wish everyone gets more screen time since they all have their own specialties and personalities, though Souma is entertaining on his own as well.
The one problem I have is that Shun Saeki plays too much into fanservice, especially the first few volumes (then the manga starts standing on its own merits of food and cooking and making it all look interesting) there still is the fanservice, but it isn’t as blatant as bad. The great thing about Shun Saeki is all the references he (or is it she? no idea) to other mangas (the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure reference is my favorite so far), showing that the creators still seem to know what they are doing as they go through this series.
It is light-hearted that can crank up the exhilaration factor in a heartbeat. Couple that with the fast paced nature of the chapters and battles (I think only Toriko is faster in wrapping up battles) you find yourself finishing all 186 chapters in a day or two and then start getting annoyed that the new chapter isn’t out yet (it was a really good cliffhanger last week).
Read Shokugeki no Soma, it somehow weaves everything that we have seen into an unusual tapestry of familiar with the unusual and serves up a heaping of good times.