Food Wars! What Happened With Its Ending, and Why Isn’t It the Greatest?

When it comes to telling a story, the ending is universally the most delicate part to handle. A bad or less-than-impressive ending can make the journey leading up feel like a cross-country vacation over the most beautiful snow-capped mountains and verdant forests only for the road to end at a post office. I’ve seen my fair shake of anime and manga that totally absorb me from the first episode/chapter only for the climax to slip on a bar of soap and break its sacrum. A few come to mind, though I won’t name names (they know which ones they are), and one of the generally agreed upon titles of this list is the manga Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma.

The son of a family restaurant chef, Soma Yukihira dreams of nothing more than squashing his dad in a cooking competition and taking over the shop. But then one day his dad decides he doesn’t want to dad anymore, so he hops aboard a plane for New York and kicks Soma to Totsuki Culinary Academy, a cooking institute so uberelite that anyone who already isn’t a cooking prodigy gets kicked right back out. Soma seems like a shoo-in for being a curb-warmer, but despite his 0-489 win-loss record to his old man and his quirk of assembling recipes that make school girls feel like a fisherman’s wife, he ain’t half bad at what he does. So upon acceptance, he declares to the entire student body that he’s gonna be the best chef there ever was and anyone who doesn’t agree can lick his chocolate salty balls.

Chocolate Salty Balls

This is Soma’s personal goal, set up in chapter four, but the end of the very first chapter establishes that the series’s goal is for him to meet that special someone whom he’ll want to give only the tastiest cooking, that special someone being the Divine Tongue, Erina Nakiri (this post’ll also massively spoil this entire series, so if that’s not your cup of tea, I recommend you dump that out and brew something new). Setting up the endgame like this is good for cluing the reader in to how things will churn out so they know what to expect going in, but this same first-chapter goal is what eventually punches a hole in the hull and sinks the series.

For all the flak and artillery people give this series, I thoroughly enjoyed Food Wars! It’s charming, it’s engaging, it’s creative, it has an amusing and likable cast of characters, and while I wouldn’t call it particularly funny, when it nails a joke, it does so with the biggest rubber mallet on hand.

Stolen

Like many other titles, fantastic as many of them are, it’s not without its faults. The long-winded explanations of the dishes the chefs cook up can get exhausting by the time you reach the Régiment de Cuisine of the Promotional Exams, which is a series of back-to-back battles with only so much downtime between each. Speaking of that arc, it could’ve been more transparent with the Council of Ten‘s reasons for turning coat. The members’ individual motivations are translucent when you closely examine their backstories, but if you don’t give those flashbacks a second thought, they come off as bad dudes doing bad things for the sake of being bad. And while the primary end goal is for Soma to drop to his knee and present Erina with an engagement onion ring, it has the habit of setting up romances and immediately stalling with them. The most prominent is with a meathead who starts crushing on him early on, but there’re never any moments where she tries to make a move. It does even worse with the other main heroine, Megumi Tadokoro, who for a handful of panels suspects she might be falling for Soma, but then the manga immediately abandons that ship.

These complaints, however, are slightly off spots on an otherwise wholly delicious cut of ham, but that cut is only for the first two thirds of the series, up to the end of the Régiment de Cuisine. The cut after that is turning green with more than one kind of exotic fungi, but to understand what the final third does wrong, we have to compare and contrast it with what the first two-thirds does right. There’s a bunch to grumble about, but since this is a battle manga, and half of what makes a battle great is standing opposite the blue corner, let’s start with the villains.

Oh, just a quick note here. Every criticism I level from here on out will be aimed at the last third of the series, starting with the Hot Springs Investigation arc and stretching to its final chapters. Since these final few arcs take place during the main cast’s run as second-years, I’ll refer to this cut of Food Wars! as the Second-Year arc, while everything before that will be the First-Year. Got that? Now then, back to the main course.

Food Wars! has a revolving door villains come in and out of, and volume 4’s villain might be volume 14’s mentor. There’s this underlying fundamental that there’s no such thing as an evil chef, because while chefs’ ideals might clash, they want nothing more than to prep the best food. The lot of them get way too heated over competition, but it’s always a marvel to see how various cooking styles clash and sometimes rub off on one another.

