Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo Recap

southern fried gameroom expo
Disclaimer: We were provided free passes courtesy of SFGE. All opinions expressed are 100% our own. 

Celeste and I try to hit up as many conventions as we can in and around the Atlanta area.  This past Saturday, we got the opportunity to check out the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo, held at the lovely Renaissance-Waverly Hotel (the home of Anime Weekend Atlanta) from June 10-12.  The SFGE is a little different from the usual conventions we’ve hit up in the past in that it is, first and foremost, a gaming convention.  I’m not the world’s most hardcore gamer, especially since tabletop RPGs have sort of elbowed them out of my heart to make room for themselves, but I still look back fondly on my days as a dedicated player.

southern fried gameroom expo

Hundreds of arcade games were on display and free to play when we visited SFGE. The main show floor felt very reminiscent of the mysterious, dimly-lit arcades of my youth.  Back then, before the spread of the internet and the rise of the nerd community, arcade halls like that were a sort of mecca for gamers and geeks of all shapes and sizes, so the feelings of nostalgia are very strong with me.  In this age where arcades have almost completely disappeared from the collective consciousness, it was nice to reconnect with those feelings, even if it was only for a little while. 

Pinball had a very strong representation at SFGE- I would wager that more than half of the machines we saw were pinball, with only a few repeats of the same model. There were quite a few Ghostbusters machines, shiny and new from what I understand, gathered for the purposes of a tournament for which I was absolutely not qualified.

I’m no pinball wizard by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy a good round or two from time to time.  In fact, while touring the halls, one pinball machine in particular caught my eye: an old foe from days long past had risen from the depths, seeking revenge… 

southern fried gameroom expo godzilla pinball
southern fried gameroom expo

A grueling grudge match with Roland Emmerich’s late-nineties imposter monster ensued.  Alas, my pinball skills are a bit rusty, and GINO, with some help from conspirators Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno, won the day.  I intend to lick my wounds by rewatching a particular scene from Godzilla: Final Wars on repeat until I’m satisfied.

Better.

We stumbled across some of my favorite classic games, including Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Shadow Dancer, and Celeste and I got in quite a few rounds of Tekken 4 while we were at it.  It definitely scratched my itch for some retro gaming, but I was surprised there weren’t more fighting games on display, considering how competitive a scene Atlanta has.  Sure, there were a few MAME Arcade cabinets set up running some iteration of Street Fighter III or another and a Mortal Kombat 3 machine, but not a single Neo-Geo in sight!  Word to whoever provides the arcade cabinets for next year’s expo: I want to see some Fatal Fury and Metal Slug in there!  SNK represent! 

Other Atlanta conventions like DragonCon, Momocon, and AWA feature extensive dealer’s rooms and Artist’s Alleys, but that was not the case here at SFGE.  There were a few vendors set up, but nothing too elaborate.  A tabletop gaming area was also provided, though there was not a whole lot going on there when we checked it out; we might have simply missed the busy period.

There was more going on at SFGE than just games, of course.  An assortment of films were screened, including a number of gaming-related documentaries, but the highlight for me (considering I missed the actual showing) would have to be The Last Starfighter- a movie I loved as a kid and had nearly forgotten until it was brought up (over and over again) in Ernest Cline’s novels.  Lance Guest, Alex Rogan himself, was scheduled to appear for a Q&A as well.  That’s pretty awesome! 

southern fried gameroom expo
southern fried gameroom expo pinball

I was somewhat disheartened to learn that there was a wrestling show on Friday night.  I can’t keep missing these wrestling shows at conventions- I couldn’t get in to see DragonCon Wrestling last year, and now SFGE sneaks one past me.  There is no justice in this world!

There was not a whole lot of cosplay going on at SFGE, despite there being a Costume Contest that night.  I did spot an adorable Pac-Man and a few solid Final Fantasy cosplayers, but something tells me most people attending SFGE were there to play some games- an activity best done without thirty pounds of costume weighing one down.

