WARNING: The following contains minor spoilers for Food Wars!, by Yūto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki, which is available to read in English from Viz Media.
For better or worse, the BLUE tournament in Food Wars! was an interesting conclusion to Yukihira Soma’s long journey towards becoming the best student chef in Totsuki Academy, Japan’s premier youth culinary school. Filled with an array of adept young chefs, the tournament was divided into four stages. The first two were conducted by a judging panel, culminating with a knockout-style playoff.
When one compares BLUE's strenuous format to other tournaments within Japanese media, it becomes apparent that a correlation exists with another well-known contest: the Pokémon League. Upon first glance, it’s hard to imagine both cooking and training Pokémon having clear similarities with each other. However, regardless of their skills, BLUE and the Pokémon League share common threads at their core.
Related: Food Wars!: Trial & Error Might Win the Ultimate Cooking Duel
How Chefs & Trainers Preparare For Their Tournaments
Just as prospective chefs prepare their cooking skills for anything that the BLUE tournament may throw at them, trainers do the same for the League by covering whatever issue them and their Pokémon may confront: effective strategizing against an opponent, item management and refining a Pokémon’s durability and health are all important preparatory measures to take. If one prepares themselves diligently and properly before matches, they can improve their chances of progression -- even against the unpredictable nature of Pokémon battles.
Of course, the preparation competitors undertake can still change once they're implemented in the playing field, be it in the kitchen or the battleground. Whether it is the last stage in the Pokémon League or Heaven's Keep in BLUE, trainers and chefs must be at their prime to guard against their respective specialty's elite group. It goes without saying that challengers must battle with every fiber of their being to come out on top.
Food Wars! follows the same trajectory in terms of the scope of preparation. Though Soma had to spontaneously cook exquisite meals throughout BLUE, with its enigmatic judges giving vague instructions, it would be foolish to believe he didn't prepare for the competition's difficulties in the lead-up. He didn't sit in Totsuki's First Seat of the Elite Ten for nothing. By relying on the knowledge he attained in his three years in Totsuki, Soma was able to prolong his survival in BLUE. His Anki-Monaka, off-season Osechi-ryōri set, and Buche de Noel desert is testament to that.
BLUE and the League Have Distinct Formats But Definite Goals
It is true that although the Pokémon League and BLUE have similar overall formats, their exact makeup is very different. Whereas the League holds a four-stage gauntlet that ends with an additional match against the reigning Pokémon Champion, the content of BLUE's four stages are subject to change depending on certain circumstances. This was mentioned in Chapter #283 during BLUE's introduction ceremony in regard to the issue of light and dark chefs butting heads. And in Chapter #290, Mana Nakiri, the World Gourmet Organization's Bookmaster, admitted to placing her daughter Erina Nakiri's in an unfavorable playoff block with the hope of eliminating her quickly.
Even so, the main goal of BLUE, just like the Pokémon League, remains to crown the last competitor standing as their champion. It matters not if by the end of the League the reigning Champion defends their spot. It matters not if the winner of BLUE ended up being the Bookmaster's daughter. As long as the winners earned their title with every ounce of integrity available and none of the malpractice, then their victories will be proclaimed as legitimate.
The Base Level Requirement Of Both Tournaments
Another resemblance between both tournaments is the base skill level of their participants. It’s unwise to dismiss every character -- even the extras -- as disposable. Everyone involved in both competitions earned the right to step foot there. As the holder of the First Seat, Soma was invited by the presiding WGO to participate in BLUE.
That sort of exclusivity occurs in the Pokémon League as well. Trainers must win their respective region’s tournament before entering the League. This requires accumulating enough Gym Badges for initial entry and besting a myriad of opponents thereafter. Taking on the Elite Four, the Pokémon Champion or BLUE isn’t something just anyone can do. Only consistent winners can flirt with the possibility.
Becoming the best is a designation only a select few can enjoy. Complexities in the two competitions' formats, an elevated level of skill and multiple foes of differing style and skill will arise, but the riches of victory awaits those that evade and conquer them all. The winner of the Pokémon League and BLUE can attest to this idea. And despite some dissimilarities, Food Wars! and Pokémon's competitive climaxes can both be looked at in a similar light.