This article will contain spoilers for Food Wars up to the first episode of Season 2. The spoilers are mainly related to traits characters hold and the Shokugeki in the first episode of Ni no Sara.
In Food Wars, cooking is an art. Of course this is applicable in more than one way and it certainly isn’t just the case within this specific Animated Series, but in this particular instance I find it very interesting. It comes with the very premise of cooking battles being judged by people who decide what in the end was the best dish, but the way food is treated in this show is strongly reminiscent of how art often gets critiqued and I think the show makes fantastic use of that in what it has to say about how people tend to talk about art.
From the very start, criticism is frontlined as one of the major elements of the series. From the amateur tongue of Soma’s friend judging between his and his father’s cooking, to the feared judgement of Erina at Toutsuki Academy to the judges later on in the actual Shokugekis and the fall elections. There’s a huge variety of personalities and more importantly opinions lined up here.
Erina for example from the very start dismisses Soma’s food due to its nature something you often find critics and viewers as a whole doing. She believes Soma’s food to be second grade in its nature and is almost insulted when he serves it to her. She believes the dishes he presents to her to be second grade in their nature and for them not to ever be able to surpass something she believes to be more worthy.
This is in a way reminiscent of the idea of there being a “right way” to do art. It’s an obviously unfair criticism to make and Food Wars makes that very clear, but it’s one that’s found in real life nonetheless. Albeit somewhat outdated, I believe the strongly negative reaction to the moe trend in Anime criticism to be a good example within our own community. Anything that only remotely had something to do with moe or similar things was dismissed as worthless garbage immediately despite there being several great gems. It’s the exact same opinion Erina holds about the food Soma makes and I believe it to be equally ignorant but is still held by a huge amount of people.
A second example I find to be extremely interesting is that of Sadatsuka Nao and Arato Hisako in episode 21 during the fall election preliminaries with both of them, once again, representing certain aspects in art. Nao’s dish looks and reeks atrocious and is almost completely ignored due to that alone, until one of the judges decides it’s their duty to taste it after all and in the end does find it extremely delicious. It’s a relatively standard “don’t judge a book by its cover” message delivered through the cooking in Food Wars.
However where Nao’s dish in the end tastes good in a way that leaves the judges marked negatively, her rival Hisako is the exact opposite of this with her healing plants leaving an incredibly positive impression on the judges. Nao describes her cooking as a curse, whereas Hisako’s is described as healing. I believe that here once again similarities are to be found to art as a whole. Here Food Wars seems to imply that a story ending on a positive note is generally preferable over incredibly negative shows. Of course this doesn’t count out more negative stories like Fate/Zero completely, the show does in fact make it rather clear that these can be very good nonetheless, but that a positive take on a topic just generally feels better overall.
One last example I want to bring is one of the most recent episodes, the first episode of Food Wars‘ second season. The theme of this episode’s Shokugeki is interestingly enough “Bento”, something that, as Yukihira points out, is not usually seen as the top of the culinary food chain, a theme that will in fact keep popping up throughoug the knock-outs. In a way we have earlier roles between Erina and Soma switched here, but the overall message stays the same. Much more interesting to me is the actual process of criticism used here.
Soma’s opponent, Erina’s cousin Alice, presents a highly thought out collection of Sushi made with the latest equipment of molecular cuisine. Alice is an obviously extremely skilled cook as is pointed out by a huge amount of people. But as extravagant and gorgeous as it may be, Soma in the end wins through something as standard as a Nori Bento even if it may not be entirely normal. Although it’s constantly said that what Soma did in his Bento is in fact very good cooking in the end it is extremely conventional and the one quirk he uses was inspired from cheap candy, so how can he win?
The answer is according to the judges, Soma himself and with that Food Wars as a whole is in the nature of the work, in this case the Bento. As Alice’s grandfather himself points out, where Alice may have been the more skilled out of the two in terms of general cooking, her dish didn’t capture what a Bento is all about. It may have been better on the level of skill and taste, but does that really matter if it never felt like what it was supposed to be in the first place? Where Soma’s work wasn’t quite as skillful as Alice’s, his contained, as the show points out at several occasions, “warmth” and that is the more important thing in this scenario.
This is once again something absolutely applicable to criticism in art and especially in the anime community, where we still have an overly strong fixation on the “story”. After all, what point is there in being animated if the medium isn’t used to its full potential. Of course this is far from saying that anything that doesn’t use the medium to its fullest is necessarily bad, in fact I would argue that ironically enough Food Wars itself is a series that’s far from doing that, but a show that does so will in many ways be superior. After all, a lot of the greats, may that be Madoka Magika, K-On! or a lot of others are the ones that are doing exactly that.
Of course these examples are far from the only things in criticism that Food Wars highlights, but these were some of the ones I found the most interesting and who knows if the show does more of these perhaps I will come back to it some time soon!
Anyway, so what do you guys think of all of this? Do you think the messages Food Wars carries are applicable to real life art? Are there any other examples you found interesting?