So, the question begs- was SFGE fun?  Absolutely.  Considering the number of games available, there should be something there for anyone who considers themselves a gamer, old-school or new.  If you’re into that classic style of stand-up gaming, pinball in particular, you’d be out of your mind not to make time for this expo

Craft Wondrous Item: Dark Brotherhood Note

skyrim dark brotherhood note

Have I ever mentioned that Skyrim was my gateway drug into video games? Needless to say it's one of my favorite video games that I still enjoy playing. Skyrim’s Dark Brotherhood quest line is one of the best and most infamous in the game, and it all begins with a mysterious note delivered to the Dragonborn that reads “We Know.” As a big fan of the Dark Brotherhood, I decided that a replica of that note might be something fun to create.

skyrim dark brotherhood

Here’s how to do it:

Supplies:

  • 8.5 x 11” white printer paper

  • Black & brown paint

  • Medium sized paintbrush

  • 3-4 bags of any black tea

  • Pen (something like a Micron or Faber Castell pen is best)

Steps:

Step 1. Gather your supplies and make some tea (really).

Step 2: Boil some water in a small pot. Once the water reaching boiling point, throw in about 3 of your tea bags, let them boil for about 4-5 minutes, then remove from your stove top. Feel free to actually make yourself a cup of tea with one of the tea bags before using them to on your paper.

Step  3: Place a few layers of paper towels underneath your 8.5 x 11” paper to avoid making a mess. 

Step 4: Once your tea bags have cooled down you should begin to discolor your paper, using the bags like sponges. I recommend dropping them once or twice for a nice darker stain/splatter effect in some places. Be sure to thoroughly cover the entire paper. 

Step 5: Carefully remove your tea stained paper from the paper towels and folder it in half 3 times. The folded up paper should easily fit in your hand.

Step 6: Take a hairdryer and dry the paper. You can also take a hair straighter to add some extra stiffness. Use these appliances with caution.

Step 7: Use your dry paintbrush and dab a bit of brown paint around the outer corners and fold creases of the paper. This step adds some extra depth to the “parchment” look of your paper.

Step 8: Once you've dried the paper it’s time to get messy. Cover the palm and fingers of your right hand with black acrylic paint. Don’t apply too thin of a layer or the handprint won’t transfer onto your paper very well. Once you’ve covered your hand in the paint, press your hand onto the paper to leave a black handprint.

Step 9: The next to last step is to add the text “We know.” I recommend writing the text lightly with a pencil before using your pen to write the final version.

Step 10: Frame your lovely gift from your local Dark Brotherhood and hail Sithis.   

Cosplay Notes: Luna

 Photo by Celeste Carson

Photo by Celeste Carson

Around the time I started working on my Dark Lady cosplay, my buddy Jeppo told me that she wanted to start cosplaying. I want to get as many friends as possible to join me in my cosplay endeavors, so I agreed to make her costume for her. Being relatively new to sewing we wanted to go with a simple costume that wouldn't take too longor be too complicated to make. Since I was already working on Sailor Moon cosplay (Jeppo also being a fan) we both agreed that the human version of Luna would be great first cosplay for her. 

The Breakdown:

  • Top: Sewn from Butterick B6096 in yellow satin
  • Skirt: Sewn from heavily modified Butterick B5987 with one layer made from black organza and the top layer made from glittery black fabric 
  • Necklace & Earrings: Sculpey, ribbon, interfacing, & various jewelry supplies
  • Crescent moon: Etsy
  • Choker: yellow satin, interfacing, & velcro
  • Petticoat: already owned, originally purchased from Target
luna dark wicked black lady cosplay sailor moon

The Process:


The first part of the costume I made was the long yellow top. We got lucky and found a pattern that looked almost exactly like Luna’s. Modifying the neckline and straps were the only changes that had to be made. If I ever decide to remake this top I would definitely add an invisible side zipper so it would be easier to get on/off since the fabric used didn’t have any stretch or give. The “flowers” on the top were made from black organza. I cut out about 30 petals for each flower piece on the back. 

