Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Volume 18 of Food Wars is an exciting roller coaster ride as the shokugeki to determine Polaris’s fate draws to a close. Despite the judges being in his opponent’s pocket, Soma puts the culmination of his cooking knowledge front and center. The future of Polaris rides on Soma’s determination and natural talent. Meanwhile, Central makes a move to purge any students who dare to resist, all while Soma’s spirit wakes people up to revolt. Can Soma convince the judges to try his dish?
The residents of Polaris dorm don resistance gear from a bygone era while Soma defends their future in a win or lose everything shokugeki. Watching Soma closely on tv, they witness history unfolding before them. Through talent, determination, and creativity, Soma gets the judges to try his dish. With luck smiling upon him, his dish wows them despite their initial refusal to acknowledge his cooking. This win is unlike other shokugeki wins; however. Not only is Polaris saved… for now, but Soma’s ability to win against all odds ignites a flame at Totsuki that Central will undoubtedly have difficulty snuffing. If Azami wants to create his vision of a Utopia (hint, it’s really a dystopia), then he’s going to need to face resistance first.
It’s interesting to see the rebellion brewing at Totsuki. It is overdue because the academy has long fostered a toxic environment since volume one. We see it most with Erina who was blinded by her elitism and distaste for the ‘peasantry.’ While she amplifies this toxicity the most, other students from all walks of life also foster a sense of elitism over their peers. To say the rebellion represents complacency with the ‘old way’ isn’t accurate, if anything, it represents a huge effort to move away from elitism. Azami’s revolution isn’t about perfecting cooking or developing young minds. It’s about his vision of what cookery should be. He is the ultimate representation of elitism in this series. It’s no wonder that his daughter would grow up to be an insecure, elitist snob who judges her own self-worth on her ability to crush the spirits of her peers.
As the volume continues, we see hints that Azami’s life as a student at Totsuki led to the events in volume 18. He was a year behind Soma’s dad and it’s implied that something life changing happened between them. As we go further into the series I am sure this will be unveiled as new story arcs unfold. To put another spin on things, Azami is clearly shocked to discover Soma’s parentage but decides to interpret this as a destiny to suit his interest. Erina is also shocked, but instead decides to revisit her view of the world. Ultimately she discovers her father raised her to have a warped view of reality that turned her into a bitter and lonely person. This is where we can see a fundamental difference between the two characters. Azami refuses to change his perception of the world and instead uses this new knowledge to make his revolution more sinister. Erina realizes she has been tricked and begins to see the value in people she once looked down upon. The more we learn about Erina, the more we realize she’s not a terrible person. In fact, the events in volumes 17 and 18 have made her a more pleasant person. She was a victim who can now walk away from the tsundere archetype and become a vehicle for a new turn in the plot.
This volume really grabbed me. Although the shokugeki followed the predictable formula of “Soma puts something insane on the line, Soma wins!” I still found the win hard to believe. Soma was doomed from the start and cooked his butt off until he could convince the judges to try his dish. He used psychology to lure the judges in because he knew he was condemned. The challenge in this skokugeki wasn’t the dish; it was swaying a group of judges who were morally bankrupt. This subtle change in the shokugeki formula was enough to leave me wondering if Soma could actually lose with the stakes so high.
This volume also depicts Erina in a new light, which is welcoming since I was convinced from volume 1 that she only had one purpose in the series – to be the rain cloud hovering over Soma’s parade. We saw a bit of her transformation in volume 17, but the big reveal in volume 18 removed the wool from her eyes. I suspect she will have a new purpose going forward.
As usual, we’re treated to another cliffhanger, so onward to volume 19!
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**This item was provided for review.