Food Wars! is an anime that took the world by storm. Or at least, it took me by storm. For the uninitiated, it follows the quest of Soma to become the top chef in his new cooking school. After growing up battling with his father to create the best-tasting food in their diner, he goes to school to level up and gain cooking skills to help him in his quest to beat his father. One day. Along the way, he sets the school aflame by declaring that he'll beat any person who stands in his way in a food battle and proves it by challenging people to battles almost too much.
The premise isn't exactly unique, but what the show does with all of the elements is truly something special. It takes several facets of anime that I deeply love, and at least one big element of anime that I'm DEEPLY conflicted by, combining them together in a way that's not only palatable, but also funny, relatable, and drool-worthy. Add on a fast-paced plot, well-researched recipes, and a great character, and you're in business. Are you INTRIGUED yet? Let me explain further why I am so excited for this new season...
#1- RAMPANT FANSERVICE
Ok, so here's the thing. I'm not a huge fan of fan service. I know, I KNOW. This is a very debatable topic. I get it. I understand. Let me explain before you decide to lambast me in the comments below. First, let me say that almost everyone, to some extent, likes fan service. You probably like some kind of fan service. Heck, that might be why you watch anime at all. I'm not saying that I don't like any fanservice at all, I just don't like all kinds of fan service.
So, you might be asking, what's so great about the rampant fanservice in Food Wars!, especially if you don't like fanservice in the first place? Well, as I said, I do like some fan service- I like fan service that serves a purpose in furthering the plot or giving insight to characterization. At first, it doesn't seem like the fanservice in Food Wars! would do this. The artist portrays the characters in some incredibly suggestive ways. Seriously, clothes explode off. At some point or another, you'll see almost every character naked. And WHY???!?! Why does this show sexualize just about every walking, talking human being at some point or another? Purely to accentuate how MIND-BLOWINGLY, CLOTHES-EXPLODINGLY delicious (or horrible....peanut butter squid, I'm looking at you...) is.
This show is brilliant because it carefully uses fan service, something that is hugely popular with many people, and something that motivates a lot of people to watch anime, to further the overall aim of the show: displaying just how amazing the food is. By doing this, it makes the food the star of each fan service instance. Why are people getting hot and bothered? The food. What does that tell the viewer? That this food is EFFING GOOD. It contributes to characterization by showing the viewer how each student, judge, or random passerby reacts to each person's cooking. It furthers the plot by making the food the main star and letting the character's reactions to the food guide the choices they make in how they want to grow and diversify their cooking skills. Honestly, it's such a clever use of fan service, that I can't get mad at it. With this new season, I look forward to seeing more naked people lavishing their love and attention towards some gorgeously hand-crafted meals. Speaking of the hand-crafted meals...
#2- OTHERWORLDLY FOOD PORN
The food in this show looks so good. Do you know something amazing? The phrase "fan service" isn't technically limited to showing off some skin. Fanservice can apply to anything placed in an anime of manga meant to appeal to the fans- sports anime, for example, is a form of sports fan service. Your Lie In April is a great example of an anime geared towards classical music fan service. So, does that mean that appearances of food in anime can also be considered fanservice??? YES, 100%, and Food Wars! more than delivers.
First, the art is absolutely gorgeous, depicting food in a way that is honestly impossible in real life. Seriously, I've tried to get food to look exactly the way it does in anime. Heck, I've made a profession of it, and I can tell you first hand that it is not an easy feat at all. Artists have the luxury of choosing the exact colors they want to use, of selecting the perfect lighting in which they want to showcase their food. They can draw on perfect grill marks, and render the most delectable crunchy panko coating.
Second, the treatment of the food by the characters absolutely glorifies it. I've already discussed how the characters literally lose clothing over their appreciation of the food, but they way they verbalize those thoughts heightens the viewer's own understanding of what makes the food so delicious. Not only does it look good, but the running commentary from the character adds dimension- it tells the viewer what is good about it, what flavor elements are working together, what sensations and flavors they are getting hit with. This makes the appreciation of the food porn immersive. Not only do the viewers have something to look at, they have some context with which to appreciate it. As a result, the startling depictions of the food, coupled with the commentary makes the experience of watching and appreciating the anime more than two dimensional.
