Want a FOODGASM? Enter the Food Wars!

A spoiler-free review of the spring 2015 anime “Food Wars! Shokugeki no Souma,” produced by J.C. Staff, based on the manga by Yuuto Tsukuda and contributor Yuki Morisaki.

I like to cook. Granted, I’m no master chef, nor do I really know what I am doing half of the time, but I find enjoyment in starting the rice cooker and chopping up some lettuce. Lather on some soy sauce and you’ve got yourself some tasty stuff. In fact, I’ll be right back . . .

*with mouth full of food* Now wheh wur we? Oh, wat’s wight. Food Wars!, baby! PREPARE YOUR ANUS FOR ALL THIS ‘FOOD PORN.’

Shokugeki no Soma centers on Yukihira Souma, a 15-year-old practically raised in his father’s local Japanese restaurant so that he’ll one day take over the family business. That’s no fuss for Souma because he loves cooking and dreams that nothing will ever change. But when his sly father suddenly closes down shop for a bit to play chef in America, Souma is challenged by his old man to attend Toutsuki Culinary Academy, which considering its incredibly slim 10% graduation rate, is basically hell itself! As Souma dives into delicious, daily tests and mouthwatering missions, he makes new friends and even more enemies, but will his father’s teachings be enough to pull him through the first semester? As long as he wins the Shokugeki!

So what is a Shokugeki? It’s a famous Toutsuki tradition that has withstood the test of time. Essentially, it’s a cooking duel initiated when two persons need to settle a dispute. They are judged by an unbiased panel and all the clashing chefs have to do is muster their culinary expertise to best their opponent AKA a game of whose food tastes better. This is where the anime gets its fire. The acclaimed battle-roulette shounen is fueled by these steamy competitions of trial-and-error and sheer willpower!

Aw yeah, here we go!

Aw yeah, here we go!

Shokugeki proves that resolution and “courage” are not enough to win one’s case, however, and that’s what makes this anime excel from other shounen with the same stunts. An incredible amount of cooking skill, familiarity in the kitchen, and knowledge of spices that I’ve honestly never even heard of are necessary to simply blend in with the crowd, let alone actually surprise one of the scary judges! I mean, it’s still a school, so I would hope that they are learning to grill my steaks properly.

Souma thinks he’s a wise guy, taking after his son-of-a-buck father. He’s pretty damn smug during his entrance speech, proclaiming that he doesn’t plan on losing to “some bunch that has never stood in front of clients” – That’ll earn you a rep no doubt, because now the entire student body wants to slit your throat! Cocky as he seems, Souma’s got one thing that none of the others have. Passion? Nope. Talent? Not that. A hot body? For this spiky redhead, hardly. Souma wants to support others, and when your egg omelet determines your fate, that’s a rare treat in a guy. Even though he’s a dumb fool, ‘he helps others find their feet so that they learn to stand up on their own’ (as one reviewer sorta put it), specifically speaking, the clumsy yet sweet Tadokoro Megumi.

The rest of the characters are pretty much store-bought stereotypes, but in the case of Shokugeki, that’s not a bad thing at all! There’s the tsundere “God Tongue” Erina Nakiri, the critical queen of Toutsuki who seriously needs a new nickname; Nikumi the “Meat Master,” a busty servant of Erina who trust me, knows her way around meat; Tadokoro Megumi, the already-mentioned endearing ‘freshmeat’ of the pack who, at first clings to Souma’s apron like a stain, builds her own uniqueness and learns to fight on her own turf like a pro; Lastly Takumi Aldini (the Italian stallion) who remains Souma’s poke-fun-of rival in this shounen.

Better start learning how to shine shoes because she’s several feet over our heads

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Aww, what’s wrong? You’re looking a bit flushed there, Mr. Aldini

I didn’t even get to mention the cool Polar Star Dormitory pals, but there are so many other exaggerated and outrageous cutouts that benefit this particular story genre. If you know shounen anime enough, then none of these characters are necessarily fresh. That doesn’t stop these chefs from being entertaining and downright amazing in their own right, though. Their uniqueness often adds an extra layer of hilarity!

Oh yeah, there’s this woman, too . . .

