Shokugeki no Souma 5 – 03 – Black and Blue

OK, I LOL’d a bit at Megumi’s Gyaru transformation after tasting Souma’s pork cutlet fondue lunch kit…but there was a distinct feeling of the franchise scraping the bottom of the barrel. If Suzuki-sensei, AKA Saiba Asahi, is supposed to be the uber-villain of this whole series, let’s just say he’s falling short, despite the fact we learn a little bit more about him.

Saiba ends up defeating Souma easily with a far superior pork cutlet lunch kit, leading Souma to believe he’s a master tracer like Mimasaka. However, there’s a good reason his food is so similar to Souma’s diner-bred fare: he was the only student of Souma’s father Jouichirou. While he won Souma’s knife in the duel, he decides not to take it since he already has Jouichirou’s superior blade. What a dick!

When Erina eventually comes to, she’s in Saiba’s arms, being called a princess and being told that she’s going to be Saiba’s bride. I couldn’t help but think of Princess Jasmine’s line in Aladdin: “I am not a prize to be won!” Yet that’s exactly what this season is trying to do: eliminate her agency just as she’s taken over leadership of Totsuki so that she can be a trophy in a contest between two dudes. It’s a bit sickening, honestly.

The middle of this episode involves parallel infodumps regarding Saiba; one between Doujima Gin and Erina (who is in her workout clothes during the call for no reason other than fanservice) and Souma and his dad at the diner. We get what I believe to be the first clear-ish glimpses of his mother Tamako, but only in flashes. Bringing her up now, in the final season, seems a bit…late?

I love cooking, and for years I’ve loved Food Wars, but the formula frankly feels played out. I’ll confess to having less-than-stellar enthusiasm for The Fifth (and Final) Plate when it dropped in April. Three uninspiring episodes and over two months later, that enthusiasm has not improved. A lot of it has to do with the fact there was a finality to our heroes beating Azami, re-taking the academy, and taking their rightful seats in the Elite Ten.

To immediately introduce a new villain (not to mention Noir, whose members look like KKK klansmen in black) who looks almost exactly like the previous villain but lacks his gravitas (as well as that of seiyu Hayami Show) feels like running in place, if not going backwards. I feel like it’s going to be one long slog getting through this…so much so I may not get through it. And that’s a damned shame!

Shokugeki no Souma 5 – 02 – Tha Last Meal is Delayed

These first two episodes of SnS‘s fifth season weren’t supposed to be merely a two-part preview of a series that won’t return for many months, if ever. Yet that’s what happened, and it’s impossible not to approach this episode with that in mind.

With the BLUE Competition looming, Totsuki must pick three chefs (four if you count Erina, who’s automatically in) to represent the academy. They need not be in the Elite Ten, but any chef at Totsuki.

The resulting preliminaries are hastily organized and involve so many different chefs making different kinds of soup, it all ended up a bit of a chaotic mess—more a stream of things happening than the truly compelling culinary competition I’d expect of the best of Food Wars. This was the equivalent of throwing a bunch of stuff on the screen, be it dishes or “foodgasm” reactions, and seeing what sticks. Nothing much stuck.

Two of the winners of the three BLUE spots come as no surprise: Souma and Aldini, while the third is a bit of a surprise. Megumi gains first place with an initially “lame”looking dish of meatballs, until the judges discover that each ball contains a miso soup using miso from all of the areas of Japan. It’s definitely the most clever dish presented, both a symbol of her collected Good Times and a flavor tour of Japan. Megumi also reacts to her win with her usual fluster.

Later, while walking the halls of the school(!!!) Souma and Megumi are reeled into a first-year class at Suzuki-sensei’s request to regail the youngins of some Totsuki war stories. This sequence doesn’t last long enough to have much of an impact, but is merely the preamble to Suzuki staking his claim to ownership of Erina’s hand in marriage (despite looking a lot like an illegitimate son of her dad??)

Souma isn’t so ready to let Suzuki swoop in and marry Erina, while Megumi’s dialect breaks out in her head as she ponders a poential teenage wedding. Still, Souma accepts Suzuki’s challenge to a non-official shokugeki right here and now, with Megumi as the judge, all while Erina listens from the hall to people who apparently think she’s a prize to be won. Maybe leave it up to her who she’ll marry and when, my guys?