Amazingly, the food porn doesn't distract from the plot, in fact, it sort of is the plot...
#3- CAPTIVATING PLOT
Ok, I know I love food maybe more than the average person, so if food isn't your thing, I promise there's more to enjoy about this show. The plot is fast-paced and always moving, which I think is a must-have for most anime episodes. To me, the sign of a good first episode is one that quickly establishes the plot, moves forward into introducing a conflict or challenge, and leaves the viewer wanting more.
Even just by looking at the first episode of the new season, The Third Plate, all the marks were hit. They quickly moved through exposition, skipping over introductions of new characters to focus on the important introductions- that of the main opponents of the season. It quickly set up the main conflict of this season, within the first five minutes, in fact. The episode built on that conflict and left us with a hype-train cliffhanger. Soma comes up with a daring and bold solution to the challenge his new rival has set before him.... and the episode ends there, leaving us longing for more- more information, more insight, and importantly, more food.
The best part is that the hype train keeps rolling throughout each of the episodes. At least, in the previous two seasons, this is definitely the case. Soma moves from one challenge to the next at a breakneck pace, with support from his friends along the way adding comedic relief and help to facilitate his character growth. There's never a wasted moment, no filler episodes- each episode has a purpose, but is at the same time enjoyable and fulfilling. We, as the viewers, never groan over a recap episode or sigh over a wasted moment. We know that Soma is on a mission- to beat everyone else and be the best chef in the school- and it feels as though every moment is somehow dedicated to supporting that dream- whether it's as a comedic interlude or through a friendship affirming helping hand, or as a straight-up food war. And, you know, those food wars...
#4- SMART FOOD RESEARCH
From a food blogger perspective, and someone who has recreated multiple recipes from this show... I can say with absolute certainty that the people who work on this series did some serious research into food. Funnily enough, I didn't think about this too much until I was talking to someone who came to my last panel at Crunchyroll Expo. I had been talking about how clearly the food from this show had been well researched, and tested, and put to trial before even putting it into the manga, and the fan stayed behind to express his thanks to me for complimenting the cooking in the show. Apparently, all the food that shows up in Food Wars! is actually tested by an actual Japanese chef (Yuki Morisaki), and the recipes that appear in certain recipes are tested in real life before they get put into the manga. You know, that makes complete sense to me.
It's hard to draw and animate gorgeous looking food without having a reference photo to rely on. Surely they had to get that from somewhere. More than that, though, the way the ingredients and cooking are described in the anime are so specific and pertinent to each recipe, it's clear that a lot of effort was put into knowing what should actually go in the recipe. It's really nice, and refreshing, to see care and dedication go into the star of the show -the food- and to see that the creators actually care about being as realistic as possible, considering it's an anime...
From personal experience, I wish the recipes were provided with each dish, but what's really fun about recreating the food is being able to experiment, do your own research as to what should be in the food and what possible techniques were used in the cooking. I've tried multiple times to debunk the recipes and prove that they couldn't possibly have been made in the time frame of the show, but actually I'm surprised to say that most foods that appear in the food wars, despite how complex they look, can actually be recreated in the appropriate amount of time as long as you have your prep work completed. Except for Takumi's semi-freddo from season two. Seriously, that dish...
In any case, from a food lover's point of view, this anime is a dream come true. The food looks good. The characters are dedicated to making the best of the best when it comes to eating. The hype is there. Best of all, it's obtainable in real life, if you want to put the effort into making your own versions of the food.
And so, all these things combined- great fan service, good food porn, fast-paced plot, and realistic food- make for a food lover's dream of an anime. And, to be honest, who doesn't love food? So check out Food Wars! The Third Plate, simulcasting every Tuesday at 9:30 am, PDT. I promise you won't be disappointed.