Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 24 – Environmental Factors

Not surprisingly, Kinokuni Nene’s dish is a sublime expression of the Edo-style soba tradition coursing through her veins. Creating a dish composed of two distinct light delicate flavors is no mean feat, but Nene pulls it off effortlessly, almost automatically. As if we didn’t know already, Souma is facing an uphill battle.

Souma also has to worry about the judges getting too stuffed on Nene’s soba. The noodles and sakura shrimp tempura disappear so easily from their plates, they seem to create an infinite time loop. Nene may have an inferiority complex when it comes to Satoshi, but he never failed to bear witness to the immense amount of hard work and dedication Nene put into everything she did—not just cooking—while other kids her age played around.

Her “environmental factors”, i.e. her strict upbringing that demanded results and perfection, are why she’s in the Elite Ten, and why she thoroughly impressed three Priests of The Book. But Souma also has something he’s “sunk a lot of time into”, and he calls it “Yukihira-style Seared Soba”. And at first glance it looks…kinda tragic? Especially compared to the austere work of art that was Nene’s dish.

Of course, if an ugly dish tastes better than the good-looking one (not to mention beats it in exciting every other sense), it’s easy to overlook it’s…looks. While Nene used the purest form of buckwheat flower (ichibanko, which only uses the endosperm), Souma used sanbanko, a flour made up of parts very near the outer shell of the grain.

Sanbanko trades ideal mouthfeel for increased aromas, but in his quest to replicate the genre of instant noodles to gourmet stature, he leaned into that coarseness by crisping the noodles via stir-frying. Ichibanko’s delicate flavor would have been ruined, but the sanbanko noodles hold up.

Other bold touches include the generous use of duck, as well as a variety of seasoning spices to diversify the judges’ experience. While Nene’s soba let them travel through time to eat it over and over again, Souma’s seems to transport the judges back to an ideal moment in their lives: enjoying their friends’ company at a summer festival as fireworks blaze in the sky.

Nene is ultimately correct that she utilized all of her amassed knowledge and experience to create the very best Edo-style soba she could for the judges. BUT, it wasn’t the best dish FOR THE VENUE. The environment that matters most is the one in which the shokugeki is taking place, which grew colder and colder as the storm worsened outside.

As a result, the delicate aromas of her dish suffered, while Souma’s held up. Nene herself confirms this when she tastes her noodles and then Souma’s. Her soba is best enjoyed in a much more controlled environment. I believe this is the first instance in Food Wars anime of the ambient temperature of the shokugeki hall playing a factor in the judges’ decision. And I loved Alice conferring with Akira on the science of how Souma beat Nene.

One more environment that favored Souma is his upbringing in a busy diner. From a young age, he learned how to keep track of a lot of different things and dishes at once, because diners are places where the food is slung fast, eaten fast, and the customers turn over fast. Compare that to Nene’s restaurant, whose sophisticated clientele are willing to wait for the best possible meal.

Souma’s extra stamina and the speed with which he experiments and crafts new flavors and methods with which to defeat his opponents, is second to none (I’d wager Subaru is close, owing to his dedication to stalking and copying his targets). And it pays off here.

Megashima soundly defeats Kaburagi off-camera, proving even a former third-seat is still a formidable challenger; which gives the rebels a clean 3-0 sweep in the first bout of the Team Shokugeki. It’s a major setback for Azami, who only shows his frustration in the shadows.

However, that’s all for this second cour of Shokugeki no Souma 3; we won’t learn who wins (or more likely, how the rebels ultimately defeat Azami) until the third cour. Whenever that comes, I be waiting with an empty stomach.

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Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 23 – The Natural

I was a little out of the loop regarding Isshiki’s pedigree, but that’s cleared up early this week: the Isshiki family has been, along with the Kinokuni family to which Nene belongs, one of the two pillars of Japanese cuisine in Kyoto. Not only that, when he turned four, Isshiki moved in with the Kinokunis to train away from home.

As such, he and Nene have known each other since they were little kids…though Nene resists the assertion that they’re “childhood friends.” When Satoshi asks why she’s always so opposed to his existence, she says “you know why.”

The judges are also introduced as belonging to the revered book of restaurant ratings known as the WGO Guide, led by their marshal Anne. The WGO is akin to the real-life Michelin Guide, giving one to three stars to gourmet restaurants which propels them to the apex of the culinary world. They’re kingmakers and kingbreakers.

Taking stars away can lead to a restaurant’s ruin, as well as the end of that chef’s confidence. Anne notes quite blatantly that Yukihira Diner isn’t even in “The Book”, but makes it clear that this fact has nothing to do with the Shokugeki at hand, and that she and her two colleagues will judge the dishes put before them with fairness and impartiality.

Shiratsu Jurio presents his dish: the quintessentially Italian capitone in umido. With a rich San Marzano tomato sauce and crispy-creamy polenta perfectly complementing the fatty umami of the eel, the judges feel like they’re being cradled in a large bosom of flavor. It’s a masterpiece of by-the-book Italian cooking, and a testament to Jurio’s tireless hard work trying to reach Isshiki’s level.