Hype Cook

Then came the Noir. At the end of Food Wars!, there’re two types of cooks: your traditional cooks, who open up French restaurants and salad bars, and the Noir, who cook for gangs and crime syndicates, and if their meals are even the tiniest bit off, it’s to the river to get antiquated with Mr. Cinderblock. Where an exceptional traditional cook might rank a 9 or a 10, a Noir ranks , because they’re crazy good.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Noir evil, and to argue fairness, placing them as the last baddies in the series doesn’t give them the chance to later atone for their sins, but they bat away the brush that attempts to paint them as karmically neutral human beings, and as soon as any of them are taken down, they either drop off the face of the earth or go crawling back to their overlord like children crying to their parents to take care of the big meanie who hurt their feewings.

Of course, just being the bad dudes who are bad is the least of the Noirs’ concerns. Notice two paragraphs back when I said they were crazy good? That was a subtle tip of my hat to how ridiculous the Noir are as characters. From their designs to the cooking styles, Food Wars! spotted a tasty-looking shark it wanted to nab for din-dins but in trying to catch it accidentally jumped over it.

Food Wars! is far from a serious manga with serious character designs. One girl sports nothing but her bra when she’s in the kitchen, and the top cook of the school can’t for the life of him wear his tie so that he doesn’t look like he spent the night at the pub. But there was at least some semblance of realism. As soon as the Noir enter the scene, you’d think Food Wars! was doing a crossover with Danganronpa.

Noir

The Noir don’t look like actual cooks, they look like guests who got lost on their way to a Halloween party. If I went to a restaurant and the server told me the head chef was a staff sergeant, I wouldn’t picture my meal being prepped by a min-skirted woman waving a chainsaw around.

Chainsaw Lady

The series has always taken liberties with the culinary techniques its various chefs practice, such as the oaf who can perfectly mimic his opponent’s style down to the minutest motion, but, again, there was a standard where a ceiling capped the surrealism but allowed plenty of flying space to exercise creativity. The cooking techniques employed by the Noir strap dynamite and our disbelief to that ceiling before blowing it sky-high. One guy uses assassination claws to season his food, and a bloke dressed like a clown juggles his ingredients in balls. The worst offender is probably the bar tender who gets all his drag queen pals to pass a cocktail shaker so fast that they actually cook what’s inside. Even the former top seat from the Counsel of Ten gets in on the ridiculousness by wielding a cheese grater shaped like a sword.

But suppose you have no fear of suspending your disbelief in the air traffic lane. You can believe that a dude prepping food by juggling it can create a meal a thousand times better than someone just using a whisk. That doesn’t excuse the fact that the Noir are terrible villains.

When they arrive on the scene, the Noir are labeled the best of the best. Better than even the top traditional chefs of the world. When Megumi and Soma pin down a Noir closing down restaurants via Shokugeki, he tells Megumi point-blank that her cooking, despite having him enraptured, is nothing compared to the top Noir. Then they proceed to steamroll right over all the Noir. Doesn’t make the villains all that threatening when you talk them up just to have them lose without the good guys breaking a sweat.

The Noir, however, are just the lackeys. The big bad of the Second-Year is Asahi Saiba, a former student of Soma’s pops, who wants nothing more than Erina’s hand in marriage. That’s it, that’s his end goal. The only reason Soma and gang find it so imperative to knock him out of the BLUE is because of the arbitrary parameters he set where if he takes home the crown he’ll stuff Erina in a sack and make for the nearest marriage registry.

His motivations are lacking, for lack of a better word than lacking, and he’s nothing more than a creepy stalker who needs a restraining order taped to his forehead. The stakes also aren’t there. Where Soma’s battles before often meant expulsion, starting especially with the Central Arc, this time, even if he gets squashed in the BLUE, it’s not like it’s an instant win for the big bad. Soma’s not the only one going up against him. Erina’s a strong, independent woman. She can handle herself. Plus, she comes from an ultra rich, ultra influential family. I’m sure a string tugged here or there could get Saiba stuck on a dingy and sent on a current to Tonga. Actually, I don’t understand why she doesn’t do that in the first place.

All the troubles I’ve mentioned hitherto are with the BLUE arc specifically, since that’s a witch’s brew of only the nastiest ingredients around. But the two arcs building up to it, the Hot Springs Investigation and Beach Exam arcs, are when the rotten frog legs and clipped toenails are added.

