I’ve been reading Shokugeki no Souma lately. Despite my scant interest in cooking, it’s a fun manga. In order to spread my appreciation of the series, I decided to translate an interview with the editor of the Shokugeki no Souma manga, which is published on the Shonen Jump+ website. It’s part of a series called 推す！この一話はコレだ！(translated in this post as “Check out this chapter!”), where the Shonen Jump editors pick out their favourite chapter of the manga they’re working on and talk about it in detail.
Although it was published early in the series run, I translated this interview because it discusses one of my favourite chapters, along with shedding light onto the creative process behind the manga.
(Note: Names are given in Western order: First name last name.)
A 33-year-old who has been in the company for 10 years. The first editor who worked with Tsukuda and Saeki. Has lately been interested in the ingredients and cuisine of various local regions.
Check out this chapter!
Jump Comics volume 3 chapter 21 “The Supreme Recette” & volume 1 chapter 4 “The Demon King Talks About ‘Gems’”
Q. Continuing from last time, two chapters have been selected, going against the corner’s name! Nakamichi-san, why did you select two chapters for “Check out this chapter!”?
Nakamichi: My first choice was the final chapter in volume 3, chapter 21: “The Supreme Recette,” but it’s already been discussed to death (laughs). So I prepared one more chapter that I’ve never talked about before.
Q. Ohhh! Thanks for putting in the effort! Then could you please start with “The Supreme Recette”?
Nakamichi: Souma’s classmate Tadokoro gets expelled unreasonably by the master chef Shinomiya. Souma couldn’t accept the reasoning behind why she was expelled, so in order to save her, he declares war against Shinomiya… that’s what the chapter’s about.
Nakamichi: Souma normally faces everything with a laugh and a wry sense of humour, but this time his “fury” was palpable. This was the moment that revealed how Souma, who usually comes across as an inscrutable guy, is deeply human. He thinks of his friends and is hot-headed.
Q. It was the chapter that made me realise that Souma felt strongly about Tadokoro as a friend.
Nakamichi: In the beginning, Souma probably felt nothing towards Tadokoro-chan. But after living with her in the same dorm and going to school with her, he got to know her good points and gradually came to see her as his friend. Then, after seeing her fail for a reason he could not accept, he recklessly challenged the teacher without even thinking about his own position… It was a highly charged scene, I think.
Q. What did the artist say about this chapter?
Nakamichi: Saeki-sensei, who does the artwork for the series, said he was extremely moved, and that he was brought to tears as he drew the chapter.
Q. Well now! Come to think of it, Tadokoro’s expression when she heard about her expulsion was heartbreaking to look at, and Souma’s declaration hit me in the gut.
Nakamichi: Tadokoro-chan’s expression in the panel straight after Souma challenges Shinomiya to a shokugeki was a nice touch. Her tears, and then the explosion after the silence… The way this scene flows really brings out good feelings. Plus, the previous week’s chapter showed Tadokoro-chan in a tough situation, so it no doubt left readers extremely curious about how this week’s events would play out. The tension continued from the previous chapter 20 into chapter 21, which I think really amped up the tension into a climax.
Q. I thought it was really cool when Souma openly gave off a “protagonist”-like vibe.
Nakamichi: Thank you for saying that. It was very difficult to produce a chapter for the week after he showed his coolness… (laughs) We couldn’t make Souma fight in Tadokoro-chan’s place, we couldn’t make him win against Shinomiya, and of course we couldn’t make him lose. Picking a fight is all well and good, but what comes next? (laughs) In the midst of all those constraints, Tsukuda-sensei came up with a fitting conclusion to the Shinomiya showdown that would cause no one to fail.
Q. The start of that Shinomiya arc is not chapter 21, is it?
Nakamichi: You’re right. …So next up is the chapter you can’t not mention when talking about the Shokugeki no Souma manga: chapter 4 “The Demon King Talks About ‘Gems’”
The moment that completed the preparations for school
Q. What kind of chapter is this?
Nakamichi: It’s Souma’s opening ceremony. The story is set in Tootsuki Academy, a super elite cooking school. The director of the school, who is feared as “food’s demon king” gives out a dramatic speech: “99% of you are sacrificial stones in order to polish the remaining 1% gems.” All the students who heard that comforted themselves by thinking that they would become the 1%. But then straight after that, Souma, a transfer student, has the gall to announce, as if he’s the Prime Minister speaking in front of the Diet: “I only think of this academy as a stepping stone.”
