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 – 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 – 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.

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 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.