Isshiki’s dish is not traditional Japanese or anything else, except in its very basic structure, that of Hitsumabushi. However, this is “Polar Star Style”, which integrates a number of ingredients developed (and in some cases not yet perfected) by his beloved Polar Star juniors, which he admits he just flat-out stole from them in order to showcase their skill in their individual specializations.

It really is the best dish someone fighting for the rebellion could present: one that doesn’t just show the judges what a good chef he is, but the potential of chefs below him, as well as his own judgment and confidence in their skills, even if they don’t have the same confidence in themselves.

Satoshi wins the match with Jurio running away, but after curt congratulations, Nene tells him she’ll defeat him in the second bout. She sees this as yet another example of Satoshi, whom she’s known longer than anyone else present, excelling at things with minimal effort, as he did with everything she threw at him when they were kids.

Things that took her endless effort came frustratingly easily to Satoshi, but what has always angered her more than anything is that is was so clearly she felt he wasn’t putting in 100% of his effort. If he did, he’d surely have been above her in the Elite Ten rankings. Really, she’s not disputing his greatness, but lamenting that he isn’t as great as he could be if he, say, worked as hard as she has.

That distinction in her long-standing grievance with him makes all the difference; this isn’t petty jealousy, but disappointment. However, Satoshi tells her they won’t be facing off in the second bout, because Souma is going to defeat her. With one episode until the 24-ep mark, we’re potentially looking at tresults of the remaining two matches in this first bout.

Will Souma beat Nene with his “instant soba”, or will Nene crush his “desperate improvisation” with her Elite soba knowhow? Can Megishima make it a clean rebel sweep by defeating Kaburagi? Or will one of the remaining two rebels fall to Central, making the other win the clincher? We shall see.

Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 02

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Erina waited for Alice post-match to tell her how the “limits of her strengths were apparent” against Souma. When Alice fails to deliver a worthy comeback and storms off, Erina privately expresses her envy that Alice can cry and fume so freely without anyone giving it a second thought. Heavy is the crown on the head that contains God’s Tongue.

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While last week was a battle where heart warmth beat out dazzling science (and dazzling science cried but accepted the loss), this week gives us another battle between two chefs from harbor towns who have completely different philosophies about cooking. Those opposing views inform Megumi and Ryo’s equally polarized approaches to seafood broth in their first round ramen challenge.

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For this match, Souma and Alice join the others in the stands, and the latter’s presence proves useful in providing everyone else with her own personal insight regarding Ryo. She first met him while on her world travels ten years ago, and even then he was a head chef an a force to be reckoned with.

But Megumi isn’t the shrinking violet she was at the start of this show. She’s put faith in her friends, her family, the bounty of her home, and her ability to bring out its full potential. Once he puts on the bandanna Ryo transforms into a wild child, but Megumi doesn’t let herself be intimidated, as a fire of equal ferocity burns within her, fueled not by coarse ambition, but by love and kindness.

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There’s a reason Megumi’s the dark horse: no one looked at her and saw a serious contender. But Megumi doesn’t simply rely on low expectations, nor will that get her past these judges. She’s got skills, as the judges see when her broth turns out shining and crystal clear, goading them into drawing nearer as one does at a ramen cart, watching your meal be prepared up close.

They don’t get near Ryo’s side; he’s like the shellfish whose carcasses he pounds into powder: people keep their distance out of fear, lest they get the claws. Alice knew well to stay the hell out of his kitchen ten years ago, when he brought three brawny harbor cooks to heel with ease, all while satisfying a packed restaurant.

When Ryo sees Megumi has the judges’ and crowd’s attention, he snatches it back with a loud and dramatic noodle drain. He also finishes first, just as Alice did.

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Like his personality and hyper-competitive spirit in the kitchen, his bold, multi-latered “soup de possion” ramen beats its tasters into an elated submission, and Ryo is visualized as a delinquent gang ringleader.

I thought Ryo’s Yang would be countered by Megumi’s Yin, but while her soup, like her, looks like it wouldn’t stand a chance against Ryo’s zero-sum, all-conquering flavor, but actually can, and surprises everyone but her and her friends when it does.

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Yes despite looking clear and pure and light, Megumi’s ramen packs just as much of an umami punch. Not only that, she carefully prepared this dish knowing she’d be facing a rich soup from Ryo (since he immediately and very publically chose thick noodles), and made sure to include the flavors of her home, adapting a regional specialty as her secret weapon.

She also included a delicious paste because it would be “fun” to switch up the flavor later in the bowl. Ryo would never do that. He wants to beat the judges down; nothing fun about that!

Ryo and Megumi’s different routes brought them to the same place: two powerful, assertive seafood ramens bursting with complex umami. Rather than fight fire with water, Megumi brought the same weapons to bear as Ryo. It’s an all-out brawl, and by the end, unlike last week, there is no clear winner.

I have no idea who will win, but I predict it will be Ryo. I love Megumi, but the idea of her beating Ryo right after Souma beat Alice seems too one-sided in favor of the Polar Star crew. Then again, Ryo has definitely exposed some weaknesses which Megumi is uniquely poised to exploit. Not to mention I certainly wouldn’t mind Megumi moving on to the next round!

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