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[Manga Review] Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 8

As the finals to determine the Classic participants finish, Soma faces off with Akira, a spice pro, in making curry dishes. As dishes are described as scent bombs, the significance of odor in cooking is highlighted. The descriptions are not light on the virtues of various spices in “ not tire … the whole body” and “detoxifying the blood”. Happily, the ridiculously exaggerated images by artist Shun Saeki, meant to share the eating experience visually, avoid the usual scantily clad women in favor of muscular smackdowns that emphasize the power of the flavor, as the judges are hit in the face by the taste.

(I ‘d to take a rest during reading to make myself some food, since reading this series on an empty stomach isn’t a great idea — it causes too many cravings.)

Soma (as expected, since he’s the hero) has a strong showing. I was impressed by how his recipe serves as a callback to some of the earlier chapters; he incorporates techniques and ingredients from dishes he’s made formerly, nicely emphasizing the learning component of this school experience. Soma is, as a result, praised for his stubbornness and dedication, reminding us that this is finally a contest manga. And the recipe for his dish is comprised, along with directions on making temari sushi.

Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma Volume 8

The dashing fellow on the cover, by the way, is Isshiki, who’s best known for normally wearing nothing but an apron. He’s started his own business, requiring different attire, and that effort leads Soma and Megumi into my favorite encounter. They’re asked to teach a class of kids how to make pot stickers.

Some of the students are challenging: they’re distracted or resistant or too easily discouraged. The chefs’ flexible approach, with a variety of fillings, giving the children chances to customize their dishes, is encouraging. It made me want to give making dumplings a try! Particularly since instructions are included. This chapter was heart-warming, my favorite part of the book, since it most directly expressed the series theme, that of cooking with emotion making dishes better.

The main competition is going to be particularly entertaining, since the theme is bento boxes, a particularly Japanese combination that allows for plenty of creativity. Soma’s up first, competing against Alice Nakiri, a prodigal chef who emphasizes culinary science and molecular gastronomy and travels with her own suite of appliances. Soma, in contrast to her snootiness and elite tools, chooses to make the “simplest of all bento” with his own indomitable touches. The goal is a lunch dish that “should be full of bright delicacies and interesting surprises”, which is coincidentally also what I look for in manga. The cliffhanger promises to reveal, in the next volume, why Soma’s preparation was so surprising.

This volume also includes a bonus story about “Erina’s Summer Vacation”. It makes up for the lack of fan service in the rest of the book by featuring lots of busty girls in swimsuits. There are also a few reader-submitted recipes that won a contest for ideas for donburi rice bowls. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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