Q. To the students who have been there all along, that was an eye-popping moment. What’s this guy saying? (laughs)
Nakamichi: Yep. With that declaration, Souma turned every student into his enemy. In other words, everyone in Souma’s grade instantly acknowledged his existence. Every other character now had a reason to pick a fight with Souma, and even Tadokoro-chan, who now has such faith in him, vowed to stay away from “that transfer student.” On top of establishing the school, you could also say it decided Souma’s relative standing, and that it created an antagonistic setup.
Q. You hadn’t decided on this kind of setup from the beginning?
Nakamichi: That’s right. We had decided in broad strokes to make him defeat the strong people in the academy dramatically, but we hadn’t settled on an idea on how to do that. Then one day Saeki-sensei came up with a plan to make Souma do a big speech.
Q. Isn’t Saeki-sensei in charge of the drawings?!
Nakamichi: He said to me, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if he declares he’ll surpass the director?” We talked about it with Tsukuda-sensei and they eagerly decided to do it. Tsukuda-sensei based the director’s speech on a true story I had heard before, and then skillfully added Souma’s declaration to make it feel more complete.
Q. So it was Nakamichi-san’s idea…!
Nakamichi: I heard that they said that during the opening ceremony of a fine arts college somewhere. It’s like raining on those new students’ parade… Stepping stone is a harsh phrase. But from then on all the students resolved not to be eaten by the creative world… It’s interesting to say it straight out~ I’ve always wanted to try using it in a story.
Souma is a four-way collaboration!
Q. I’d been wondering about this for a while, but how is Shokugeki no Souma made?
Nakamichi: Tsukuda-sensei and I are supposed to have meetings together so that Tsukuda-sensei can work out the story, but in reality Saeki-sensei comes along, and when you add Morisaki-sensei to the mix, that makes four people who come to the meetings. We all have different opinions and things we’re picky about, so we get more ideas flowing when there are three or four of us. The schedule of a weekly serialisation is packed, so meeting up every week without fail is difficult, but we meet up and talk at least once a month.
Q. I kind of assumed that you and Tsukuda-san decide on the content, which you then relay to Saeki-sensei, who does the drawings…
Nakamichi: When we meet up to work on the story, we also go over the artwork as well… Well, come to think of it, that doesn’t usually happen with other works. I think that Souma has a relatively unique creative process. Of course we meet up whenever we decide on the major story developments, and so everyone helped create the chapters we discussed before: “The Supreme Recette” and “The Demon King Talks About ‘Gems.’”
Each chapter is easy and fun to read!
Q. Sell this work to the public! Are there any things worth highlighting?
Nakamichi: Fundamentally, we strive to make a manga that’s interesting to read every week. It’s easy for anyone to read, it gets you pumped up, and plus the food looks delicious. When you’re reading a bit of it at your friend’s house or sampling a chapter on your smartphone, I hope it makes you think: “Well, that was pretty interesting.” I guess that’s the hidden theme of the story. That’s why we decided as a rule of thumb not to include any particularly difficult plot developments.
Q. The theme is cooking, but the story is told very much like a quintessential manga.
Nakamichi: Take the moment when Souma’s cool side finally came to surface in the latest chapters. We’d be happy if his protagonist-like qualities could get across to the readers as well. The other characters also have their individual sides, so it’s going to get more interesting from here on out. Finally, you can actually make the dishes that appear in the manga in real life. Not only would I like people to enjoy the story and the character actions, I’d also like them to have fun with the “cooking” parts, which make up the main theme of the manga. That also includes the reactions of the characters who eat the cooking (laughs).
Q. Of course! Thank you very much! Yessir! And that concludes our interview. …Incidentally, who is the most popular female character?
Nakamichi: Hmm… That will be released soon. So you can “dig in” to the results of the first character popularity poll! …And that’s all I’ll say for now (laughs).
Q. That was cheesy!
Translator’s commentary: You can check out the character popularity polls here. My personal favourite character is Megumi.
The official website also has some interesting features, including interviews with the voice actors (you can read a partial translation here) and a cooking show with Souma’s voice actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. I still haven’t seen the anime yet, but I’m pretty hyped for season 2!
As always, if you enjoyed this translation, please consider sending me a commission. Thank you for reading!