Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 12 (Fin) – Victory Lap

With the Team Shokugeki won by the Rebels, everyone’s expulsions are canceled and their student IDs returned—albeit in far worse condition thanks to the abuse to which Momo subjects Bucchi. Azami steps down from the directorship, while the eight Elite Ten members who participated in the Shokugeki for Central lose their positions, freeing up the spots for the rebels.

At first I thought Erina would take the first position in the New Elite Ten, but instead she acknowledges that none of the rebels would have been victorious were it not for Souma’s actions, so she recommends him for the top spot. At the same time, Senzaemon is content to remain retired, so it’s Erina who takes over as director when Azami vacates the position.

With the third years moving on to the next stage of their lives, the New Elite Ten consists of Souma, Satoshi, Terunori, Akira, Ryou, Alice, Takumi, Etsuya, Nene, and Megumi. Both Souma and Erina are far busier with their lofty new positions, but Souma makes it clear to the whole school that no one will be punished for siding with Central, and anyone—anyone—is free to challenge him to a Shokugeki at any time.

With the Rebellion triumphant, the episode basically takes an extended victory lap, as the framing device of a letter narrated by Tenth Seat Megumi shows us where everyone has ended up, and how a number of characters  have made slight updates to their appearance for the new school year. There’s even a quick glance a a new potential challenger to Souma and/or Erina, who may be a new first-year. Further developments will have to wait until the fifth—and likely final final—season.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 11 – Making Beautiful Music Together

After a moment’s confusion by Souma’s insistence Erina treat their two-course meal as a Shokugeki in and of itself, it occurs to her that he’s right: classic teamwork has never been their strong suit and never will be. Instead, they have to challenge each other to the very hilt, which means an inter-Shokugeki Shokugeki is the only way to go.

Because I am a joyless person, I often skip to the end of Shokugeki no Souma episodes to get a glimpse at who might win, even if it’s somewhat obvious. I won’t do that for potentially game-changing or arc-resolving episodes, however, and so I didn’t do that here.

With only ten minutes remaining, Erina crafts the dish that will beat Souma’s and score the rebels victory over his father and Central. Everyone notices she’s working with a lot more forceful passion—like Souma usually works. She also uses Souma as an assistant, trusting him tasks that will be essential to the success of her dish, and thereby demonstrating splendid teamwork under fire.

When Erina describes her completed main course as a “chicken-and-egg rice bowl”, Azami refuses to even taste it, so disappointed in how far his daughter has fallen. Instead, he has Eishi and Rindou serve as his tasters. Of course, first they have to taste Souma’s dish, which they find so impressive they can’t imagine anything better could follow it up.

But not only does Erina’s Le Plat Veritable: The True Gourmet That Escaped Paradise, Delinquent Daughter Style surpass Souma’s dish, a reality is created for its tasters in which basically no dish could ever have followed Souma’s up so perfectly or surpassed it further. Even more shocking, a vital part of the dish is a croute containing…squid and peanut butter!

Long derided as a form of culinary torture, in the hands of the god tongue it elevates the Jidori chicken in her dish, but also connects it to Souma’s appetizer, creating a synergy between two seemingly vastly different plates that could never have been predicted. Erina may have had to push herself beyond her usual effortless culinary elegance, but when you see her beaming face, you know she enjoyed the hell out of it.

But while Eishi and Tsukasa acknowledge the dish, Azami is still dismissive, calling it a “pile of slop” filled with the “unnecassay passion”, pain and suffering of its chef. He likens Erina’s chosen path to that of his senpai, Souma’s dad, and said it will only lead her to the “Wastelands,” suffocation, and despair. But then Erina insists he taste it and give her and the rest of Totsuki his impressions.

Try as Azami might to fight back the reflexes of his body with the stern logic of his mind, but he cannot. When he reiterates his fear Erina will walk the Wastelands alone, Hisako comes forward and contradicts him, not as Erina’s servant, but as her friend.

Azami’s Gifting ability affects not just those in his immediate facility, but the other members of the Elite Ten, the rebels, Hisako, even Urara! Clothes are torn off left and right as a great distant hammer drums out a beat: beautiful music that Souma and Erina have created. Then Azami’s clothes tear away as well.

What her father calls “contamination” are the precious experiences Erina has had with people of so many backgrounds, skill sets, and values, expanding her culinary universe in ways she could never have imagined, providing the “ulimate spice” for her cooking. Urara has no choice but to declare the rebels the winner of the final bout and of the Team Shokugeki.

