Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Starting right where volume 22 left us, Soma is about to enjoy one of his greatest victories yet. The celebration is cut short when Azami’s true motivation for overthrowing the institution is revealed. Will this make Soma and Polaris even more of a target?
As anticipated, Soma defeats Akira Hayama in the third stage of the advancement exams. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was the twist that Tsukuda skillfully throws into volume 23. Soma’s win results in Akira’s expulsion from the culinary academy! Akira, however, wasn’t the only one expelled in the third round of the advancement exams. Many of Soma’s allies found their aspirations crushed by Central’s Council of Ten, dwindling the resistance greatly.
Soma, being the good guy he is, immediately begins to think of ways to overturn the expulsions, including Akira’s. If you’ve been following the series so far, you can already predict another shokugeki is on the horizon, with even higher stakes than ever before. Of course, to have a shokugeki, both parties need to put something of great importance on the line. What can Soma possibly offer that Azami will not refuse? As it turns out, Soma can offer nothing but Saiba Joichiro has plenty to put on the table. It becomes obvious in the exchange between Azami and Joichiro where Soma gets his daring and fearless attitude from. Joichiro, interested in reversing the trajectory of Totsuki Institute, challenges Azami and his allies to a team shokugeki. Offering something Azami cannot resist, the shokugeki is accepted and they part ways until they must meet again for the challenge.
Soma Yukihira’s growth as a chef and as a person is exceptional in this volume. When he defeats Akira, it’s not about survival. This challenge was about Soma proving to himself that he isn’t the chef who lost to Akira in the Fall Classic. In fact, Soma was happy he lost to Akira because it gave him a new challenge. When he wins, the win is satisfactory, but the price Akira pays is too much for him to cope with. Soma’s selflessness comes into play here as his immediate response is to challenge Central to a shokugeki to overturn the expulsions from the third round of the advancement exam. He realizes Totsuki isn’t as interesting if he doesn’t have companions and friends to cook with and challenge. Like father like son, he is willing to put it all on the line to ensure students are free to explore and cook for fun.
Saiba Joichiro’s backstory at the institute is revealed. He was friends with both Azami and Gin. All three of them resided in Polar Star on campus. Because of their natural talents, they formed a close bond and spent a lot of time with each other. Saiba was a successful chef, quickly securing himself a seat on the Elite Ten Council. Due to his unmatched talents, he was subject to an immense amount of pressure to compete and create new dishes. This burnt him out so he decided to leave the institute to find himself and his love for cooking.
Azami Nakiri‘s backstory is revealed in this volume. He shared Polar Star with both Gin and Saiba and felt a deep respect and admiration for Soma’s father. Unfortunately, he had a front seat to the rise and fall of Saiba on campus. As a result, Azami became determined to set a standard way of thinking and cooking to prevent chefs from misusing or overusing their talents. As he aged, he became more militant in pushing his ideals. In this volume, he sees an opportunity to finally control the creative energies of his fallen friend.
Gin Dojima is revealed to be the right hand of Saiba back in Totsuki, making sure he was sleeping, eating, and getting to shokugeki. With talents closely rivaling Saiba’s, he had a different perspective on his friend’s exit from the academy. As the levelheaded one in Polar Star, he remained calm and reasonable in the face of Saiba’s burnout. This is a trait we can still see in his adult self when he explains the history between Azami and Saiba.
I’m impressed with how Yuto Tsukuda has kept my attention for 23 volumes. There have been few manga that have kept me interested for so long. The formula has remained the same throughout the series – learn, sokugeki, repeat. Thankfully, the author builds upon this formula in each volume by keeping the reader fully invested in the characters. They all have rich and detailed backstories that can help you empathize or despise them. Erina Nakira went from an annoying tsundere to an actual heroine I can understand (although I still never relate to her). Megumi remains loveable as ever but is quickly developing into passionate chef who puts her heart into cooking comforting foods. Soma continues to climb his way to the top while inspiring the rest of his troop. Azami, who is supposed to be an unlikable character, has a backstory that pulls back layers of an onion that is frustrating to peel. Through a complex cast of characters, a deeply detailed story is woven throughout Food Wars that goes beyond a set formula. It is that very element that keeps me wanting more. I look forward to digesting every last bite…
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**This item was provided for review.