Chihayafuru 3 – 17 – An Attractive Advertisement

Before the matches begin, Chihaya notices the people chosen to be the card boys and girls for the matches. She wonders whom she’d choose for her Queen match, and envisions that, should they let her choose guys, neither Arata nor Taichi would be available, for they’d be facing each other in the Master match.

It’s a beautiful dream, and we get a glimpse of it in her head. Part of me wishes Chihaya and Arata’s journey to their respective crowns were sidetracked, by Chihaya’s school trip and Arata’s loss to Harada. If I’m honest, Shinobu is the only one of the four players in these matches in whom I have any significant emotional investment.

That said, the two matches are still hella interesting, and made moreso by the airheaded Eternal Queen commentator, the online feed, and a truly legendary reader whose voice coats the environment in a rainbow light. The first round of karuta itself isn’t anything fancy, but is marked by the sheer closeness of the games.

Inokuma, being a former queen herself, puts up the best fight in a Queen match Shinobu has ever encountered, culminating in a luck-of-the-draw that Shinobu wins. She never doubted the cards would choose her. Is the mega-eyed Mama’s comeback tour about to come to an end? Haruka hedges her bets in the green room between games.

Suo also ends up in a luck-of-the-draw with Harada, by design, only Harada manages to defend the last card read to pick up a win, breaking Suo’s tournament winning streak at twelve. It would be the promising start of a huge upset, if Suo had any actual will to win; he seems to have lost interest. Poor Harada: working his ass off for decades to get here, and his opponent is goofing off.

As for poor Shinobu, it’s clear she’s wounded by her relative’s (assistant’s?) comment about her grandmother basically using her as a mannequin for the kimono made by one of her investments. Just when she’s feeling low, Chihaya comes in with Snowmaru dorayaki to share, but then pisses Shinobu off by saying she put her class trip ahead of Queen qualifying. After that roller coaster of a break, I wouldn’t be surprised if Haruka evens things up in the second game.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 07 – Battle of the Two Queens

After a brief repsite, we’re on to the fourth and deciding bout, with Elite Ten’s top three (and only three still standing) facing off against three of the four remaining rebels. Souma sits this bout out. He’s earned it! First up: Momo vs…Erina! It’s not often we get to watch the God Tongue in action, and even the Central-loyal crowds acknowledge her general amazingness.

That, and the nature with which Megumi went after her, all conspires to put Momo in a foul mood, a mood she intends to improve by baking and confectioning her tiny butt off. I have to say, she’s awfully “lucky” she keeps getting theme ingredients that are perfect for deserts! She goes into overdrive, erecting a massive and ostentatious castle of roll cakes decorated with animal designs and exquisite ribbon candy.

It’s not all about showmanship and “cuteness”, however. Like her basket of roses, “big ass cake castle” is a simple concept, but excels in he little details, as a perfectionist patissier like Momo is wont to do. She even employed soy sauce as a rich and salty element in the whipped cream to accentuate the sweetness, similar to the similar tactic used with salted caramel.

Because the castle is so big, Momo is able to enchant not just the judges and Urara, but the entire audience as well, turning the Shokugeki into another opportunity to promote her celebrity. The judges are certainly impressed, and Momo uses everyone’s approval to stare down menacingly at Erina from the battlements of her fortress.

But Momo is sadly mistaken to underestimate her opponent. I mean, we’re talking about the God Tongue here, daughter of the current and granddaughter of the former headmasters of Totsuki. Whether the dish is savory or sweet, Erina knows what she’s doing, and not even Momo’s preternatural ability to assess the cuteness of flavors is any match for Erina’s culinary instincts.

Erina’s dish is, as you’d expect, much smaller than Momo’s, but packed with refinement. It is, at the end of the day, two pancakes with red bean paste in the middle—a dorayaki, like Megumi’s. But where Megumi didn’t quite transform the elements enough to beat Momo’s rose basket, Erina infused her knowledge of cuisine with the resourcefulness and willingness to stray outside the bounds of “what is normal” she’s gained from Souma.

The result of that fusion is an easy victory over Momo, who in an arrogance that has been rewarded all her life, presumed that she ruled over all things dessert. In fact, there were entire nations, regions, and worlds she not only didn’t have dominion over, but didn’t even know existed.

Megumi gave Momo a taste of those worlds and irritated her, but Erina beat her with them. Erina even acknowledges Megumi’s inventiveness by using the French version of her name, “Grace”, in the name of her dish. As for Erina admitting Souma inspired her, well, she goes right back to her tsundere safe place. But it’s a good solid victory.