Beach Exam

The ingredient with the strongest punch, a dead man’s fist, was dropped in during the Beach Exam, and it has a distinctive flavor which inspires images of a fierce canine barking, only that canine is a two kilogram chihuahua. The entire Totsuki institute gets sent to the beach for the long-delayed beach episode, as well as for the next big exam. Students are divvied up into groups, with the objective of making three million yen in total sales at their assigned beachfront eateries by the end of the third day. Tricky, but not impossible, but it may well be impossible for the Council of Ten, who have to spend the first two days renovating their shack before they can have their grand opening. Overall, it’s the typical Totsuki challenge, but because this takes place after the Noir pop up, that challenge is compounded. Since the main cast is having a tough enough time as it is with business restoration, it’s heart-pounding to also have the toughest shark to date peeping up from the tide. You can practically see in the script where one of the girls says she’s gonna go for a quick dip only to get pulled down into the undertow.

Things do take a turn for the bad when Saiba tells Soma to his face that Erina’ll be going bye-bye before too much longer, and then he kidnaps her. Right at this point you would expect Soma and the rest of the Council to come to a two-story wall, and they can either round it the left, saving Erina, or they can make a right, passing the exam. She could just pardon them from the exam for saving her, since she’s, y’know, the dean and all, but let’s pretend the rules are extraordinarily strict so that nothing short of a meteor dropping from the sky will excuse flunkies. With win-lose decisions like these, it would slide you thirty-three centimeters forward in your seat as you wait and see if the council goes left, goes right, or burns a hunk of beef ’til it’s hard as zirconium and bashes a hole in the wall with it.

I speak as though this tough-as-stale-bread decision happens, but it doesn’t. Erina gets kidnapped, but then she and Saiba shake hands on an agreement and go their separate ways like it was a typical Thursday evening. Nobody even notices she’s taken POW, and she never brings it up after the fact. The Council moves on to pass the exam with flying colors, which is its own issue. Even if Erina wasn’t kidnapped but just fell asleep in the sun for too long, they break the sales mark they need to by just being really awesome.

Remember during the Hell Camp, when the first-years had to serve 200 buffet dishes within the allotted time period of two hours, and Soma, inexperienced with buffet cuisine, struggled to sell just 10 dishes after an hour and a half had passed, so he used his quick thinking and ingenuity to attract a crowd with a teppanyaki-esque cooking show, scraping to the minimum requirements in the nick of time? Wasn’t that tense? Didn’t you dab the sweat off your forehead when he passed by the skin of his teeth? And wasn’t it also cool to learn about a new aspect of cooking from that, live cooking? Every question I just asked I can ask about this Hell Camp challenge, but not about the Beach Exam. There’s no last-minute strategy put into place, and there isn’t a panel which turns your teeth into a magnet for your nails. The Council members pass just by being incredible at cooking.

Don’t get me wrong by saying that I’m saying that overpowered characters are a bad thing. Soma and the others by this point in the series have spent over 270 chapters getting their skills as sharp as their knives. Sometimes, it’s nice to see badasses cut loose and have at it. It’s satisfying being able to go all out, and it feels rightly earned when you’ve teetered on the brink time and again. But what’s unsatisfying about seeing the Council pass on the merits of being their badass selves is that, strange as this is gonna sound, there’re stakes.

Steak
The joke is that “stake” and “steak” are homonyms.

Remember way back when, when I said how rewards are much more satisfying when there’s work to be put in? That same principle applies here. Imagine that Bob’s out for his afternoon stroll when he suddenly gets a case of the collywobbles. Now, the collywobbles is bad news. If he has it for too long, his guts will collapse in on themselves, forming into a black hole within his abdomen. This gravitational phenomenon lacks the mass to sustain itself, so it quickly fades, but since Bob is missing a chunk of his internal organs, he dies. The only preventative are jujubes, which he can buy from the local grocery store, but that’s three kilometers away, and his car’s got a flat, so he has to book it. He jumps walls, weaves in and out of traffic, and along the way runs into a man-eating bear, but he gets to the store, takes his medicine, and prevents an anatomical anomaly.

There’s real risk involved in this story, and Bob has to work overtime just to make it to the grocery store. But if he just gets in his car and arrives at the pharmacy lickety-split, there’s no extra effort exerted on his part, and what we’re left with is a false impression. That’s what Food Wars! does with the Beach Exam. If it didn’t take itself as seriously as it did, it would’ve been more satisfying to see the Council unleash a can of whoopass. That’s how a series like One Punch Man can get away with Saitama slapping everybody into the Elder Scrolls IV. Imagine if Bob just shrugged his shoulders before getting into his car. Then we know it’s no big thang. But if he panics like usual but transforms into a helicopter à la Yoshi’s Island Yoshi, then this surrealist comedy informs us that Bob’s just making an Olympus Mons out of a molehill.