All that’s left to do is for someone to say “Glad you enjoyed it!”…and Souma defers to Erina, who is, after all, The Boss.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 10 – The Battle Within the Battle

The final bout is here, and Souma and Erina are forced to work together on a two-course meal. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Souma seems determined to challenge Erina at every turn, even after he lost rock-paper-scissors and got stuck with the first course. Meanwhile, Eishi and Rindou work like a well-oiled machine, and the latter presents their appetizer before the rebels even start cooking.

It’s a mushroom mille-fille using the formic acid from ants of all things to provide a unique and tantalizing tang, and it’s so delicious and well-composed, Azami’s “Gifting” ability—inherited by marrying into the Nakiri family—suddenly activates, disrobing some of the rebels (though I’m not sure why Ikumi is embarrassed, she rarely wears much to start with!)

Rindou’s dish is specifically crafted not just to show what her mastery of rare ingredients can do, but to provide the perfect preamble for Eishi’s main: a delicate yet powerful salt-crusted venison that transports everyone who eats it to a culinary Eden. It’s the ideal Azami talks about when he talks about Central, and even Souma has to admit it’s pretty powerful. But this isn’t a battle to determine whose cooking is best, necessarily, but how they come upon those flavors. It’s about the creative freedom of all chefs, not just an elite few.

As Souma cooks, he is constantly turning to Erina to taste things, tuning each of his ingredients like one would tune the strings of a guitar before a concert, “taking advantage” of her God Tongue the way her father wants to in his Central regime. His resulting dish combines two of his specialties—dishes only he could come up with—into one super-specialty that maximizes both his resourcefulness and playfulness with Erina’s God Tongue ability.

That resulting dish, “Countdown Caveman Meat, Cheeky Youngster Style”, wows all the judges and even causes another bout of Gifting from Azami, who cannot deny Souma juggled some very disparate flavors and techniques into a fascinatingly odd yet still cohesive plate. Unfortunately…it ain’t an appetizer. For one thing, the portion of meat presented is huge, and comes with a side of veggies. It appears to be its own meal, and for that reason, in this two-course Shokugeki, it gets a zero.

Everyone on both sides of the war is shocked that Souma, known for his rashness, would be so thoughtless as to sabotage the crucial final bout by failing to follow the simple rule of creating a dish that must come before another. But Souma hasn’t gone mad; he’s done this to challenge Erina one final time, when it matters most.

He tasted all of the mains she made the previous night; none of them would have beaten Eishi’s venison, because they weren’t her specialty. Souma went and created the best flavors he, Yukihira Souma, could make. Now it falls upon Erina to beat those flavors, and even overcome his un-appetizery portions, with her own gourmet specialty. In effect, Souma started a Shokugeki within the Shokugeki. If she can beat his dish, they lose. Time to put up or shut up!

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 09 – And Then There Were Four

Tsukasa Eishi’s exquisite, multifaceted Lievre a la Royale easily defeats Satoshi, which is a little disappointing after the latter had been built up as a worthy challenger. Anyone is going to have a hard time beating Eishi, because the kid puts absolutely everything he has improving his art.

The thing is, the rebels are going to have to find a way to beat him, because the fifth bout will be the final, one way or another. Eishi and Rindou will go up against Souma and Erina, with the task of creating both an appetizer and main course that exemplify a “true gourmet meal.”

In the aftermath of the bout, Takumi asks Rindou why he sensed so much unease from her during their match. She dismisses him and runs off, but Megishima also sensed that unease.

In a flashback sequence, we see that despite Eishi’s less-than-stellar social skills, he and Rindou were nigh-inseparable friends who always had fun cooking. Somewhere along the way, Eishi stopped having fun. After gaining the First Seat he was always endlessly praised at banquets, but always felt a bit…off.

Then, in Las Vegas and again in L.A., he met Nakiri Azami, who put his off-ness into words: the people who praise him are pigs who don’t really know what true cuisine is. Azami gradually built Eishi up to believe he was the up-and-coming Picasso of cooking, and there’s only two people who can truly judge Eishi’s cooking, him, and Eishi himself.

Meanwhile, on the rebels side, Souma and Erina bicker constantly on who is going to cook what dish and who will take the lead with the main course. I’m with Erina on this one; she’s got the God Tongue and the former Elite Ten seat, after all.

Their dispute lasts until the next day, when the bout is about to begin, an exhausted-looking Erina finally wins a game of rock-paper-scissors against an equally exhausted-looking Souma. It’s not the best start for the rebels’ last hopes, especially since Eishi and Rindou come out looking like a million bucks.