The skirt was constructed in two layers: the under layers was made from a black organza to give it more structure and poof, while the top layer was a drapey black glitter fabric. All I did to modify it was cut the front of the skirt to create a high-low effect. I also added some horsehair braid to the hem. Jeppo wore a petticoat underneath to give it that cupcake look that Luna has in the concept art. Upon reflection I should have constructed the underskirt out of tulle instead of organza so we wouldn’t need to have a petticoat. 

human luna cosplay sailor moon
human luna cosplay sailor moon

The accessories were the easiest part of the costume. I created the earrings and necklace charms from sculpey clay, then painted them a bright yellow and added some black beaded chain for the necklace. The beaded chain is not true to the concept art, but we believed it fit better than a plain silver chain. The ribbon choker was made from the same yellow satin that the top was made from and backed with interfacing to give it structure and comes unattached with velcro. 

Final Thoughts:


Overall this was a fairly simple costume to construct. It was also surprisingly fun to make a costume for someone else (and easier to fit!) This was Jeppo’s first time cosplaying so it was great to be able to help her get into the addictive hobby. I’m currently teaching her how to use a sew so she will be able to make her own costumes at some point. 

 Photo by: Celeste Carson 

Photo by: Celeste Carson 

Cosplay Notes: The Dark Lady

 Photo by Jeff Clough, Editing by myself

Photo by Jeff Clough, Editing by myself

Not too long ago I realized that up until this point I’ve mostly been cosplaying comic book characters, but Atlanta doesn’t seem to have that big a comic book convention scene. There’s Dragoncon of course, but the other two big cons are Momocon and Anime Weekend Atlanta, both of which are more focused on anime than other types of nerdom (like comics or video games). So, I decided I needed to plan some anime cosplays. My buddy Kiki was the one who recommended The Black/Dark Lady from Sailor Moon. Confession time: I haven’t actually seen much of Sailor Moon (the classic anime or Crystal) or read much of the manga. Despite this, I really like her character design and loved the idea of cosplaying a villain, so I went with it.

Up until this point I had only been sewing for about one month and the most complicated thing I had sewn was my Exploding Tardis dress and a bunch of dice bags. I ended up making almost every piece of this cosplay.

 Photo by  Drew

Photo by Drew

Debuted:

Momocon's Fall Photoshoot 2015

The Breakdown:

  • Dress: Sewn using McCalls’s MP433 in a dark red velour and blue chiffon

  • Blouse: Sew using a hybrid of McCall’s M6796 & M7051 in a dark red chiffon with lots of fray check.

  • Shoes: Black heels already owned (still searching for the perfect red heels)

  • Scarf: Bright pink chiffon (no sewing involved)

  • Earrings: Various jewelry bits from Hobby Lobby, black acrylic paint, and sealer

  • Necklace & bracelets: Fake Leather, quartz crystals, E600 & snaps

  • Crescent moon: Etsy

  • Wig: Lulu from Arda Wigs as the base wig and two long curly clips in bubblegum

the black lady sailor moon concept art

The Process:

I began with making a muslin mock of the dress. It was my first time sewing a dress and I didn’t want to ruin the fabric I had chosen to make the dress out of. Once I felt satisfied with how the muslin version looked and I understood the instructions (it was also my first time using a pattern), I moved on to the real deal. Unfortunately I ended up scrapping it. I had used a shiny, red fabric that looked good at first, but it had noticeable puckering, the color was too light, and I didn’t like where the slits were.