Even if the Beach Exams ended with the Council members covered in animal blood and cake batter, that doesn’t distract from the fact that this arc feels like filler inserted to draw out the time until the final confrontation. If Food Wars! really wanted to kill time until then, it could’ve taken that opportunity to resolve some of the subplots seeded during the First-Year, then promptly forgotten.

I mentioned how Food Wars! drops romantic subplots faster than a handless man asked to hold something, but there’re plenty of specialties it adds to its menu without ever ordering the necessary ingredients.

During the Autumn Election, Takumi Aldini gets his precious mezzaluna yoinked in a Shokugeki, and it’s Soma who has to win it back for him. However, he refuses handouts and tells the protagonist he’ll take back his cutting utensil when he can beat him in a proper cook-off. This conflict does like the cicada and buries itself, promising to awaken when the moon is right, and then in the BLUE arc, Takumi just has his mezzaluna back in his possession. No explanation, he just has it. A dozen chapters later, give or take, we find out he did win it back from Soma, but this is done in flashback, and it’s not a single, sweeping victory. He and Soma face off all the time, and the knife plays hot potato as Soma wins, then Takumi, then Soma, then Takumi. It’s like seeing a trailer for a summer blockbuster, but when you buy your ticket and enter the theater, there’s just a sheet of paper hung up giving a synopsis of the entire movie. It’s completely underwhelming as a resolution, but I suppose I should add it to my morning list of things I’m grateful for, because that’s just what the series remembered to resolve. Everything else got forgotten on the back-burner.

After the Autumn Election is done and cleaned up, Gin Dojima looks over at the finalists, Soma, Akira, and Ryo, and remarks how they’ll be an interesting trio, a reflection of what he, Soma’s dad, and Erina’s dad were during their attendance, but then Alice butts Soma out and swipes the other two to form her own trio for the Moon Banquet Festival. This occurs during the First-Year, yes, but the Second-Year doesn’t make a trio out of the three, either.

Alice Swipe

Coming back to Second-Year territory, it begins with a shake-up of the Council of Ten. The lot of the main cast are official seats, having usurped them at the finale of the Régiment de Cuisine, but then we see that two of the guys they lobbed into a boiling cauldron with the rest are inexplicably back on the Council and chummy with everybody else. I can surmise that they won back their seats and buried the hatchet, but explanations for the unexplained are given the moldy cake treatment.

Then there’s Miyoko Hojo’s entire character. Remember when she showed up, threatened best girl, then got knocked out of the Autumn Election before it had barely begun? I had hopes she would return and, you know, become an important character, and she did, showing Soma the Megumi Terunori Kuga’s Chinese sweatshop, then immediately evaporates from the entire series. I wasn’t asking for an entire arc and backstory dedicated to her, but it would’ve been nice to see something substantial done with her character. Otherwise, I have to ask why she was included to begin with.

This is all little, minor stuff, and I’m probably the only one who remembers any of it, but it all got me intensely curious. I wanted to see what wonderfully delicious loafs of bread these wheat stalks got kneaded into, but then they grew, then withered, then died, and I was left standing in the middle of a snow-covered farmland wondering if the farmer hadn’t pinned himself underneath his tractor.

While I can call Food Wars! forgetful, I could never call it slow. The series would tear into matches like a famished man, then heave a full-bellied sigh during the recesses. Bouts often took a number of chapters to wrap up, which tended to draw things out, particularly during the Autumn Election and especially the Régiment de Cuisine, but you always came away feeling like you saw everything there was to see in any one cook-off, even those between minor characters. But then Food Wars! got some customer complaints that their stuffed rotisserie quails were taking too long, so it sped up the cooking process by haphazardly chopping at the bird with a machete.

During the second trial of the BLUE, the contestants get three chances to make a $100 meal from convenience store ingredients, and Soma goes and blows his first try. Because of the attempt limit, you would expect that he squanders his second try, too, squeaking by with a barely passable meal on his last attempt. But that would require a build-up of too much tension, so he handily scores a pass on his second try. A bit anticlimactic, but not all is lost for the tension to stretch us skinny. He’s got Megumi and Takumi accompanying him, the former of whom has a history of giving it her all only to just barely lose. So expectations reset, and you prepare to see our numbah 1 gal give us all cardiac arrest, and then she—

It doesn’t even show hers or Takumi’s attempts on the second trial. The skip button’s pressed, and we’re shown that they passed. What food analogy am I gonna use here? That it’s like biting into a jelly doughnut only to find a cavernous hollow inside?