I’m well aware this ain’t gonna end with Souma & Co. getting expelled, but I’m interested to see how the seemingly invincible Eishi is rendered vincible. If anyone can do it, it’s our boy Souma and Miss God Tongue.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 08 – Someone Having Fun is Invincible

After some objections from both sides of the bout (both the rebels and Rindou), Azami gets his way, taking his seat as one of the judges for the final two matches. He’s flanked by two pro-Central WGO Bookmen in Decora and Courage, who brought Anne up from a “cloddish” sprout and taught her everything she knows. Thus both Takumi and Satoshi face a far less impartial and more hostile panel, though Anne gets to remain.

Takumi starts off with a delectable Calamari Ripieni, which acutally garners praise from all of the judges, even Azami. However, Rindou’s Causa suplemented by the rare Amazon fish Pirarucu, is simply better on every level, and Takumi is beaten by unanimous decision. It’s an honorable defeat, but a certain one, as the change of judges probably wouldn’t have affected the end result.

That brings us to Satoshi vs. Eishi, and we actually don’t see Eishi the entire rest of the episode. Everything is focused on Satoshi, who uses a very non-Japanese traditional ingredient in wild rabbit to craft a traditionally very delicate dish in a clear Wanmono soup, which any kind of wild game could easily spoil.

As the judges take a sumptuous journey through his dish and its morphing textures and flavors that preserved all the umami but removed all the unpleasant gaminess, Satoshi’s closest observer is Nene, who has known him since they were kids and was always jealous of his natural talent.

Little does she know he never looked down on her; in fact, as he was being mechanically prepared to succeed his parents in a process devoid of passion and joy, it was watching Nene work her butt off at her family’s restaurant that first awakened the idea of actually having fun cooking.

If Nene is outraged that Satoshi can seem so happy and content and lighthearted under such high leverage situations as this potentially-decisive Shokugeki, she has no one to blame but herself, who Satoshi credits with “saving” him from quitting cooking altogether. The judges agree: his cuisine has what it takes to at least put up a fight against Der Weiss Ritter. But first we have to see what Eishi has come up with.

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 – 01 – No Ramen Peace in Our Time

New to Food Wars? I wouldn’t recommend starting with Season 4! Worry not; you can catch up with my reviews of the first, second, and third (parts one and two) seasons! Reading them all will only take you a few hours. What else do you have going on?!


Once more unto the culinary breach, dear gourmands! Food Wars is back, with the full year we’ve experienced amounting only to the hourlong break between the first and second bouts of the Team Shokugeki that will determine the future of the Elite Ten, Totsuki Academy, and the culinary world itself. Very high stakes!

But first, the momentum Erina is hoping to maintain in the second bout is undermined somewhat by a flashback to a month ago, when the rebels were still on the train (not the Rail Zeppelin) putting together their team. Souma has no problem recruiting Isshiki and Mimasaka to the rebel cause, but Megishima is a different animal entirely.

But before we get to that (and speaking of animals), the second bout matches are set: Mimasaka will face Fourth Seat Saitou Soumei, Kuga Terunori gets the duel with First Seat Tsukasa, while Megishima will tangle with Second Seat Kobayashi Rindou.

That’s right; Souma got managed to persuade Megishima to agree to join the rebellion. That knowledge dulls any suspense that could have been summoned from the episode’s saggy midsection, which commits the dual crimes of interrupting the momentum of the present bout and being a foregone conclusion.

Of course, it’s not a total loss. When Souma and Megumi travel to Megishima one month ago, it fleshes out the former Third Seat, making me more invested in his dual with Rindou, with whom I’m more familiar despite her being the “enemy” in this particular case. Turns out Megishima is a man of peace and ramen, and never liked Totsuki’s competitive aspect or Shokugeki in particular.

Souma’s strategy for getting Megi on board is simple: convince him with actions, not words, that he’s serious about saving the academy and, incidentally the ramen world, from Central’s oppression. Souma goes toe-to-toe with the ramen master in match after match, and gets struck down every time, but keeps getting up until his body shuts down. Megi’s impressed, forfeits their duel, and agrees to join their cause.

Back to the present, where the focus turns to Megishima vs. Kobayashi in a cayenne pepper battle. Both chefs stick to their specialty, or rather mastery, as Rare Ingredient Master Rindou is making a dish with alligator of all things.

Ramen Master Megishima knows her well—they were adjacent seats in the Elite Ten after all—and not only knows her “Three Faces” (The Epicure, The Field Researcher, and The Daring Barbarian), and knows that the last of those will compel her to go heavy on the pepper, so he does the same.

Their liberal use of the pepper creates a capsaicin squall that makes the Central loyalists and imprisoned rebels alike sweat and squirm in the heat, a stark contrast to the arctic conditions outside. The message is clear: Food Wars is back, hasn’t lost a step, and is just getting warmed up.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 22 – Family Matters

Souma, Erina, Megumi and Takumi’s recently expelled friends arrive on Rebun Island, granted permission by Azami to watch what he believes will be the decisive crushing of the rebellion with one swift stroke. It’s at the shokugeki arena when we’re reminded just how large a portion of Totsuki is totally in the bag with Azami, from the demented idol Urara to the plebs in the stands, to the extremely quality collection of Elite Ten chefs he’s installed.