On the second try I wanted to use a more velvety fabric, so I ended up using a dark red velour that had a bit of stretch. The slits were also modified to be on the sides of the dress rather than the front which turned out to be much more flattering. I also decided to skip out on the scalloping along the neckline. Her skirt also has a sheer blue that peeks out around the slits so I created a modified underskirt with an elastic waistband. I can also shift this skirt around to make the dress more conservative.

black lady cosplay sailor moon

The blouse turned out to be the most difficult piece to sew. I sewed and took it apart at least three different times in order to get the right fit. Sewing chiffon for the first time is also a major pain. My advice is that when sewing chiffon it’s extremely helpful to sew with tissue paper underneath to prevent the machine from eating the fabric. It’s easy to tear it off of the stitches once the piece is complete. Using a stretch needle and smaller stitches helps, too.

Next was the fun part: accessories! The earrings were pieced together from pieces purchased from good ol’ Hobby Lobby. Lots of wire cutting, jump rings, and a bit of paint were involved to get the earrings looking accurate. Looking at previous Dark Lady cosplays I noticed many others used white rhinestone for their necklace and bracelets. I wanted to do something a bit different. I created mine using fake leather as the base and used E6000 to glue some lovely quartz crystals I found on Etsy to the base. I sewed snaps on each piece so that I could take them off easily.

black lady cosplay sailor moon

The wig was also incredibly difficult. I’ve never done so much styling for a wig before. It took three nights and lots of hairspray and glue to get it looking spot on. I had to trim the Lulu wig up and use some roller curlers to get the kooky bangs correct. For the hair cones I used floral foam cones as a base and cut pieces of the wigs from the underside my curly clips. From there I carefully (and slowly) used a combination of E6000, hot glue, and hairspray to to style the cones. Once the cones were finished I glued them to the Lulu base wig so that they wouldn't go anywhere. The little hair curls in front were homemade hair wefts created with hair taken from the same curly clips. My wig styling skills definitely went up a few levels with this monster.

Dance tights really made a difference in making this costume not feel too exposed. The slits of the dress are extremely high and without the tights I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable wearing such a revealing cosplay. Plus they make your legs look flawless.

 Photo by Christopher Booth II

Photo by Christopher Booth II

Final Thoughts:

Creating the Dark Lady helped me to become more confident in my sewing skills. I used many fabrics I’ve never used before and learned some new techniques with my sewing machine. At the photoshoot the costume was difficult to pose in (there were so many elements to it and kinks that needed to be worked out.) Luckily afterwards I immediately made all the repairs and figured out how to make the outfit easier to wear in the future. It turned out much better than I initially thought it would and can’t wait to wear it again. This costume also inspired me to watch more Sailor Moon which is always a good thing.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever cosplayed a Sailor Moon character before!

GMing 101: Creating a Campaign

Gming 101 creating a camaign

It’s been a while since I wrote about Tabletop RPGs. The Roll Initiative series that we wrote a while back was a pretty good romp, but that was really geared more toward players- rolling up a character of your own and setting about an adventure along with the rest of the party… and that’s only half the game. Somebody’s gotta run the damn thing, and that’s the job of the Game Master/Dungeon Master. Being the GM is a wholly different experience from being a player in a Tabletop RPG, but it’s just as rewarding, if not more so, depending on which side of the experience you connect with more.

Myself, I love playing the game. I love making a character and stepping into their shoes, stomping around some fictional world, fighting monsters, nabbing loot, and acting as one of the stars in some epic adventure. But as great as that can be, I love GMing more. I love making the world the PCs stomp around in, pulling the strings of the plot and watching the reactions of the other people gathered around the table as this fictional world unfurls around them. It’s a lot like writing a novel, in a way, except that you can only influence the actions of your main characters, rather than controlling them outright. It’s a lot of work, though. A TON of work. But if you stick to it, and you can handle the load, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.

This new series of articles is going to talk about being a Game Master, and how one goes about creating a campaign- from conceptualization to wrapping up the end of your epic adventure. Now, before you say anything, there are a lot of guides about GMing available out there- too many to name. Heck, any RPG worth its salt includes a great deal of advice about running a game in its core rulebook, unless it has an entirely separate book strictly for the GM. Those will cover things like general advice and game mechanics better than I ever could, but that’s not my goal here. My goal for this series is to walk you through my own personal experiences in creating a world, from the initial spark of inspiration to running, expanding, and, eventually, wrapping up a campaign in a fittingly dramatic and satisfying fashion.