Next up: Takumi vs. Rindou in a spear squid battle. In a final twist to make it harder on the rebels, this and the battle between Satoshi and Eishi will be judged by Azami himself, meaning Takumi and Satoshi will have to prove to him that his philosophy is wrong.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 05 – Vendetta Dolce

Even though the center of Megumi’s dorayaki featured a surprise ingredient of ginger-infused apple confiture, a slight bitter aftertaste kept her from overcoming Momo’s superior presentation, and she loses, though notably Anne votes for her, making it a 2-1 decision. Megumi’s friends refuse to let her wallow in despair for long, thanking her for giving her all, and she wipes her tears away and cheers on the remaining rebels, who now must win to avoid a Central victory.

Frankly, the rebels couldn’t ask for better chefs in these two positions, aside from Erina the God Tongue herself. Aldini’s match with Eizan is next, and Aldini prepares pizza with rich, sweet beef shigureni. Eizan delivers one of his trademark face distortions upon revealing that his dish will be finished first, and contains artichokes. They contain cynarine, a compound that threatens to ruin the delicate sweetness of Aldini’s dish by making it taste too sweet.

Eizan’s roast beef with artichoke cream sauce is a hit, and as you can see above, it results in a very BDSM-esque foodgasm, with Eizan being likened to a magician creating delicious illusions from which the judges never want to escape. But when Aldini’s pizza comes out of the oven, he pays Eizan’s gloating no mind; he’s still confident he’ll win, because he took a page out of Mimasaka’s playbook and traced Eizan. He knew he’d use artichokes, and so adjusted the flavors of his pizza to not only counteract his opponent’s “cynarine bomb”, but use it to his advantage.

Eizan ended up being played like a fiddle, with the flavors of his beef dish positioning it as a mere first dish, while the pizza is the second and third due to being split between shigureni on one side and an exquisite blend of four cheeses on t’other. There’s even a symbolism in his dish, as the pie resembles two half-moons or mezzalunas. The judges are blown away and name Aldini the consensus winner, while Eizan makes another scary face and curses Aldini’s growth. Now it’s all up to Souma to salvage the bout for the rebels.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 04 – Red Riding Hood v. Rocky

Once Souma, Megumi and Takumi finish gathering their ingredients from the massive storeroom, they gather in a huddle, coordinating their flavors and coreographing what they’ll be doing for each other during the third bout. It’s teamwork that impresses the Bookmen, and it gives them a rare edge over the mostly lone-wolf Elite Ten.

Among the crowd are the master chefs who trained these three on the Totsuki train: Souma’s dad, Doujima, and Shinomiya Koujirou, who trained Megumi. Things didn’t start out well, as Megumi is a bundle of nerves, remembering when Shino “fired” her from an earlier training camp. ‘

However, he quite accidentally hits on the perfect training method with Megumi: seemingly hollow slogans! You see, Megumi was a huge fan of a table tennis manga in which a once-timid player was goaded into greatness by a coach who’d never give up on her. She forgets their bad blood and embodies that table tennis heroine.

It’s a good thing “Coach” Shinomiya was able to stumble upon an effective method, because Megumi is in the fight of her life against Momo, who doesn’t hold back. As the sole pastry chef of the Elite Ten, Momo’s own methods and style vary from the other nine, but even moreso due to her edict that everything she says and does be as cute and elegant as possible. Simply boiling the apples isn’t enough…they need to have a nice bath in rose water.

To that end, the process of preparing her dish puts a literal spell on both the Bookmen and the MC Urara, in whose head a switch suddenly flips and she’s back to being cute and elegant rather than a trash-talking delinquent. It probably won’t last, but it’s definitely an indication there’s something not quite right about Urara, and neither of these extremes is who she really is.

Momo’s adorable bread basket of rose-shaped apple tartlets transports the judges to fairy tale land, where they’re probably content to stay and simply award the win to Central once more. But Megumi’s unassuming-looking dorayaki intrigues the more historically-inclined Bookman, Histoire.

Their first bite makes an impact quite different from Momo’s, snapping them out of fairyland with swift, powerful prizefighter punches.  However, she can’t quite surpass the visual flair, aromas and flavor of Momo’s dish. But the first bite is just the beginning, as Histoire munches deeper into the dorayaki and finds something…extraordinary.

The other judges quickly follow his lead and are similarly overwhelmed. What did she do…and is it enough to send Momo’s basket toppling from the victory podium?