The crowd is firmly against the rebels, and at moments, I must admit that even I felt occasional pangs of doubt just from the sheer charisma of the majority. Central is making the rank-and-file students’ lives easier, but at the cost of stifling unsolicited creativity and innovation. Meanwhile, the expelled are treated like literal convicts and must watch the shokugeki from a giant cage with iron bars, which is a bit much if you ask me!

In order to match the Elite Ten’s eight current members in numbers, the rebel quartet recruited the most elite chefs available: former third-seat Megishima (whom we’ve seen very little of, but if he was third-seat he must be something), Isshiki (whose first loyalty is to his kohais), Kuga-senpai, who wants to stick it to the Installed Eight, and our favorite stalker chef, Mimasaka Subaru. That’s a damn good team!

Team leaders Azami and Erina agree to start with three duels, and the fixtures are Isshiki vs. eighth-seat Shiratsu Jurio; Megishima vs. fifth-seat Kaburagi Shouko, and Souma vs. … sixth-seat Kinokuni Nene. While what we get about who she is is a rapid-fire affair, the show has proven adept and quickly making characters people we can care about, even if they’re not on the right side. They also saved Hanazawa Kana, employing her huskier voice, for the role of Nene; an elite seiyu for an elite character.

Despite her participation in the Azami regime, Nene is a woman of honor and propriety, well-bred in traditional Japanese cooking, dance, music, calligraphy…and soba making. Her family owns the final word in soba restaurants, and if she comes off as a bit aloof, well, she’s earned it. She hasn’t glided her way to where she is on the backs of her family name; she’s worked her own ass off.

When Souma, in his infinite bad luck at the worst times, manages to pick “soba” from the random battle themes, Nene is justified in declaring she’ll mop the floor with him. It’s calm, cool confidence, not cockiness. Her textbook handmade noodlemaking skills are unparalleled, having been honed over years. Souma can’t compete with them, so he doesn’t try.

Instead, he makes the best soba noodles he can possibly make, which in his case, means using a machine. What’s worse than machine-made noodles? Badly-handmade noodles. Juichirou warned his son that his usual seat-of-the-pants, bold-for-bold’s-sake improv act won’t cut it against such highly-specialized talents as Nene. He has to know when to make a strategic pivot, not take the bait, and wait for an opportunity.

At the same time, his win over Hayama due having made something that best represented the chef he is, Souma isn’t doing a rarified-air flavor only a paltry few can comprehend, let alone enjoy. The “time and history” from which he’ll draw power is in his diner upbringing: creating flavors with wide appeal, yet elevated to gourmet status for the shokugeki.

We then pivot to the second of the three first duels, an eel battle between Isshiki and the never-before (by me at least) seen or noticed Shiratsu Jurio. Like Nene, he has a lofty pedigree; as his family has served the Italian consulate in Japan for years and is highly regarded in both countries’ culinary circles. He’s also a master of stagecraft with his various “rondos.”

Where Nene trash-talked Souma with mostly quantifiable facts and logic, Jurio tries to get under the almost eternally-cheerful Isshiki’s skin by castigating him for betraying his own bigshot family. When that doesn’t work, Jurio insults the Polar Star expellees, and immediately wishes he hadn’t.

Leave it to Isshiki to let all insults directed at him and his biological family slide off like raindrops off a fireman’s helmet, but hearing his beloved dormmates dragged lights in him a fire and energy that wasn’t there earlier in the match. Isshiki resolves to crush Jurio simply for running his mouth.

The third match is barely mentioned, but I’m sure we’ll learn more about the rarely-seen Megishima and virtually never-seen Kaburagi next week. As for who will win, well…I can’t see Souma ever achieving the goal of becoming first-seat if he can’t beat a sixth at her specialty. He’s gotta win, somehow.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 21 – The Storm

As the Central Elite Ten trains hard for the upcoming Team Shokugeki and an exhausted Erina sleeps soundly after standing up to her father for the first time, Souma, Megumi and Takumi finally learn what exactly happened between Jouichirou, Gin, and Azami back in the day when they were all Polar Star members at Totsuki.

As Souma hears from his pops and the other two hear from Gin, the three were inseparable friends, but Jouichirou was so far ahead of Gin and Azami in sheer culinary talent and innovation it wasn’t even funny. Gin, one of Totsuki’s most accomplished graduates, has a 20-101 record against Jouichirou. I doubt the Azami of the time would have fared any better.

