All good things come to an end, and in manga that end is usually after hundreds of chapters. Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Volume 36 marks the end of the 315 chapter Shonen Jump manga that has captivated anime lovers, manga readers, and turned us all into foodies. Published in English by VIZ Media, Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma was created by Yuto Tsukuda and volume 36 features art from Shun Saeki with contributions from Yuki Morisaki. In the previous volume, we saw the beginning of the Blue semi-finals and immense growth for Erina Nakiri. Now, in Food Wars Volume 36, the Blue reaches its climax as Soma clashes with noir chef Asahi in a battle to create the one thing Book Master Mana wants most—a dish the world has never seen.
The crux of the series since Asahi’s appearance has been family. From found family, like Erina has with the Polaris dorm or the way Soma’s old man took in Asahi, to strained family bound by blood. The latter of these focused on when Erina’s family attempted to take over the school. This undercurrent of family dynamics and how they push individual character growth is what has propelled this story beyond its ecchi-nature and made it a dynamic story.
As a final volume, Food Wars Volume 36 has a lot to do. We have to see the finale to Asahi and Soma’s shokugeki and we have to see Erina face off against the winner all while unpacking Erina and her mother’s relationship. This volume does all of these things. The conclusion to Asahi and Soma’s battle is a satisfying one. While Asahi combined the world’s dishes in a complicated aroma bomb, Soma opted to create a humble dish that housed every flavor he has come to learn, nurture, and respect. As this part of the volume explains, Soma wins because of his passion and, to a point, his respect to the chefs he’s beaten over the last 35 volumes. While Asahi’s dish was delicious and complex, his knife crossing style did nothing but emulate flavors and lacked an identity. This breakdown of Mana’s reason for choosing Soma is my favorite part of the volume and unfortunately was wasted by having it be the climax of the semi-finals and not the finale of the series itself.
Instead, though, we see the focus of Food Wars Volume 36 follow the course of the overall series, which is Erina and the Nakiri family. The last half of this volume is focused on unpacking her father’s motives, something we thought we knew in the coup arc, which was to seek justice for Joichiro. That said, the writing widens Erina’s father, Azami’s motivations and in his moment of explanation he connects the dots for the note the series ends on: It’s not about cooking but who you cook for.
We see Soma focus on his family, in Ahasi’s pursuit of Erina, and we learn that he’s seeking motivation. In Azami, we learn that his hatred of inventive cuisine comes from watching the woman he loved lose herself and her passion. This is all good emotional storytelling but it feels slightly detached from the larger series. In fact, in the finals of the Blue, what should have been an epic showdown of Soma finally facing off against Erina, we get an anticlimactic finish that mirrors the first time they met so well that it almost feels empty.
Although Food Wars is 315 chapters plus bonus chapters, for some reason, this conclusion leaves much more to be desired. Even the extra chapter which serves as an epilogue leaves me wanting to know more and feeling like the series didn’t really end. That said, if I’m honest, my disappointment in Food Wars Volume 36 as an ending may come from my high expectations as a fan. There is a lot of work done to round out the emotional core of the series, but the elements of the shokugeki I fell in love with seems lacking.
That said, the first half of this volume is outstanding and deepens the reader’s understanding of not only Soma but his family as well. We get to see memories of his mother, we get to understand more about his home life, and in that, we get to see him as more than just an amazing chef but as a fully rounded character. That alone, makes Food Wars Volume 36 well worth the wait. As a protagonist, Soma has felt empty at times, acting as more of a winning force for the emotions and stories of the characters around him, but here, he shines.
Overall, Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Volume 36 marks the end of a ridiculous series with an emotional punch. It’s a good volume, with good storytelling, but it falls short of being truly great. But, then again, that’s the problem with endings, they can’t satisfy every reader.
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Volume 36 is available from book retailers June 2, 2020.
IMAGE: SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA © 2012 by Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki/SHUEISHA Inc.
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Volume 36
Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma Volume 36 marks the end of a ridiculous series with an emotional punch. It’s a good volume, with good storytelling, but it falls short of being truly great. But then again, that’s the problem with endings, they can’t satisfy every reader.