Sunday, 2 August 2015

Food Wars and Science Fiction



Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma is an anime that began airing in April, 2015 and is one that I've been glad to watch. When I was originally informed about the show, it was described to me as "Iron Chef but anime" which, in itself, caught my attention. While I enjoyed Iron Chef, I didn't really (and still don't) really care too much about the cooking shows on Australian television like My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef. Shows however where the competitive elements or techniques were emphasized, such as Knife Fight, Cutthroat Kitchen or Worst Chefs in America and I was keen to see how an anime could deliver on that.

This anime not only met but surpassed my expectations by providing a easy to follow story line, intriguing character philosophies and, surprisingly, technical knowledge. Characters provide complete breakdowns of the key elements of the dishes, how they combine and the techniques used to achieve the results. Some chapters of the manga even provide instructions on how to recreate it and I've recently learned that a recipe book was released in Japan (Hopefully a translated version will come out soon).

While the anime is certainly worth discussing, what I instead want to talk about is it's classification. Manga and anime websites give it various tags but almost always include 'school', 'comedy' and 'Ecchi' (which sadly, it does deserve. Frankly, I wish they could tone it down a bit). These tags never seemed to me to adequately describe just what you were getting into, so I posed myself a question; "If you could use one tag to describe Shokugeki no Soma, what would you use?". After giving it some thought I came to a conclusion that I found rather surprising; Science Fiction.

Why science fiction?

Allow me to break down my thought process; Firstly, given that the anime isn't following real events, I believe it's met the Fiction portion of that classification. The show is centered around the Tōtsuki; an academy where students take classes in culinary arts and related subjects such as nutrition. This in itself is not sufficient for Shokugeki no Soma  to be considered science fiction or Harry Potter would be science fiction rather than Fantasy (though many science fictions do walk the fine line of future fantasy). The argument I used to convince myself was one from the very first philosophy course I did at university; consistency.

Essentially, I took the premise of Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma, and replaced the cooking elements with a science field. Consider Iron Chef, but instead of making tasty dishes, they were producing Rube Goldberg Machines. You couldn't deny that it's physics, nor could you claim it wasn't science if you used any other field. Therefore, provided that cooking is a science, a system of testable explanations and predictions, then this anime can be classified as science fiction.

Using this logic we can considerably expand the scope of what is science fiction which not only makes it more accessible to those starting out, but improve the prospects of other projects that push at the boundaries of the genre.

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