So, then, let’s set up our GM Screens (even though I don’t use one), break out our campaign binders (you DO have one, right?), and get to world-building!

I. Get a little practical experience!

I have a bit of an overactive imagination. As a writer, I have a lot of random ideas for stories and settings floating around in my head at any given time, but realistically, very few of those ideas are going to make the full transition onto the page. That doesn’t make them lost causes, however. Right around the time I started really looking into tabletop gaming, I realized that becoming a GM could be a great creative outlet for some of those stray settings. Once I finally got involved in my first real campaign, I was one of the players, and I was already starting to develop a setting and style for my own future campaign in my head. I feel that this is the ideal way to progress in the game- start off by playing the game if at all possible, and transition into GMing afterward. You’ll understand the flow of the game and have an idea of what you personally enjoy a lot better than if you just jump into GMing blindly. Since I had that experience on the other side of the table on my side, I was going into things with a much smarter mindset than if I had just gone straight into it, as I had originally planned to.

And, uh, I read the Core Rulebook pretty much cover to cover. In a few nights. Hey, I didn’t say these steps were mandatory!

II. Start Small:

For my first campaign, I didn’t want to get overly ambitious. While being able to run a wide variety of different genres within the Pathfinder ruleset was tempting, I thought I’d show a little restraint and conform to a relatively traditional style of heroic fantasy. That said, I did allow a bit of inspiration to seep into the early stages of my worldbuilding- influence from film noir and horror, two of my favorite corners of the fictional wheelhouse. I started as small as I could… with a city.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I happened to be listening to the album Warp Riders by The Sword- in particular, the song “Night City.” I loved the imagery of a shady, dangerous city that started popping up in my head and started extrapolating ideas from there, ending up with a city divided by river into a “night side” ruled by organized crime and “day side” lorded over by wealthy nobles, who were hardly any better. Further aesthetic influence came from movies like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and Gangs of New York. A backstory involving the city being founded by wealthy, occult-obsessed families fell into place as soon as I realized I wanted the main villains of this upcoming campaign to be devil-worshiping cultists. And just like that, I had the first living, breathing part of my setting!

I’ve found in my experience since that this is often all you really need to get you started in building a campaign setting- just one interesting, decently-developed location from which you can launch your initial adventures. The rest of the world can develop naturally from there. You certainly can go ahead and plan out the entire world ahead of time if you like, but for your first campaign, I’d recommend starting out small like this.

III. Run a one-shot as a trial run!

There’s only one way to know for sure if you’re cut out to be a GM- and, for that matter, whether your ideas for your campaign setting are gelling. You have to actually run a game!

My very first test run as a GM was a super-short trial run that I did for one friend (playing four characters, bless his heart!), in which I just ran the first scene from Pathfinder’s first and most iconic Adventure Path, Rise of the Runelords, just to test out how it felt to step into that role- but that was just a half-hour or so of goofing off and learning the rules in a practical fashion. A short while after this, while I was still playing in my first Pathfinder campaign, I decided to try out a real, proper one-shot adventure.

I spent a little while dreaming up an adventure designed to introduce the setting, while remaining confined to a single location for simplicity’s sake. I also knew that I wanted it to include those key modifiers that I had decided on for this setting: noir (in this case, in the form of a gritty, urban mystery) and horror (an enclosed-space thriller with a creepy inner-city cult as the villains). I decided that this adventure- designed for a small party of second-level characters- would involve the PCs having been captured and taken to an isolated facility in a burned-out, mostly-abandoned part of the city and would have to find a way to escape, encountering monsters and the weird cult that had imprisoned them along the way. A quick flip through the bestiary for a couple of choice monsters and a hastily-designed map of the temple (three floors and a basement) later, and I was feeling ready to run the damn thing.