Meanwhile, Jouichirou was a lot like Souma in not taking anything too seriously, and occasionally making weird gross dishes for lil’ Shiomi Jun to taste. We later learn the stark difference between why Jouichirou and Souma engage in such a practice.

(I’ll also note that the fact the three amigos are voiced by extremely talented veterans in the present works against them in the flashback; none of them sound remotely credible as middle/high schoolers.)

In the lead-up to Jouichirou’s entry into the predigious BLUE competition for up-and-coming chefs, he is challenged to a Team Shokugeki against one of Totsuki’s old money family heirs who wasn’t good enough to get into the Elite Ten. Jouichirou decides he’ll go up not only against this loser, but 49 of his friends in a 50-on-1 marathon.

You’d think Jouichirou would be at a huge disadvantage, but no number of inferior chefs can make up for a once-in-a-century talent like him, so it’s no contest. Gin is worried about the chef Jouichirou had to become in order to win such a contest, but Azami is delighted, as Jouichirou is nicknamed “The Demon” and is no longer seriously challenged by anyone at school.

Jouichirou continues to crush outside competitions, but as BLUE approaches, he slowly begins to shut down, no longer knowing what he’s doing or why. He ends up flaking out on BLUE, and Senzaemon, who had predicted that a talent as huge as Jouichirou would eventually turn in on itself.

Jouichirou, Gin, and Azami were at the top of the Golden Age of Polar Star, trudging through a great storm in the desert, seeking out new flavors and ways of doing things. But Gin and Azami let him get too far ahead, and he lost himself. Senzaemon suggests Jouichirou leave Japan—and leave cooking—for a time to try to restore what so much success had caused him to lose.

Years later Gin gets a call; Jouichirou has been back in Japan for a while, has a son and a diner. Gin is just happy he’s cooking again. But Azami isn’t as forgiving. He idolized Jouichirou, and seeing him brought so low was traumatizing. He isn’t just revolutionizing Totsuki and global cuisine to stick it to Jouichirou, but to make sure Jouichirou’s sad scenario is never repeated.

While admirable on some levels, it’s also a choice that will ultimately lead to stagnation. Jouichirou had the talent to go as far as he did, but lacked the tools to deal with the inevitable trials that befell him. His son is the opposite; perhaps far less talented, but a lot stronger when it comes to accepting his weaknesses, staring failure right in the nose and drawing strength from every setback.

It’s why Souma never stops battling his pops, even with an 0-490 record against him. And it’s why I believe Azami’s team will lose. After all, it won’t just be Souma out there alone.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 20 – Shattering and Clashing to Victory

When Gin and Jouichirou start bebopping and scatting all over the train kitchen, Takumi, Megumi, Souma and Erina have to find a way to contribute to the “music” the master chefs are playing, or fail the challenge. For Takumi and Erina in particular, it means leaving their comfort zones—the cooking philosophies they’ve always lived by—and going for gusto.

If they completely shatter or abandon everything they’ve known thus far, they risk losing their vital identities as chefs, but that’s not truly what’s going on here: they contribute in ways only they, with their uniquely amassed knowledge and experience, can contribute.

They’re not so much changing who they are, but changing how they use that, and in doing so unlocking another level in their growth.

The resulting hachis Parmentier from both teams scarcely resemble that classic French dish, yet both embody the spirit of the dish while elevating it into more rarefied culinary air. Senzaemon makes a last minute addendum to the rules of this mock battle: the four young participants, not he, will judge who deserves to win.

Everyone loses their clothes in foodgasms, and when the moment of truth arrives, the kids all point…at each other. Erina likens Team Doujima’s dish as a perfectly in-sync jazz band, while Takumi likens Team Saiba to an avant-garde group art project. In both cases, chaos is used to create things harmony couldn’t, resulting in dishes that are both cohesive in concept and strongly individualized in execution.

The point of Senzaemon’s mock battle wasn’t to decide who’d be the captain of the team that will face Azami’s Elite Ten. It was to get the youngins to experience their abilities firsthand in order to know what to expect of one another when the battle and the stakes are real.

And brother, is there anything realer, or more appallingly hilarious, than watching the ghost-white, skunk-haired Nakiri Azami skiing down a slope in his black suit? Talk about pumping him up as a Bond villain!

His collection of Central stooges also looks the part; they’re as diverse in personality and appearance as our rebels—and in the case of Eishi and Rindou, we’ve seen they have good sides—and yet because they’re determined to defeat the rebels at the behest of Azami, here and now they’re nothing but The Enemy.