Of course, a cooking duel that was meant to take place next week will now come…TBA. And that’s pretty much that. Nothing much to do now but wait, and hope the wait was worth it!

Shokugeki no Souma 5 – 01 – Tha Last Meal Begins

It’s a New Day, yes it is at Totsuki Academy. The rebellion is over, the evil empire fell, and now it’s time to rule. Erina does the ruling as the new Director, while Souma achieved what he set out to do back on Day One of Year One: claim the First Seat of the Elite Ten.

Filling out the other seats are chefs he’s fought beside and against. For the final exams, Erina puts the new Elite Ten at several disadvantages as they attempt to make 3 million in profit with a ramshackle beach hut on the dark corner of the beach.

Erina seems genuinely happy in her new role leading the academy to educational and creative freedom. Similarly, she’s never had an easier or warmer manner with Souma. The two are two peas in a pod right up until he tells her she’s prettier when she smiles (she did not solicit such explicit flirting!).

Erina also learns a little about how Souma’s mom used to man the kitchen with his dad. I imagine we’ll learn more about this mystery mom this season. If not, we’ll never learn…this is the final season, isn’t it?

As for the exam challenge, the Elite Ten bounce off each other and bicker for the first two days as they try to get the hut in usable order, but they’ve been in stickier situations before, and as Souma tells a camo-bikini’d Ikumi (who has a lot of screen time this week—not complaining!) it’s the Elite Ten’s job to inspire the rest of the students by achieving the impossible.

In this case, that’s clearing over 3.5 million in just one day’s serving, thanks to putting their heads together and crafting a yakisoba with an irresistible Hayama-developed aroma that ensnares all of the customers on the beach at once. It’s a very quick and rushed challenge, but it’s fun to see everyone working together again without the threat of expulsion looming.

Two new antagonists emerge from this opening episode: first-year rich kid Dakekanba Ken, who vows to make Souma’s Elite Ten reign as brief as possible. Souma for his part admires the kid’s spirit—Ken’s doing exactly what he did, after all! A far larger threat seems poised to emerge in Suzuki-sensei, who shares Erina’s dad’s ghostly white complexion and hair, to the point I initially thought it was Azami with an assumed identity (for whatever reason)!

In any case, this new Defense Against the Dark Culinary Arts teacher admired by all for his good looks wouldn’t look this much like Azami if he wasn’t related. I’ve heard mumblings that the Food Wars manga kind of crashed burned with a disastrous final arc, but my completionist nature precludes me from not finishing the anime adaptation to the end, whether that end is bitter, sweet, salty, sour…or umami.

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 – 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 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?

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 03 – Return of the Fly

Kuga has a great dish. It gives the judges a foodgasm as one would expect, and they note how it even “destroys the ideal” of what sweet-and-sour pork can be with his clever fusion of Chinese and French techniques. But unfortunately, it just can’t hold a candle to First Seat Tsukasa’s dish: four sublime purees of vegetables that pair perfectly with four different green teas and a heavenly harmonizing sauce that elevates their delicate yet powerful ecstasy.

Just as Tsukasa quickly forgot about Kuga when the latter first challenged him a year ago, the judges quickly forget about Kuga’s dish and Tsukasa claims victory, completing a clean sweep of the rebels in the second bout with just five chefs remaining per team.

But notably, it’s not an easy victory, nor is it an empty loss for the rebels. Both Tsukasa and Rindou are so worn out from their matches that they’ll have to sit out tomorrow’s bout. Kuga is also happy that Tsukasa judged his effort worthy of respect, even though he came up short.

He’s no longer “as insignificant as a fly,” and took pride in managing to irritate Totsuki’s top chef. Back at the hotel, the rebels try to stay relaxed by hanging out and playing cards, resulting in some nice casual banter between characters who have been on edge for some time now.

Their pleasant buzz is somewhat harshed by Third Seat Akanegakubo Momo, who ends up intimidating everyone in a very unique way—by assigning cute nicknames to everyone, which Satoshi points out is her way of looking down on people. Kugimiya Rie balances the cuteness and underlying malice perfectly—as Kugimiya tends to do in such roles.