I actually ended up running the adventure more than once. I started running it for two of my friends shortly after finishing my preparations, marking my first “true” steps into the world of GMing. The session was a blast- I threw on some choice music from the Silent Hill games for mood, and both players really got into it- bickering as their characters woke up tied together in a room they didn’t recognize with little memory of how they got there, cleverly escaping their bindings, and beginning their search for a way out of the creepy temple as rain and thunder beat down outside. They seemed tense as they debated which direction to go at each intersection, and ran from a swarm of blood-sucking stirges as they searched for their stolen gear.

Unfortunately, the session ran longer than I expected. As in, a lot longer. They didn’t even make it off the floor they started on before we ran out of time… and after several weeks of waiting to pick back up and hopefully finish, it became clear to me that we weren’t going to get back to it thanks to that dread bane of tabletop gaming… work schedules!

Plan B: run it again, but with different players who I knew would be available for the next few weeks!

This proved to be fortuitous, as one of those players happened to be Sword of Nerdom’s own Celeste, who would go on to become one of my favorite players. Y’know, among other things. Anyway, round two with my first real adventure as a GM was just as good as the first time, but this time around I got a chance to learn about the characters ahead of time, giving them each their own real reasons to be involved in the adventure. The stakes were a bit higher, and this time the characters bickered even more (one threatened the other at knife point!), but were more decisive in their movements and moved at a brisker pace, stumbling across other captives of the cult, sneaking around a creepy blind golem in the library, discovering the vestige of a dying god trapped in the temple’s upper levels, and eventually heading downstairs in search of an exit…

gm (5 of 6).jpg

It still took more than one session, but finally wrapping up my first adventure as a GM was immensely satisfying. It wasn’t perfect- I bungled the turn order during combat a few times, I the final opponent was a little wimpy, but… all in all, I thought it was a rousing success. The players seemed to really enjoy it, and even more importantly, I really enjoyed it. I felt like the setting worked, my GM style (a bit loose on the rules, a little overly conversational, but with a flair for the dramatic) seemed to be working, and more importantly, we all had fun and the adventure was a memorable one.

I was ready. It was time to start turning this thing into a real campaign.

But that’s a story for next time. Stay tuned for the next entry, in which I detail how this one ambitious little one-shot turned into a real campaign! ...and then two.  

Why You Should be Watching Food Wars

Warning: Mature Content Ahead

food wars

Sometimes, it’s hard being a fan of anime.

I came up in the era of Toonami. I cut my anime teeth on things like Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, Rurouni Kenshin, and their ilk. Since those “glory days” ended, it’s been harder and harder for me to find anime series that I can really get into. I don’t know what it is- I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they don’t make anime like they used to (though there are plenty of folks who are saying just that), but I’ve found that since the mid-2000s, the number of anime and manga series coming out that have really caught my attention and hooked me in have dwindled.

I don’t even remember how I ended up watching Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma for the first time. I think we might have been browsing through new and currently-airing anime series and thought the name looked funny, or something- goodness knows that, with as many cooking competition shows as we watch (Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, MasterChef, Hell’s Kitchen…), we might have thought it would be good for a laugh. And hey, I was surprised to find that I rather liked Yakitate!! Japan, an anime series from a few years back about bread-baking, so why not give this one a shot?

The last thing I was expecting was to fall in love with anime again.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma is based on the manga series by writer/artist team Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki that started in 2012, and boy, is it a doozy. On paper, it doesn’t sound like much: Yukihira Soma, a teenager who works with his father at their family-owned, reasonably-priced diner, finds himself attending the Tootsuki Academy, an elite culinary school where his cooking skills are repeatedly put to the test in a hyper-competitive environment where only one percent of students manage to make it to graduation. He makes friends, forms rivalries, and competes in dramatic, high-stakes cook-offs called shokugeki; along the way, he hopes to be able to impress the notoriously discerning tongue of Nakiri Erina, granddaughter of the Academy’s headmaster and a famed food critic (also, potentially a future love interest). That description doesn’t quite do justice to just how crazy- and how awesome- Food Wars! is.
The first thing you need to know about Food Wars! is this: FOODGASMS.

