Of all the story arcs in Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, the Regiment de Cuisine has by far the biggest stakes. After several volumes of rigged duels and team-on-team bouts, it all comes to an end in Vol. 30. Soma and Erina face off against Eishi and Rindo in a contest to see who can make the best two-course gourmet meal. It’s a given that the food looks delicious, but does this arc conclude satisfactorily?
Art-wise, there’s a lot to enjoy here. First and foremost the characters’ over-the-top faces and body language help provide comedy even in one of the most serious installments of the manga to date. Soma in particular has some absolutely ghoulish grins. Then, naturally, you have the food itself. To put it plainly, reading this volume made me hungry. The texture and juiciness of ingredients like meat and eggs gleam on the page, making it easy to understand why anyone who eats them loses all compusure in sheer carnal joy. The pacing of the panels and page-turns is also well-done, with some demented splash pages featuring more of the series’s trademark metaphors about food. (Take, for instance, a shot of men in ant costumes carrying a woman off to insectoid culinary bliss.)
The character development here is also strong. Though Soma gets to show off his reckless ambition, it’s Erina who’s the true star of the Resistance in the final bout. The formerly snooty bearer of the Divine Tongue has changed a lot throughout this arc, and her ultimate defiance of her father is framed in a way that highlights her own agency and status as a character equally (if not more) deserving of the limelight as both the shonen protagonist (Soma) and the antagonist (Azami). The presentation of her dish also calls back to previous events in the series, showcasing how she’s changed and bonded with others. Eishi also gets a good amount of page-time in this volume, which help to flesh him out into more than just a powerful rival character.
As far as my qualms with this volume go, they mainly concern aspects of it that are middle of the road as opposed to outright bad. There are some instances where the art looks a bit static and lacking in energy. This is the case in some bland shots of characters as well as some of the reactions to the food on display. While there are some great splash pages with elaborate metaphors, there are also passages where the tasters’ excitement is told more through the text than actually conveyed visually. It’s also a bit disappointing that we don’t get to see any of the prep that goes into the dishes. For such a pivotal point in the series to lack much coverage of the actual cooking processes (and by extension the chefs’ headspaces while at work) feel strange and robs the results of some of their potential excitement.
All in all, Food Wars!: Shokugekino Soma Vol. 30 is an effective end to the Regiment de Cuisine arc. The food looks scrumptious as always and there’s some solid character development, especially for Erina. There are some scenes that disappoint by not being executed as excitingly as they could be, but nothing here is outright bad. All in all, this is a good read.
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