Rating: 3.5/5 – A Pleasant Read with No Bitter Aftertaste
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
The only real problem with the Food Wars! series is that it comes hot on the heels of two other series cut from essentially the same cloth – Iron Wok Jan and Yakitate! Ja-Pan – that also deal with the concept of cooking as fighting, replacing the typical shonen battlefield with a kitchen, and switching out switchblades for chef’s knives. That said, Food Wars! offers a happy medium between those two titles that modern manga readers might find appealing.
Iron Wok Jan, the oldest of the three titles mentioned, shows its age with a more classic, rough style of illustration that, while working for that title, might be off-putting for the more casual or new manga reader. Yakitate, on the other hand, used a softer touch in its storytelling, but focused almost solely on baking, as opposed to cooking a variety of different meals. Food Wars! offers sharp, clean linework by artist Shun Saeki, reminding me more of Yakitate, while at the same time going for more dynamic posturing and a bit more of the fantastical elements common to manga a la what I recall from Iron Wok Jan.
All three titles put actual recipes in the back pages or chapter separations of their tankobon, some fairly simple to try, and some with an ingredient list that might make even the most accomplished chef scratch their heads. Volume four of Food Wars! offers a nice take on Eggs Benedict that seems just challenging enough for weekend kitchen warriors to want to try, but good luck to anyone who attempts to make the Rainbow Tureen – which is also the main plot device of the first half of this book.
So with so much similarity, what is there to entice you to pick one book over the other? I’m a baker, through and through, so I was a huge fan of Yakitate, but with Food Wars! there’s no denying writer Yuto Tsukuda’s ability to create fun, dynamic, and memorable characters. Particularly endearing is Megumi, a girl from a rural community who has a strong Southern (thanks to the translation) accent that creeps out the more frustrated she gets. Full disclosure: I’m from Kentucky, and while I have no discernable accent 90% of the time, if I lose my temper or my grip on a situation, that drawl creeps out in seconds flat. So it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Megumi, as a kindred soul, but there are a host of other interesting characters in this series, each with their own motivations and personalities. They’re worth taking the time to get to know.
Food Wars! follows in the footsteps of two other titles – at least two that have been released stateside (I’m sure there are many more like it overseas) – which deal with the idea of the kitchen battlefield. If your kitchen is the most important room in your home, or if you just enjoy reading about food, you have several options available to you. With that in mind, you might not find a title as well-rounded or widely appealing as Food Wars! Bon Appetit!
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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