Azami tries once more to bring Erina back into the fold simply by stating the duty of all Elite Ten members to obey his orders. He wants Erina on his team, and like almost everybody, expects Erina to be cowed by the certitude and force of his words and sheepishly defer to her father. Even Souma calls her a “doormat” when it comes to her dad—out loud!

But Erina stands her ground. If being the Tenth Seat means having to join Central in the Team Shokugeki, then she will simply relinquish said seat, and join the rebels as simply Nakiri Erina.

While impressed by her continued insolence, Azami comes back at her with one last stipulation in the Team Shokugeki: If the rebels are defeated, she will have to return to his side, commit herself to central, and never disobey him again.

Since losing means all her friends’ expulsions will stick, all the rebels still standing will be expelled, and her beloved Saiba-senpai will have to become Azami’s ally, Erina figures “what the heck, might as well add to the already epic stakes.”

She’s so pumped up by successfully standing up to her father that she starts acting like the Queen of the Rebels, vowing to take the First Seat once they are victorious. Takumi and Megumi like this new rebellious-yet-regal “Queen Erina.” Souma, while initially irked (since he wants to stand at the top of the Elite Ten), nonetheless pledges his life to her, along with the others, in the decisive battle to come.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 19 – Light at the End of the Tunnel

While Rindou has Souma and Erina hanging in suspense for a hot minute about the fate Megumi and Takumi, she ended up passing both. With just the four of them left, Souma proposes they challenge Central’s Elite Ten for their seats. With Erina and Akira they’ll have a majority of seats, and thus the power to reinstate their friends, and possibly sack Azami, stopping his grand plans in their tracks.

The only problem is, the Elite Ten members have to agree to even have shokugekis with the rebels. When Souma simply barges in and asks Rindou straight up, she laughs in his face; it’s not going to be that easy. Seemingly out of options, Erina decides she’ll appeal directly to her father to pardon her friend, hoping his love for her will sway him.

My peeps, it does not sway him. He has no reason to overturn the expulsions, and as someone who has carefully conditioned his daughter to do what he says, he’s not about to reverse that power dynamic just because Erina turns on the waterworks.

Souma calms Erina, and asserts the only way to make things right is in the kitchen. He formally asks for the right to challenge the Elite Ten, as it would solve once and for all whether Central’s cuisine truly is best, but Azami quite logically points out that Souma has nothing to offer to persuade Azami to allow the challenge, and so he will not do so.

That’s when Souma’s pops, Saiba Jouichirou, appears, along with Azami’s father-in-law Senzaemon.

Jouichirou repeats his son’s plea (after mussing Souma’s hair and angering him), but he is actually able to make it worth Azami’s while: if the rebels are defeated, he will bend the knee to Azami and his gastronomic philosophy.

Since virtually everything Azami is doing  with Totsuki is a means to beat his senpai Jouichirou, once he has assurances Jouichirou is serious he quickly agrees to let the challenge go forward: a Team Shokugeki between Central’s Elite Ten (well, eight of them anyway) and the rebels.

While aboard the train to the port that will no doubt take them to the island of this momentous shokugeki, Souma, Megumi and Takumi get a crash course in what a team shokugeki is: Individual team members duel with those on the other team, until only two remain. However, as the teams fight, they are able to help one another as needed, making up for one anothers’ weaknesses and filling gaps in the culinary work.

The kids later learn is was Doujima Gin who summoned Junichirou and Senzaemon, thus single-handedly saving the rebellion. He and Juni will be training them, and they decide the best way to do so is through trial-by-fire: a mock team battle. Gin, Megumi, and Takumi form one team, while Junichirou, Souma, and Erina form the other.

The one officiating and judging the battle (and who decided on the team makeups, as Gin and Junichirou constantly bickered over it) is Senzaemon-sama himself. He adds an extra wrinkle of difficulty by banning all chefs from verbal communication throughout the mock battle. With Gin and Junichirou as their teams’ respective captains, the kids serve as their assistants.

Both Takumi and Megumi quickly catch on by watching Gin make preparations for the featured dish (shepherd’s pie) and are able to have what he needs ready without his having to ask.

Team Jouichirou…has a bit of a rougher time at first. Jourichirou is one of the few people who can truly throw Souma off his usual happy-go-lucky, it’s-all-good vibe. It doesn’t take long for the bickering father and son to break Senzaemon’s no-talking rule, but since it’s a mock battle they’re merely sternly warned.

Erina, who is just chuffed to be cooking alongside her beloved idol Junichirou, has to serve as peacemaker…though even she breaks the no-talking rule while scolding Souma. Ultimately all four youngins start to realize their captains aren’t making run-of-the-mill shepherd’s pie, but putting their own individual spins on it (in Gin’s case, he’s making a “haute cuisine” version of the dish).

