The long awaited second season of Shoukugeki no Soma, or Food Wars, has finally commenced this past Saturday, otherwise known as Food Wars: The Second Plate! I just personally went through the whole first season a couple of weeks ago so I could thoroughly enjoy this current season in time for when it aired. I was hesitant when it first came out, because I would just see the gifs of people food-gasming, getting naked, and getting way too into their food. I got the impression that it was some weird fanservice anime disguising itself as a food about food. But boy was I wrong.
Food Wars is basically MasterChef the anime plus plot in a nutshell. Although with all the drama that occurs in the kitchen and how high the stakes can get, it easily turns into Hell’s Kitchen, with different characters being the Gordon Ramsey of the show whenever they are challenging the students.
In case you don’t know, Food Wars is about a 15 year old boy named Soma Yukihira who has grown up working alongside his dad at their family diner as they call it. His father asks what he wants to do since graduating junior high, and Soma says he just wants to hone his cooking skills further at the family diner. Instead, his dad transfers him to an elite food academy called Totsuki Culinary Academy, where only 10% of its student population graduates.
So throughout the first season of Food Wars we get to see Soma put his skills to the test and defy the odds with all the cooking challenges he faces and the gifted students he meets along the way. Some friends, some rivals.
With that being said, I thought I would take it upon myself to review each episode of the second season as it airs, to see what this new arc will bring and see if it answers all the unanswered questions from the previous season! WARNING: Spoilers alert if you haven’t seen the first season!
Where we last left our chef heroes, they had narrowed down the Autumn Elections from the top 30 best student chefs to the top eight. So this season is continuing the election and having the final eight battling it out with their cooking.
In the first episode of Food Wars, we find out that through a lottery who competes when during the break down of the final eight. Soma ends up competing in the first round against Alice Nakiri, aka Erina’s cousin. The theme is bento. As usual, Soma is relaxed and casual by the whole competition and finds the theme very simple, even though we know Soma always elevates his dishes like all the other students. Naturally Erina is annoyed by how casually he takes everything and says that it can’t be just any ordinary bento and that bentos well respected around the world, with Soma basically saying “you are really hard to befriend and talk to, take a chill pill!” But he’s still so accepting and nice to her!
It’s always refreshing seeing Soma on screen. Even though he can be your typical dense anime male lead, where all he can think about his is craft and can’t pick up on certain social cues or situations, whenever it comes to cooking, he is front and center! Because of this, anyone who is as passionate about food as he is, he wants to befriend and learn from them, hence the back and forth he has with Erina. Meanwhile, Erina just sees him as a working class pleb who just got lucky, even though she LOVES his food just as much as everyone else, but won’t ever admit it. Typical tsundere.
Meanwhile, Soma just treats this competition as another high maintenance day at his family diner, trying to please his customers who demand the best, while the only difference is that he sees Alice as a “business rival” to defeat. Forget that Alice’s nickname is the Darling of Molecular Gastronomy AND got the highest score in the preliminary round. Soma still has a one track mind of basically wanting to be the very best like no one ever was™.
I love how during the tournament when Soma comments on her workmanship, she tells him to quit staring at her while she cooks, even though during the camp arc in the last season, she was intently staring at his cooking. It’s great when the show can do small callbacks like that!
As usual, Alice is using her weird scientific ways to make her bento dish by using a centrifuge to get pure tomato juice and liquid nitrogen to keep the bento cold under a transparent cover. Just adding more excitement to what her dish could be, it gets it’s own smoky entrance like a concert introduction! Alice makes what’s called a “temari bento” consisting of a 3×4 grid of different sushi-like treats, each one using a different scientific way of preparing it.
Just like in the first season, they always like to use the word “umami” instead of taste? Apparently umami translates to “pleasant savory taste” with “umai” meaning delicious and “mi” meaning taste. I thought umami was one of the words to describe a taste that wasn’t considered sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. According to the dictionary, it’s another way to say savory? It’s just a word that I don’t hear often used when I’ve watched shows like MasterChef, so I suppose it’s a word more commonly used in Japan, which makes sense. It can make a good part of a Food Wars drinking game, drinking anytime a character says umami.
The stakes are raised after Alice’s dish is served and everyone agrees how amazing it is as per usual, and are impressed by her non-traditional techniques. Meanwhile, Soma is just cooking along and finishes his bento box when Alice’s judging is complete. He says he made a nori bento.
If you don’t know, nori is that dry seaweed that is wrapped at the bottom of rice balls that you see in animes. It is traditionally used with sushi and other Japanese dishes by both the common folk and the gourmet. When everyone hears it though, they assume it’s a common bento box with nori seaweed taking up the main dish. But low in behold it is not!
Soma is all about being practical than showy most times. Even when he is showy, it’s normally out of necessity, like when he was running out of time in the breakfast challenge at camp. After he found out his egg souflettes were deflating after time would go by, he had to make up for lost time and make a show out of making them, so that way they would attract customer attention and be able to serve his food fresh!
