Entertainment

How the Anime 'Food Wars' Gets Its Dishes to Look More Appetizing Than the Real Thing

food wars, shokugeki no soma, saito somei
Sentai Filmworks

The anime Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma is arguably best known for two things: its rampant fanservice, and its equally sexual food porn. An upcoming behind-the-scenes documentary about the series from Crunchyroll gives insight into the latter, diving into the series' production and how they approach animating food, from the base ingredients to the finished dish. A clip from the documentary, premiering exclusively on Thrillist, reveals some of the motivations behind nailing the high-end meals of Food Wars

"We're dealing with a cooking manga and cooking anime, and if we can't make the food look good, it doesn't matter how much work we put into the characters," one of the series' producers says. "We would have failed."

Food Wars takes place at the elite culinary high school Tōtsuki Academy, where young chefs challenge each others' cooking skills in often high-stakes head-to-head battles called shokugeki. Though Food Wars is most reminiscent of a sports anime in form and style, the focus has always been on extravagant, clever dishes and dramatic, Michelin restaurant-caliber preparation techniques. For the series' producers, the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the food they're animating is invaluable; in the clip from the documentary, they discuss observing a tuna filleting demonstration at a nearby supermarket, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the fish and the careful process of dismantling one. 

That knowledge was directly applied to a sequence in the second episode of Season 4, which has two rival students -- Saito Somei and Mimasaka Subaru -- duking it out over tuna. While the animation skims over some of the finer points of the process, the resulting cuts of tuna and its texture measure up to the real-life standard. 

food wars, shokugeki no soma, tuna
Sentai Filmworks

Food Wars plays into a long tradition of culinary excellence in anime. It's no secret that anime food, without fail, looks tasty as hell -- even the simplest foods, like a fried egg on toast, have the capacity to spark cultural moments (Laputa bread, anyone?). Gifsets of anime food are a mainstay on Tumblr, and if an image of the ramen from Studio Ghibli's Ponyo isn't seared into your brain at this point, you're lying. 

Food Wars continues this celebration of food with gusto. Based on the manga series written by Yūto Tsukada, illustrated by Shun Saeki, and featuring recipes by chef Yuki Morisaki, the animation brings dishes like mapo tofu or pizza to mouthwatering life, while also detailing the principles and techniques that drive a dish to perfection. While extravagant, Food Wars is hardly outlandish; it showcases real cooking techniques and dishes with feasible preparations (if, at times, only for the particularly skilled). 

The documentary is currently available in full on YouTube, and will be available on Crunchyroll and VRV on Friday, Dec. 13.

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Palmer Haasch is a regular contributor to Thrillist. You can follow her on Twitter.