Try-Hard

Each of the cook-offs in the Second-Year are like this. They trim off one thing or another, and what’s left is a portion of a three-portion meal. This does speed things along so that we’re not devoting an entire volume to one trial out of twenty, but it has the drawback of leaving off the spices which give each battle its real kick.

Drawn-out as the Régiment de Cuisine may be, the highlights of some of its battles are the highlights of the entire series. Remember when Takumi went up against Eizen and had a complete and total psycho moment which led to his victory?

Psycho Takumi

Or what about the heartbreak when Megumi goes up against Momo Akanegakubo, undergoing a one-on-one bootcamp with Kojiro Shinomiya and learning a new technique just for that bout, only to lose by the slimmest of margins because her dorayaki had the faintest whiff of bitterness? And then afterwards when Erina stomps horn-head into the sewer by making her own dorayaki-inspired dessert?

Megumi's Loss

Or how about Satoshi Isshiki’s entire match against whatshisface buttchin? He spends all his prep-work clowning around and coming up with fallback plans in the event they lose the entire Régiment de Cuisine but then after a certain point decides he’s going to stick his opponent in a meat grinder and use him for a side dish.

Shaddup

Exhausting as the Régiment de Cuisine may be to read, the battles it hosts are when it’s at the top of its game, and they perfectly encapsulate what makes this series such a thrill to read. But character moments like these which make for the series’s most memorable battles didn’t keep their reservations for the Second Year arc. Reactions like the one judge’s foreclosure are great, but what few instances it tries to tug on heartstrings it’s just retreading covered ground.

Foreclosure

There’s some debate as to when this series started backsliding, but general consensus puts it during the Central Arc. Things do get a tad absurd what with the overpowered student council suddenly and baselessly ousting the dean, and the rebels didn’t take the proactive resistance measures I was hoping for, but it was otherwise a good buildup to the Régiment de Cuisine finale. However, I do feel that there’s a definitive moment when the series slips on some loose gravel and takes a tumble downhill, and for me, that moment comes in chapter 271.

The Second-Year arc begins with Erina sending Soma and Megumi to a hot springs resort town to investigate a series of inexplicable restaurant closures. After some prodding about, they snag their culprit, which is their first contact with a Noir, and he gives up that he and a bunch of others were sent by a man going by the name Saiba, which, not so incidentally, was the original family name of Soma’s dad. The Council discusses the likelihood that Soma’s dad is and has been a bad boy all along, and Soma, looking to dispel the suspicion on his father, gives him a ring, but his father can’t talk for long, about to go up against the very Saiba himself.

Joichiro Yukihara up to this point had been an unstoppable force. He won cooking competitions left and right, people ranted and raved over his food, and monks gave up their religions just to have a taste of his dishes. The manga never makes this claim or hints at it, but it’s easy to walk him to the top of a podium, throw confetti, and drop a sash on him which reads World’s No. 1 Cook.

Then comes the contest results of his battle against the head of the Noir, Saiba.

Joe's Loss

I didn’t hate Food Wars! for what it did, but it was at this point where I became disappointed in its decision-making. Food Wars! thinks it’s setting Saiba up as the unbeatable villain by having him sweatlessly defeat Joichiro, undoubtedly the best cook in the entire series up till this point, but that’s not the case. Not in the slightest. When some bad guy steps in from out of nowhere and defeats the undefeatable, the A player on our side, it doesn’t make us fear the villain, it makes us feel for the good guy. The bad guy isn’t built up, our champion is brought down.

I’m not suggesting powerhouses like Soma’s dad can’t meet their end (the death of the mentor is just one stepping stone of many in the Hero’s Journey, after all). Nothing is off-limits in storytelling, and if you play your cards right, you can get the heartrending death of Ezio Auditore in Assassin’s Creed: Embers. But set the whole blackjack table on fire and what you get is the shock-value breaking of the Undertaker’s Streak at Wrestlemania XXX.