That’s key, because the whole point of challenging Azami and Central is that there are other paths to achieving great gourmet cuisine. Down-home shepherd’s pie ain’t gonna cut it. But more than that, the kids have front row seats for an unofficial but still heated duel between two former classmates in Gin and Jouichirou who are at the top of their games in very different ways and will never pass up an opportunity to go at each other.

That alone makes this training session well worth it, because as good as the Elite Ten kids are, these two are probably quite a bit better, owing to their experience.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 18 – INFINHONEY WAR

SPOILER WARNING: This review contains *major* spoilers for the Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War. This serves as a warning not to read on if you have not seen it yet and do not wish to be spoiled. Furthermore, there are a number of references to the MCU herein, so if you don’t know nothing about (or hate) any of that stuff, you have my apologies.

Let me make some comparisons. If Totsuki is the universe, Nakiri Azami is Thanos. Thanos wants to cleave away all of what he deems to be unnecessary excess form the universe, just as Azami wants to do the same with the academy. In both cases their end product will be something harmonious and sustainable only they had the will to make possible, and are convinced that once they’re done the universe (and academy) will be grateful for their efforts.

Polar Star and its allies represent the Avengers. However noble Thanos/Azami believe themselves or their efforts to be, they are, on a human scale, amoral and must be opposed. I won’t get bogged down into which chef is which Avenger, but suffice it to say that Azami has been their greatest foe to date, and this week they take their heaviest losses, which will make an already uphill battle feel…well, even more uphill.

Hayama Akira isn’t trying to save anybody other than Shiomi Jun and the research lab they built together, and decided the best way to do that was to accept and join Azami’s Central regime. But even Jun herself cannot support his decision. In joining Central he creates a rift, and for the first time, she isn’t there to watch him from the sidelines.

At first, it doesn’t seem like that matters. Soue, Cilla and Berta can tell Akira’s chicken-fried bear is superior to Souma’s dish before it even touches their lips, and upon finally digging in, Soue has a full-blown Explosion (the family history of which is hilariously explained by Gin). The sisters try in vain to identify all of the chemical reactions going on, but are overcome by their foodgasms.

Akira’s bear and dipping sauce combine to form a one-two punch to put the metaphorically boxing Souma on the ropes, and creating another metaphor: that of an impenetrable fortress of flavor mastery. The only problem is, Akira locked himself in that fortress alone.

It isn’t over yet, because the judges still have to try Souma’s dipping sauce (in an interesting twist, considering you’d think they’d have finished the first dish before starting Akira’s, and not mixed them in their palates). To everyone’s amazement, Souma’s sauce…is just plain better, do in large part to his use of a very specific kind of honey.

Suoe’s reaction is even stronger, evolving from “The Explosion” to “The Gift”, in which his spontaneous disrobing expands in waves to the sisters (though in the very next scene their clothes are back on…continuity!) With Akira’s superior bear and Souma’s superior sauce, the sisters split their votes, leaving Suoe to break the 1-1 tie.

It’s here where I’ll break out another Avengers metaphor and compare Souma to Tony Stark. Sure, he’s no monetary billionaire, but he has an embarrassment of human riches at his disposal, along with Hokkaido’s vast natural bounty. Like Tony, his ambition to improve his skills and his drive to never stop tinkering is virtually boundless. It has to be; just as Tony has no innate superpowers, Souma lacks a superhuman sense of taste or smell.

Souma ran Kuga’s Chinese RS battalion ragged darting from mountain to valley to stream and back again, collecting every flavor in the bear’s habitat that could be exploited to improve the dish even one tiny amount. He approached his culinary testing with a passion Akira simply didn’t match, because Akira was so focused on protecting Jun that he was relegated to testing without her insights or anyone else’s.

While Souma caught up with him, Akira actually backtracked; as delicious as his bear is, it can’t match the passion that went into his Autumn Elections-winning dish. And he knows it. Moreover, he sought perfection and balance in his dish, but gave no thought to who it was for, while Souma’s was painstakingly crafted specifically for Akira to taste it and say it was delicious.

Jun arrives on cue to give Akira a well-deserved slap across the face (Guardian of the Year Jun, everyone!) and tell him continuing the research lab doesn’t matter to her anymore. All she wants is for Akira to keep having fun cooking with kids his own age…because he is still a kid, after all.

Her sentiments hit Akira hard, and his eyes go glassy as a result. Suoe casts the deciding vote naming Souma the victor, Souma says his “Glad you enjoyed it” catchphrase, and we move on to whatever is next. Erina arrives, short of breath and mussed of hair, to learn to her great relief, that Souma has survived his latest trial.