So the story is nothing new and the characters aren’t original, either. How’s the animation fair? SWEET MOTHER OF EGGS! J.C. Staff has taken food to a whole new level and MY GOD things are so juicy! Now why do people keep calling it “food porn?” It’s the way the characters revel, squirm, and orgasm on their own taste buds. Apparently one of the key animators worked with hentai, so that’s probably where the show gets its inherent sex drive. Besides being ridiculously over-the top, I found the sensual reactions to be another one of Shokugeki’s winning attributes. The exploding articles of clothing and intense moaning reveal what an A+ dish can truly do to your body – make it foodgasm. The science of good food is also thoroughly explored, so by entering with an engaged mind, you might learn a thing or two.

This one’s actually not a foodgasm. He just gets this way . . . sometimes . . .

Composer Tatsuya Kato is a genius, simply put. I especially loved the way he incorporated Western-inspired tracks to this show; the soundtrack only makes it more flavorful (awesome trumpet and strings)! Disappointment, rage, awkwardness, celebration, competition, grandeur – it’s all here, and expressed with such invigorating fervor. While watching, I wanted to stop and scream just how incredible this OST is, but then I’d be missing out on another bite of excitement.

Check out “01. Towards the Horizon of Cuisine,” “06. The Texture of a Decisive Battle,” “07. Go Study Both Sour and Sweet!,” “08. God Tongue,” “09. Disgusting!,” “18. The Heat of Confrontation,” and “25. The Secret Ingredient Named Victory” to get a lick of Souma’s world!

And all of these delightful features are carried by tasty openings and endings. My two favorites were the first two, opening “Kibou no Uta” by Ultra Tower and ending “Spice” by Tokyo Karankoron. Watching this anime each Saturday morning as a simulcast, this opening was such a great “good morning” call that I had to download it as an alarm. My sweet little “Spice” also charmed me early on, and I loved the dinner table scene at the end.

With incredible amounts of five-star food, unnecessarily high degrees of tension, and FAN SERVICE OUT THE WAZOO, Shokugeki constantly delivers fun and flavor! At the end of the day, it’s all about a boy who practices to surpass his father. So rather than blindly recommending this fantastic treat with two open thumbs up, I instead refer Food Wars! to those who want fun, but don’t want change.  The outrageous reactions to the food, the bouncy animation, the blazing competition – It’s all to delight in! But the story of the Shokugeki is much more than that; it was the incalculable trial and error – blood, sweat, and tears – over and over again that made this anime shine above the rest. “…repeating trial and error and failing many times…it’s that process which makes the dishes shine.”

While characters know hardships, the show never lowers its light to become a negative influence. Take it like a nice, home-cooked meal: The food is ever-changing, but the heart never falters. I also learned some neat kitchen tricks! If you’re looking for some grilled competition and true comedy, yet ecchi fan-service doesn’t bother you too much, then try dipping into Food Wars! You’ll find that it doesn’t need any extra salt. The flavor is just right.

“Don’t think of unnecessary things, just make a dish that suits you!” – Souma to Tadokoro

+ Yukihira Souma is a character that you’ll naturally want to cheer on, which is the goal for any shounen anime

+ Entertainment value is through the roof, so long as you don’t mind ecchi, umm, ‘plot’

+ Animation quality is absolutely incredible! The food will make your mouth drool and characters will make you giggle so hard you vomit

+ A soundtrack so fitting that it elevates the stakes on every front, yet knows when to be playful, witty, or heartwarming

Thanks for reading my review, and I hope you liked it! “Happy to serve!” You can let me know your thoughts by dropping a comment below and/or sautéing that like button! The café rates this anime with a gratifying 9/10, so if you’re interested in Food Wars!, the entire show can be viewed on Crunchyroll for FREE! Now you’ve got nothing to lose but your appetite! Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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DanMachi, An Adventure I Could Care Less About

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (DanMachi)”

I originally entered this anime thinking “This is J.C.Staff. The genre is fantasy adventure with comedic action on the side. It looks and sounds great. I’m gonna love this show too much.” Let’s just say that I slid out of this dungeon with more scrapes and bruises than benefits (also, 😦 I didn’t get any girls).

In the dead center of the medieval city Orario, a land where Gods walk commonly in the streets, stands an impressive tower that has been nicknamed the “Dungeon.” Roaming the several floors of underground labyrinth are strange beasts and mystic lands. Killing and exploring awards adventurers with experience points, gems, and other items, which can be sold for cash or used to create weapons and armor. Bell Cranel is a noob fighter and inexperienced with the ladies, but after being adopted into the Hestia familia (Total members: now two) the big-boobed “Kamisama” raises “Bell-kun” to become a hero.