Soma has a three-tier bento box that is made out of stainless steel, so it can retain heat for almost the whole day. It’s just like a travel coffee mug or soup thermos, but for bento boxes, which is really clever! While Alice’s bento box was all about being served cold with the liquid nitrogen and all the cold ingredients, Soma went the complete opposite and managed to find a way to serve a hot meal fresh. Not only does it show the hot and cold relationship between the competition with Alice and Soma, but showcases further Soma’s hometown ideals.
It’s the kind of bento an average joe with a big appetite would carry around for day to day needs. It’s such a genius design where if you put the soup portion on the bottom, it keeps everything above warm! I looked it up at Amazon and they are real and common. It’s like a better version of those cheap lunch boxes kids have that have the shiny material on the inside that’s supposed to either keep your food warm or cold depending, but really just makes all your food smell weird or get easily compressed.
Not only is it a hearty dish because it has fried beer-battered fish along with onion and bacon miso soup, but it has a lot of emotional heart behind it. Soma critiques that Alice just made a fancy sushi dish and not a true bento box meal. He tells a story about an elderly woman customer that regularly came to his diner growing up. One day she hurt her back, and wasn’t able to come as regularly because of it. Soma felt bad as a kid that she was missing out on their food and wanted to help her in some way, so he made her a bento box for her so she wouldn’t have to physically go to the diner. This bento is more traditional, but still has the key components like the fried fish, but underneath the nori sheath are chibi pictures of him and said granny in the rice! So adorable and sweet!
This is Soma’s strength throughout the series. The reason why people like his dishes so much is that they remind them of home-cooked food, but still something new and unique. For instance, the reason why it’s called a nori bento, is that not only are there bits of nori in the breading for the fried fish, but makes nori-roe on top of the rice! Not only is it like a traditional, common side in a typcial bento box, but is elevated by making nori roe that is similar to fish roe in sushi! Soma has truly mastered the art of mixing home-cooking and gourmet as one, another theme seen often during the show! The judges even say that his bento box reminds them of the excitement they get when opening their bento boxes on school trips.
Lastly, the episode wraps up with Alice trying the rice and roe portion of the dish that Soma made. When she eats it, it reminds her of the time when she decided to go to Scandinavia to learn about gastronomy so that she wouldn’t be living under Erina’s shadow. This warm, comforting dish melts away the coldness she felt living both in such a cold environment, and the coldness she felt shutting herself away to learn these techniques at such a young age. It’s what food is supposed to do, to evoke an emotional response! Although in this case, the emotional response having a near orgasm from how amazing the food tastes.
So the chairman takes his comically over-sized calligraphy brush and signs on a large piece of paper that Soma is the winner of the first round!
Overall, this opening episode of Food Wars did a great job continuing the story and delivering just as much heart as it does delicious food. Although I felt like it was kind of rushed in the beginning. Normally, we get to see Soma go through what he’s going to make before these challenges, like he did with the curry challenge. Here, after it’s assigned to him, it quickly goes to the cooking stage for the face off. Not a lot of build up, but since fans are eager to see Soma cook again in this setting, it isn’t so bad to rush in that sense.
In this new opening theme for Food Wars shown at the end is pretty meh in my opinion. The song ROUGH DIAMONDS by SCREEN mode isn’t as catchy in my opinion to pump you up compared to Food Wars first opening theme in the first season, Kibou no Uta by ULTRA TOWER. Kibou no Uta had this vocalist with a gravely voice that was belting the lyrics so passionately, that it got me pumped for the show, along with the visuals editing up to the song so well. It felt very unique.
Meanwhile this new one is just a typical, J-Pop rock song that I’ve heard variations of in other anime that are as popular as this show is. It may grow on me, but for now it’s okay. That, and the characters surfing flying knives at the end of it seem very bizarre to me. Out of context, it’s very terrifying! I know it makes sense because their cooks, but knives just have bad connotations as a murder weapon normally, but maybe it’s symbolism for the cut-throat competition? Plus it doesn’t seem fair that Akira gets to have cinnamon stick cannons, since his specialty is spices, and everyone else gets knives! Although I do like how the song ends and has the spirit of the first opening theme where they belt the ending.
Final thoughts on Food Wars season 2 episode 1, I couldn’t help but notice that it’s supposed to be a final eight that compete in this election, but only seven main characters that we know of have made it into the competition. When doing research for this article, I noticed the eighth person being someone we haven’t seen before. It’s even hinted in the beginning of the episode where they show all the final contestants being driven in cars, and the eighth person is casted in the shadows. So much mystery! I know people who read the Food Wars manga may know who it is already, but for someone who has only seen the anime is extremely excited for what’s to come! Like will we learn the relationship between Soma’s dad and Erina? What happened to Soma’s mother? And why Soma and his father have different last names? So many possibilities!
Next round on Food Wars will feature our shy but super sweet Megumi versus the intense but low-key chef that follows Alice, Ryo Kurokiba.