Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 06 – Can’t Find a Butterman

Saitou Soumei’s an odd duck. He claims to follow bushido, and that his role as a samurai is to “protect the weak”, and yet in this bout he fights for the oppressive Azami administration, against the weaker rebellion fighting to preserve individual culinary creativity.

This week, while it doesn’t quite explain his siding with Central, we at least learn why he became the samurai chef he is. His mom was a great sushi chef in her own right, but her spirit was crushed by sexist traditionalists, leaving him to keep her restaurant going. Everything he did, and the heights he attained, were to prevent anyone else suffering his mom’s fate.

Soumei considers his match with Souma to be a duel between two samurai, each armed with a katana. And as such, his seafood rice bowl with salmon, roe, and squid delivers a strong and decisive strike to the judges. It’s a dish they can’t stop scarfing down, and the richness of the butter is balanced by using citrus juice (rather than vinegar) for the sushi rice.

It is a particularly scrumptious-looking dish on a show full of them, but at the end of the day, Soumei only uses one blade, and relies upon a single strike. In his mock Shokugeki against Mimasaka (who traced Soumei), Souma knew playing by Soumei’s rules and relying on a single blade and strike would never work; his blade was shattered every time.

So Souma pulls out all the stops, relying not just on all of his culinary training he received both from his father and at Totsuki, but most importantly all of the various tips, tricks, and techniques he learned from everyone he’s ever cooked with and fought with and against at Totsuki. As he said in the first episode, Totsuki is a “stepping stone”, but he is and always has been a sponge: never failing to soak up the knowledge and wisdom gained in his many battles with friends, rivals, and foes alike.

The culmination of that takes the form of Yukihira-Style Toasted Butter Pilaf Inari Sushi, which everyone thinks would be far too rich and heavy, but contains so many complementary qualities, it results in a multi-pronged, multi-weapon attack upon the judges, in stark contrast to Soumei’s single strike, which almost seems quaint by comparison. Souma throws blade after blade at Soumei, then switches to other weapons like guns and even his fists to gain the upper hand.

With his all-inclusive method, and an exemplary dish that honors and elevates all of what he’s learned, Soumei graciously concedes defeat, just before the judges name Souma the unanimous winner. Now it’s on to the final bout.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 04

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In hindsight, SnS wouldn’t have brought a character like Mimasaka Subaru into the foreground unless he had some extended role to play. And if he knew so much about Arata and Hayama, he’s doubtless know even more about open book Takumi. That meant Takumi probably never had a chance.

This week, Mimasaka takes Takumi apart, matching him move for move, then adding “twists” that push him even further into the corner, until his own gameplan and emotions become the enemy on top of the incredibly talented but demented chef he’s up against.

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He may not be the most nuanced character (frankly, it might have been nice if his character design weren’t so huge and threatening to so obviously match his predatory personality), but there’s no denying Mimasaka has a system, is utterly committed to it, because it works.

Even a judge has some real problems with how Mimasaka goes about his business in the kitchen, but Mimasaka knows people don’t like him, and doesn’t care. In a Shokugeki, it’s all about the food, and Mimasaka’s food is simply better than Takumi’s, and it’s not close.

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Thankfully, Takumi doesn’t simply curl into a ball and accept his defeat, even when it’s too late to start over with something new (and he’s limited by the ingredients on hand he himself chose). He manages to produce an ace in the hole with his homemade lemon curd layer made with the family olive oil.

It’s a brilliant, clutch counter to Mimasaka’s many twists, and at just the right time…but Mimasaka knows everything about Takumi, including the lemons and the oil, and his dish’s true genius isn’t revealed until the judges have tasted both and can compare. Mimasaka’s preserved lemons are in every layer of the semifreddo, and beat out Takumi’s curd.

It’s a total victory for Mimasaka—his 100th Shokugeki win—and he claims Takumi’s beloved mezzaluna, confident he’s stomped out yet another career. On to the semifinals, which occur in a week’s time.

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Rather than console Takumi, Souma simply goes home, and whether he expected it or not, Mimasaka is in his room (having used the spare key, to the girls’ horror). Souma maintains a neutral calm throughout most of their talk, being just as gracious a host as Mimasaka was to him last week. Mimasaka has come to announce they’ll be going up against each other. He wants a Shokugeki with Souma, and he wants his beloved knife.

Just as he knew how to push Takumi’s buttons, Mimasaka things he has Souma right where he wants him: angered that someone he respected has been so thoroughly humiliated. Indeed, it could be argued Mimasaka trampled Takumi as part of his overall strategy should he get Souma in the next round, which he did.

And he’s right: Souma is angry, and does take the challenge. But the terms are different. If Souma wins, Mimasaka will give him all of the hundred tools he’s claimed from those he’s beaten, essentially undoing his entire legacy. Souma considers Mimasaka and his methods more of a virus than an opponent; something to be wiped out entirely. He also considers those methods a waste of Mimasaka’s own considerable skills.

If Souma loses, he’ll quit being a chef. Well, we’re only four episodes into the season, and Souma is not going to quit being a chef…so I guess the result of his next match is clear, right? Perhaps, but it will surely be something to see how (not if) he bests someone who knows him better than he knows himself…at least on the outside.

I’m excited to see that, but I can’t help but think Mimasaka has been a wasted opportunity thus far, lacking the nuance of Souma’s other rivals. We’ve yet to see anyone defend Mimasaka’s philosophy or methods, nor has there been any attempt to explain how he came to adopt them. Perhaps that will come to light in his battle with Souma.

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