But Jun’s wish for Akira to cook with his friends hits a snag. As a result of losing to Souma, Azami sends his aide Ebony Maw Sean Aida to inform him he’s been summarily expelled. Not only that, the rebellion has been decimated: Hisako, Ryo, Nikumi, Asami, Shun, Zenji, Daigo, Shiouji, Ryouko, Yuuki, and Alice…are all expelled.

That’s a purge to rival (or exceed) the effects of The Snap on the Avengers, and leaves you in a similar defeated mood, completely overshadowing Souma’s momentous achievement of finally beating Akira.

Megumi and Tekumi weren’t in the montage, nor were lesser potential rebels in Nao, Miyoko, Subaru, etc. But how in the hell are Souma, Erina, and whoever else managed to survive the massacre going to proceed? Something tells me Carol Danvers’ cooking skills aren’t gonna cut it…

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 14 – An Unlikely Team-up Gets the Rebels on the Train

Erina has decided she’s going to do what she wants…which just so happens to be the right thing and benefits the Totsuki rebels AND means she’s bound to spend more time with Souma.

The structure of the advancement exams are laid out by Hisako and it feels more like a military campaign against Hokkaido, and for that, Polar Star needs a drill sargeant to train them up. Erina lands on a sexy teacher look instead, and nobody complains.

During the week in which Erina whips Polar Star into shape, Nikumi and the Aldini Bros. listen in, and Erina ends up pulling them into the Hokkaido seminar as well. They have nothing to lose; they’re rebels too.

On two separate occasions, Erina makes sure to remove her glasses before talking to Souma. She puts her faith in his ability to come up with a solution to whatever they throw at them, and later she tells him whatever she might have said in the past about wanting him to fail, she doesn’t feel that way anymore.

Naturally she frames it in terms of not wanting anyone to be expelled…but Souma is part of that “anyone”, and he appreciates it.

The class is bussed to the first of many examination venue (Totsuki’s resources really are formidable), and the rebels are all grouped together among the 5-person teams—all but Erina, who is intentionally placed in a group of faceless classmates who have abandoned their own cooking for Central’s orthodoxy. Azami can’t be losing his God Tongue, after all.

Not only are the rebels isolated, but the salmon they’re given is subpar. Fortunately, they’re given from roughly noon till sundown to come up with a dish, and the group, made up of Souma, Megumi, Alice, Ryo, and Yuuki, have more than enough skills and resourcefulness between them to come up with something. Erina allows a wry grin of understanding. She’s taught them all up, now it’s time to see if they can fly.

Her faith in them is matched only by her clear disgust for the other kids’ blindl following of the step-by-step instructions to creating Central mandated salmon dishes. Only the steps matter, and the only answer to “Why” is “because Azami wishes it.” That’s not cooking. That’s cynical mass production of one and only one way of cooking.

After facing off against Alice and Ryo in the past, it’s great to see them on the same side as Souma, working to their strengths with the precision and speed they’ve come to expect of one another. Of course, it’s not 100% smooth, as Alice constantly takes exception to Souma asserting himself as the leader…as well she should!

While they arrived in the kitchen with their salmon less than a half hour before time expires, it’s such a quality fish (brine-frozen at its peak of freshness), a half-hour is all they need to put their instructor on her back, leaving her no choice but to pass them.

I’m appreciative that at least at this first stage of the exams, despite all of the roadblocks Central puts in their way, when it comes time to judge their cooking the clearly-biased instructor cannot deny what her taste buds are telling her—that the rebels made the best dish in the room.

Indeed, Azami and Central are actually helping the rebels to become better chefs by piling so many challenges ahead of them. If they can overcome them and advance to the second year, it won’t just be a repudiation of Central orthodoxy, but a back-door defense of it as a tool with which to forge great chefs from the crucible of adversity.

With the first hurdle cleared, the rebels join the rest of the advancees aboard Totsuki’s grand luxury sleeper train, the Tsukikage, which brought back memories of Rail Wars! and explains the OP’s train imagery. While Hisako continues drilling some Polar Stars, others take the opportunity to avail themselves of the sumptuous train’s many features.

Erina, meanwhile, holes up in her personal compartment, but is visited many times by Fat Aldini, Ryouko, Megumi, and finally Souma. She doesn’t realize they’re coming to express their appreciation for all she’s done. Of course, she was never after gratitude, nor did she expect it; Erina is doing what she wants…and loving it.

Souma joins her just as the train leaves the forest, revealing a sky packed with twinkling stars that remind Souma of salmon roe, and he even gets her to drop her guard and laugh at him (rather than scoff or harrumph). Then Erina takes note in her head that Souma’s face, the mere mental image of which used to annoy her to no end, is something she’s come not to mind so much. Baaaaaaaaw. Erina’s the best.