The elephant in the room as far as the plot of Shokugeki no Souma is concerned is Tootsuki Academy itself. Like so much with this series I’m never quite sure just how far into conscious parody this is intended – I mean, this school is just crazy. Expelling someone for their shampoo choice when they were never instructed on what not to use? Expelling two people over one line of exchanged conversation? Yeah, they broke the rules but come on – this place is ridiculous. I get that it’s supposed to be cutthroat, but Tootsuki left “cutthroat” broken and dead by the side of the road a long ways back.
The point man for the absurdity this week is Shinomiya Kojirou (Nakamura Yuuichi), the torturer de jour and one of the most decorated Tootsuki alumnus. His task for the students is to make his recette (being the pompous A-hole he is, he could never just say “recipe”) for terrine of nine vegetables. Shinomiya is pretty over-the-top, right in that nebulous “is it parody or not?” zone where Shokugeki no Souma lives most of the time. He’s the one who expels two students for violating his dictum that no one can help each other, and he even plants some subpar cauliflower to limit the number of students who are able to survive his assignment.
The plus side here is that Shinomiya’s “no partners” rule forces Megumi to function on her own, which is an immaculate display of narrative timing. As I mentioned last week, that episode was when Megumi’s constant deferral to Souma was starting to grate a little bit. Sooner or later she has to start functioning on her own if she’s going to survive as a character, either inside the narrative or out. Obviously she’s not going to drop her timidity overnight, but even if she’s not the loudest or the fastest she has to have enough confidence to be more than Souma’s sous chef to survive this hell.
Even if he didn’t have main character armor it would be obvious Souma isn’t going to fail – he’s alarmingly overpowered as a chef. Thus the episode wisely focuses on Megumi, who because of her slow start has ended up with one of the shabby chou-fleur. Her solution: blanche it in wine vinegar to revitalize its color and sweeten its taste. A pretty good idea, and it produces a delicious result – but Shinomiya flunks her anyway, based on the fact that she broke the rules by improvising off his recette.
Here’s where things go off the rails for me a bit, because in the end it’s Souma who stands up for Megumi, arguing her case, and Souma who ends up challenging Shinomiya-sensei to a shokugeki with Megumi’s reinstatement on the line. It was a nice GAR move for him – but he’s already established as a GAR bomb. If the point of the ep was to show Megumi standing on her own two oven mitts, doesn’t Souma being her knight in shining armor sort of invalidate her development? I already know the answer – the real point of the episode is to set up that shokugeki battle royale, and Souma being GAR is a higher priority than Megumi’s development. So the latter will have to simmer on the back burner for the time being.