The third bout will feature Momo vs. Megumi in an Apple battle, Takumi vs. Etsuya in a beef battle, and Souma vs. a rested Soumei in a butter battle. The episode’s final act basically stretches out the introductions, with Urara providing more caustic trash talk when mentioning the “rebel scum.”

If the rebels are swept this time, Erina and Satoshi will be the last rebels standing, and even if they sweep Central, they’ll still have to deal with a rested Tsukasa and Rindou. It’s still a steep mountain to climb, with expulsion as the reward for failure. It’s not exaggeration to describe the coming matches as the most important of Souma, Megumi, and Takumi’s lives.

Shokugeki no Souma 4 – 02 – The Bushido of Filleting

Mimasaka Subaru is revealed as a major secret weapon of the rebels, as his unique tracing ability not only perfectly mimics his opponent Saitou Soumei, but his own ally, Kuga Terunori. As a result, Tsukasa Eishi is, in a way, up against two chefs at once, without the rebels breaking the rules of the Team Shokugeki.

Subaru’s preparation went further than that: he traced all of the Elite Ten (including their look and mannerisms). By perfectly copying all of Saitou’s moves in real time, Subaru is able to dish out the exact same plate of ten succulent-looking maguro sushi bites, plus an eleventh that Saitou didn’t make.

A skeptical Urara (still in full Central Punk-Fangirl Mode) has a taste, resulting what she claims to be her first foodgasm reaction shot in the whole series—that of a geisha being seduced by a purple snake with ruby eyes.

But when all’s said and done, Subaru wasn’t entirely perfect in his trace; he was tripped up by the size of the sushi, applying the same number of “invisible cuts” as he would a normal-sized piece of fish, resulting in premature melting in the mouth that doesn’t give the flavor time to reach its peak.

The Bookmen noticed that, and they also found Rindou’s spicy alligator dish surpassed Megishima’s African Ramen, so Central wins the second and third bouts, inviting shameless gloating by Urara. That means the rebels are in deep trouble if Kuga can’t defeat First Seat Tsukasa, the White Knight of the Table.

Then again, defeating Azami’s oppressive regime always meant beating their Number One. If that can’t be managed, the rebels never had a chance of winning in the first place.

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 – 16 – Embrace the Smelliness

So yeah, Akira is a member of the Central Elite Ten now (one seat above Erina, no less) after defeating his senpais to fill the vacancy. His ostensible reason for his decision to sense which way the wind is blowing is that he desires the very top spot at Totsuki, at any cost, and apparently that includes surrendering to the Azami administration.

In any case, Central has ceased “dirty tricks” and simply given Souma an opponent they’re confident can beat him in a fair fight, even if Souma is unlucky enough to be locked in his third straight battle requiring mastery of spices against, well, someone with more mastery of spices than he. It’s a BEAR BATTLE, boys and girls!

This episode doesn’t go into detail about what sacrifices if any Akira has or will have to make now that he’s a Central puppet; he seems to shoo away Azami’s handpicked testing team pretty quickly. Perhaps Azami is relaxing his rules on strict orthodoxy where Akira is concerned simply because even he cannot deny the kid’s preternatural talent, or perhaps likens his godly sense of smell with his daughter’s sense of taste.

Meanwhile, Souma is starting to sweat when he receives aid from an unusual place: Kuga-senpai, flanked by his loyal army of baldies. Kuga says he wants Hayama’s seat, but wants Souma to take it from him first in a Shokugeki, so he can then crush Souma and re-take the seat he lost. That makes him an ally, at least for now, and Souma can’t refuse allies right now.

Souma gets it into his head that the only way to get the full measure of understanding of bear meat is to head into its mountainous habitat and learn from a hunter who guides him and Kuga. They aren’t able to locate a bear, but Souma soaks up the knowledge like a sponge, and a chance tripping into a tree gets him thinking about using the medicinal schisandra berries to counter the intense gaminess of the meat.

He succeeds, but he’s only one rung higher on a ladder Akira finished climbing years ago, and Akira has no qualms about showing up in the test kitchen with his superior, Cajun-inspired spiced bear meat to intimidate his opponent. Kuga and his men can’t help but smell the gap in skill.

Souma is going to need his scrappiest effort yet to beat Akira, because he’s already failed twice, and the show has always been pretty adamant that he’s just plain better than Souma. It’s almost as if something will have to go wrong with Akira in addition to everything going right for him!