Food Wars! goes all-out when it comes to depicting just how gloriously delicious the culinary offerings its characters create can be. Chef Yuki Morisaki acts as a consultant on the series, creating the dishes portrayed in the series, and the animation team brings them to succulent life with vivid colors and just the right amount of shininess. What really sells the food, though, are the hilariously over-the-top reactions of the characters lucky enough to actually taste the stuff- which usually leads to moments of fantastical orgasmic bliss, including but not limited to clothes ripping off, bathing in umami juices, being tickled by angels, or- in one particularly unfortunate incident- being assaulted by anime’s trademark naughty tentacles. Even if these moments take place entirely in the characters’ minds, they are easily the most visible and infamous part of Food Wars!, and are probably some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in anime. The first episode is probably the most over-the-top in this regard, and certainly the closest to outright hentai that the series gets. I’ve seen other commenters mention that this first episode isn’t really indicative of the rest of the series on those grounds, and that’s accurate, though I imagine it was probably done in the interest of coming out the gate with both guns blazing. Be wary of watching this with company in the next room; it’ll get… awkward.

The next thing you need to know: Soma is a BADASS.

Main characters in anime tend to be hit or miss, more so these days. I’ve found in recent times it’s been more and more difficult to find anime heroes I can tolerate, much less like. Yukihira Soma is a different beast altogether, and while he stays prescribed to a lot of the ol’ Shonen hero tropes (daddy complex, endless willpower and fiery determination, spiky hair), something about this guy really resonates with me.

Soma takes NO shit from anybody. He’ll call out characters “above his station” without a second’s hesitation, he’s a loyal friend who expects the best out of his buddies (especially his shrinking violet of a frequent partner, humble county girl Tadokoro Megumi), he’s extremely confident without being an arrogant prick, and he doesn’t pull his victories out of his ass- he develops clever game plans, learns from his mistakes, and adapts to every situation while refusing to betray his own values.

“Foodie” culture can seem a bit impenetrable to a lot of us normal folks; the world of super-expensive fine-dining doesn’t always make for a setting filled with characters most readers or viewers can identify with. That’s another thing about Soma- he’s a master-level chef, but his skills come from his experience working with his supremely-skilled father every day in their local diner, serving cheap but delicious food in a practical environment that satisfies taste buds without breaking the bank. This practicality gives him a head’s up over his fellow students at the Tootsuki Academy, many of whom see him as a filthy commoner and completely lack practical restuarant experience.

Also, just watch that guy move in the kitchen! Soma is like a culinary Kenshiro, dishing out gourmet ass-whuppings every episode. Luckily, the other characters are all portrayed as his equals in most respects, with each of his dorm buddies and assorted rivals having specific strengths and weaknesses. Giving each student their own culinary “fighting style” only serves to make Food Wars! feel even more like a fighting series, and that strange combination of genres works surprisingly well. It’s a similar combination as that seen in Toriko, though it doesn’t take the concept of “a fighting series about food” quite so literally. Food Wars! is more like Iron Chef- the drama and built-in conflict of a fighting series are there, along with many stylistic nods, but this is still a show about chefs competing to see whose cuisine reigns supreme.

Food Wars! is currently airing. You can catch new subtitled episodes streaming on Hulu Plus, Crunchyroll, and probably other services as well. It’s risque, it’s colorful, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch- and best of all, it takes me back to those glory days when anime could do no wrong and couldn’t wait to catch every new episode as it aired. We’ve even started collecting the original manga alongside it! You should give it a try- even if anime hasn’t been living up to you expectations as of late, even if a show about cooking doesn’t sound up your alley, you owe it to yourself to at least experience the first episode of Food Wars! and see why it has so many of us talking.


All images & gifs are from Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma