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Review: Food Wars Complete Series 1 (Blu-Ray)

Food Wars has earned something of a reputation for its fusion of passionate food-analysis and copius fan service. The question lies in how the balance of these two elements will play out and if the narrative is strong enough to escape the fleshy grasp of its protagonists.

Food Wars Complete Season 1 kicks off the series by introducing its titular protagonist, Soma, amongst the bustle of his family’s two-man restaurant. Soma’s been competing for years to produce a dish that exceeds his Dad’s, and despite showing great talent and technique, he consistently falls short. When his father is called away for work, Soma finds himself enrolled at the prestigious Totsuki Culinary Academy, a sprawling mass of a campus for the country’s greatest young cooks, in order to expand his horizons and push himself further as a chef. Soma’s laid-back attitude to life and ambitious approach to cooking sees him fending off all sorts of cooking battles and challenges in order to secure his position and avoid expulsion in the highly competitive school.

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The crux of the series, and its title, are the Food Wars, Iron Chef-like battles where students compete for improved club facilities, prestige and to avoid getting kicked out. Season 1 focuses on the groundwork for the narrative before settling on 2 story arcs that cover a series of external and internal challenges designed to whittle the first year students down to a select few who demonstrate the skills required of the school’s graduates. This often involves all sorts of obscure challenges, but in every case the story is focused on culinary meta-analysis, something that’s risen to prominence in recent years on TV and arguably harkens back to the early days of Iron Chef which was delightfully entertaining. Food Wars should have completed its homage by having one of the judges take a huge, manly bite out of a green capsicum, arguably the single greatest scene from Iron Chef. But I digress…

So the plot is not dissimilar to any other meta-analysis anime – we’ve covered this when reviewing titles like Yowamushi Pedal and Seiyu’s Life – in that it applies a degree of anal retentivity and hyperbolic flair to the world of culinary excite. Food Wars’ hook is that the degree to which people experience foodgasms that reflects the amazingness of their cooking – sometimes this is a bit silly and often a little over the top, though at the very least you can comment that both men and women are treated to all the ridiculousness this could entail, though the series focuses very heavily on the latter. In this sense, the show uses this as an excuse to get a bit carried away with fan service, though it’s not solely restricted to getting excited when smashing down some fried chicken – sometimes it’s just how their characters are designed. While not every female character suffers from this, it would have been nice for the designers to apply a little restraint at times, though the fact that Satoshi regularly wears nothing but a fundoshi and exhibits bishounen muscles helps apply a little bit of balance.

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To be honest, the large amount of fan service is probably the only thing that became a bit contrite as the series went on – the characters, both major and minor, made things entertaining and the fun interplay between many of them kept things interesting. The final arc’s emphasis on a drawn-out multi-episode competition sort of put it in the familiar shounen action anime trope where everyone takes turn competing in a martial arts contest (so there’s a little bit of Dragon Ball Z in the pacing), but despite this I never really tired of it.

In terms of Food Wars’ Blu-Ray package, this set comes up very nicely. Encoding across the discs are good, there’s an English dub in there if that’s your thing, though the extras are pretty slim with just the ops/eds in there. Still, the quality is there where it counts.

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With Food Wars, I went in hoping it would be able to elevate the narrative above its penchant for fan service, and it ultimately achieves this – a little more restraint wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but its evident passion for food, excellent production values and thoroughly entertaining, hyperbolic cast of characters won me over pretty quickly. I’m looking forward to see how things pan out for season 2!

Radness scale:

A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.