After a long run of more than three hundred chapters, Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma recently came to an end. The last few tankōbon volumes are still coming out though, and they’re collecting the series’s final arc: Soma and co.’s battle against “noir chefs” (a term used here to denote cooks who serve criminals). These chapters weren’t very well-received as they came out on a weekly basis, but do they read better in a collected format? Is Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 31 good?
Visually, this volume is very middle of the road. On the plus side there’s some nice architecture, shading, and nature imagery throughout. Soma also has some of his trademark ridiculous expressions, and the subtle changes to characters’ designs post-time skip are well-done. The food also looks tasty as always.
Unfortunately, most of the rest of the art feels somewhat phoned in. The foodgasm metaphor pages are some of the least creative in the series to date, and moments that attempt visual comedy often come across quite lifeless. Take for instance a scene of Erina and Soma fighting. They have over-the-top facial expressions but there’s no actual sense of energy to their conflict, nor any of the sort of small details that would really sell characters’ frustrations. The antagonist in the middle of the volume, the first noir chef Soma encounters, has lots of cartoonishly evil expressions but they just fall flat. There’s little sense of physical depth or personality to the line-art, making it difficult to feel invested in the story.
Poor writing also contributes to the lack of enthusiasm. The arc’s true villain, who gets introduced toward the book’s end, is a bundle of cliches and boring reveals combined into one mediocre threat. In order to convey that he’s a fantastic cook the creative team opts to show him beating one of the series’s most talented chefs in a Shokugeki. The problem? We only see the results of the match, and absolutely none of the actual food or strategy. We’re simply told that this new villain is a major force to be reckoned with rather than shown any evidence of the fact. It just feels lazy.
The heavily sexual elements of the manga are also at an all-time low quality-wise. The sex jokes are bountiful, but their success rate is barren. Rather than compelling introductions for this arc’s new players we get depictions of a man twice Megumi’s age calling her “Megu-mama”, as well as another noir chef getting off to another teenage girl being mad at him. There’s also a terrible bonus short at the end featuring female characters from various Jump comics getting objectified Food Wars! style and…ugg. Now obviously fan service is just baked into the series’s DNA so I’m not shocked at this sort of humor being present throughout the book, but it’s also executed very poorly here so it bears mentioning. Like the rest of the volume, the sexual content and humor seem phoned in.
On the plus side, Megumi gets the spotlight for a while in this volume. The noir arc begins with Soma and Megumi investigating mysterious closures at hot springs, and while the plot itself is forgettable it does allow the series’s two most likable characters time to interact and show off how they’ve grown post-time skip. Megumi specifically gets to show off her cooking prowess in a match all on her own without Soma jumping in to assist whatsoever. Seeing her actually get to be the heroine for once instead of being damseled is one of this volume’s few strong points.
As a whole, Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma Vol. 31 is disappointingly emblematic of how far the series’s quality fell toward its end. Virtually every facet of it feels phoned in from the art to the new villains to even the sexual humor. There are some positives like the spotlight on Megumi but overall I wouldn’t recommend this volume to anyone who isn’t a big fan committed to following the manga through its end.