After Joichiro’s defeat, everything that’s supposedly this huge threat is a joke, and everything that was a huge threat is made into a joke. I went into plenty enough detail on the fangless Noir, but there’s also the case of Eishi Tsukasa, who was basically a force of nature during the Régiment de Cuisine. When he more or less sides with Soma, you sit back and wait for Typhoon Tsukasa to sweep over the competition, but then he loses to Saiba. No ifs, ands, buts, or hard, tense debate over it. He just loses, and the manga tosses him into the trash heap with every other respectable cook on the roster.

Food Wars! as a whole has the ups and downs of a roller coaster, with the fun and exhilaration of one, but its tracks start creaking for the last third, and the closer the cars get to the station, the wobblier the rails get, to where you’re sweating over whether you’re gonna go hurtling off at the next helix.

Despite everything bad I’ve said about the Second-Year arc, I don’t think it’s completely some rotten hunk of meat and cheese. The lifeblood of Food Wars! is still pumping through its veins, so it does present some great moments.

Abandoned House

·

Queen Megumi

·

Soma's Mom
Finally learning about the woman who gave birth to Soma.

But probably the best thing to come out of the BLUE, in my opinion, is the story of the judge of the first gate.

First Gate Judge

Heigoro Tokiyama was part of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII but after Japan’s surrender got involved in the black market, where his chef skills were recognized, beginning his lifelong career as a Noir. In his old age, his health declined until he was bound to a wheelchair and, no longer able to stand, forced to retire. However, cooking was all he ever had, so he entered the BLUE as a judge with the stipulation for passing being to cook him a meal deserving of being a person’s last.

Because his intention was for the meals he tasted to be his last.

Whenever a contestant met his standard, he would grab a revolver from his belt and shoot it at them. It was fake, mind you, firing confetti and a banner reading PASS, but what he kept hidden was a second revolver, this one real. Once the judging had finished and his belly had been filled with good food, he was going to take that second revolver and hold it up to his own head.

Bang.

This was his intention, as I said, but plans don’t always pan out the way you want them to, not especially when third parties get involved.

Soma doesn’t like the idea of a “last meal,” or rather doesn’t like someone eating something they call a last meal without the knowledge they’re going to die soon after. So he cooks for the judge basically an appetizer, telling him that when he really does feel like his time will come to head down to his restaurant, where he’ll treat him to a full meal fit to be his last.

Last Meal Promise

This is not a major plot point, just something minor, and in all honesty it’s not a high or a low you’d easily recall after you put the final volume down. It’s just another customer being served good food. But there’s this maxim where eating a delicious meal isn’t just a privilege, it gives someone a purpose in life, even when they feel like they have nothing else to live for. It’s a very human touch. In fact, it’s almost out of place in what Food Wars! is as a series, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Food Wars! at its core is about passion, and passion often is what gives us our reasons for rolling out of bed in the mornings, whether that passion is something or someone.

Food Wars! sets out to tell the journey of Soma Yukihara, who cooks because he loves it, who cooks to become the best, and who cooks to have the person who means the most to him tell him how good his food is, and while it ultimately does achieve this, it’s not without a ton of self-flagellation. I often criticize stories for not being focused enough on a single idea or plot thread, but the problem with Food Wars! is that it’s too focused on getting Soma and Erina together, forgetting everything else that made it great. Gone are the high stakes, gone are the respectable opponents, gone is the sense that you’re learning legitimate, real-world cooking techniques. In an ironic twist of fate, the manga can’t handle its later chapters with the precision and care its characters use for their dishes.

If you’re salivating at the delicious scent of Food Wars! but have cold feet from all the ice people are pouring on it while talking about how awful this series gets, here’s my reading recommendation, what I’ll call the Definitive Food Wars! experience. It’s not perfect, still forsaking what few subplots the Second-Year arc wraps up, but it gives you the best the series has to offer while cutting things off before they pass their expiration date. It goes like so:

Read the first 263 chapters as the entire storyline, and treat chapter 264 as the epilogue. That’s 30 volumes plus two extra chapters. This is where the manga was intended to end, anyway. As a note, the final page of chapter 264 segues into the Hot Springs Investigation Arc, but you can totally disregard that or treat it as one of those stinger scenes where the central conflict is resolved, but the wacky days and adventures of the characters carry on ad infinitum.

Whether you just order the Definitive dish or stick around for the full French course, there’s plenty to chow down on for Food Wars! Though some of its ingredient choices are questionable, for lack of a better word, everything else is of the finest quality. So pull up a seat, shove your napkin into your collar like the aristocrats do, and dig in to heaping helping of Food Wars! until you gain ten kilos and your clothes rip off.

Closer

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