The anime kicks off excitingly, showing off neatly intertwined RPG gimmicks that actually make up the world. When the social system is based on your adventurer status and level, you’d try damned hard to beat each and every little goblin with your friends to earn the extra pocket change and EXP. Additionally, you return home to your familia each night with your respective God or Goddess smiling upon you, which only increases your determination. It’s like that for Bell, too, but Bell only has Hestia and vice versa, which mean the two quickly become best buds – “HESTIA IS BESTIA” is real BTW.

Though coins and rankings mean absolute bliss for Bell, he’s set his eyes on the gold: Aiz Wallenstein, the Sword Princess. First contact with this babe saving his life brings Bell to his weak knees, and as the series progresses, he becomes entranced with the idea of leveling up to follow her.

About half way through, when I stopped drooling over the pretty art, however, I realized that DanMachi had no idea where it was going. Bell was growing stronger to catch up to Aiz, his party was slowly increasing, and it’s confirmed that a villain looms in the background, but then nothing else was happening. What started off as a promising quest of heroism and mischievous Goddesses soiled a into fan service mess – one adventure I could honestly care less about. Each episode accomplished so little and the anime doesn’t even end properly! I had more concerns stacking up than compliments, only by the end to realize that none of the aspects the story offered were satisfying.

And what’s with that ridiculous title? It doesn’t even apply here, considering that Bell isn’t in the dungeon  to “try to pick up girls.” If anything, they follow him! An alternate translation, Is It Wrong That I Want to Meet You in a Dungeon, at least makes sense because Bell trains to be with Aiz. The subtitle Familia Myth is my favorite, though. Simple, applicable, and effective.

For characters, Bell Cranel is an adorable little fluff of white hair and red eyes. Kind, shy, and easily intimidated, he’s oblivious to all of the girls that flaunt over him, as he only sees Aiz in his heart. I’ll admit he does develop, literally standing one whopping level ahead of the other characters, but much like the show itself you start to care less and less about him because his plot armor was so thick. Hestia and Bell’s supporter, Lili, were also decent, but after their introductions, they just become more players to help Bell succeed.

I was also very unimpressed with “Ms. Wallenwhatsit,” for as one reviewer put it, she’s just a “ditz – a complete airhead.” Her one-hit K.O. slices might be muscular compared to Bell’s little knife, but Aiz is just another sleepy, dull adventurer.

As I mentioned earlier, J.C.Staff paints the colorful world of DanMachi through what appears to be the eyes of Sword Art Online. Even the voice actor for Bell is the same as Kirito! Character designs for Bell and Hestia specifically are really cool (such beautiful eyes), and the Elvish flare on other characters thrown here and there help establish the setting. The dungeon fight scenes are also very well done, slick animation with Hestia’s knife, too!

While the OST is nothing remarkable, it wasn’t a weakness, either. Some Irish tavern jigs and one epic string song for Bell are the only tracks I can recall. I enjoyed the opening “Hey World” by Yuka Iguchi, but only because of that “gif-worthy hip-swingin’ teeth-brushin’ groove that Bell and Hestia do!” The ending “RIGHT LIGHT RISE” by Kanon Wakeshima was more preferable for that cute “tutturu” of the trumpet.

At the end of the day, DanMachi is a lost little fan service/comedy/action segment that has no idea where it’s headed besides trying to be cute and leveling up the main character alone. If you have time to waste, which you shouldn’t cause you’re an anime fan with a never-ending backlog, then I suppose it’s worth a hot afternoon go. Who knows, maybe it was just a poor simulcast, and that it should have been viewed with little time in between? Otherwise, there are a plethora of fantasy comedies out there that perform the same skits with actual success.

“I didn’t want you to leave, because you’re you. I wanted to save you because you’re you.” – Bell Cranel

+ Interesting RPG world, but could have used more depth

+ Nice animation on everything but the monsters; too CG, creative character designs

+ Decently entertaining in terms of comedy and fan service

– Does not have a structured plot, just aimlessly following the “Little Rookie”

– Fantastic start, but lack of plot direction resulted in an unsatisfactory ending

In the cafe, this anime is served up with in the “Breads” category. I know DanMachi is only a small adaptation of a larger light novel series, but still, I don’t think I’d watch a sequel if it even got one. Such a shame, considering that it started off as one of the most anticipated shows of the season. Did you also think Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? was a bit lackluster? Comment below! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host