Methinks all Shinomiya’s dish needed was some coffee.
This episode goes some way towards redeeming some of what annoyed me about last week’s otherwise strong effort – namely Megumi’s bait-and-switch character development. I didn’t get too upset then because I knew this was coming, although while the way things played out kind of works as a whole, it was still very awkward as an intra-episode progression. But that was then and this is now, and with apologies to Ei-chan, at last we’re seeing a few baby steps for Megumi.
Souma-kun doesn’t need to worry about any baby steps of course – he’s a man of giant leaps. Narratively speaking, as Ken Hightower once famously said of George H.W. Bush, “He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.” This is one of the dicey elements of Shokugeki no Souma, as it really limits the protagonist’s ability to have a real character arc (at least a traditional one), but it does open up breathing space for a supporting player like Megumi.
In that vein, I very much liked the way the shokugeki played out. Shinomiya reacted exactly the way I would hope a man who has both talent and arrogance in abundance might – he refused to be baited into a contest with a punk kid in which he’d have nothing to prove. It was only the intervention of Doujima-san that forces the issue – he declares that once regular camp activities are over, there should be an unofficial “street fight” in the basement kitchen of the resort annex.
Somebody like Doujima is much-needed in this series – a sign that the administration of Tootsuki isn’t entirely made up of the heartless and the comic relievers. And he adds a much-needed stipulation to the contest – Megumi is to not only join the shokugeki, but be the lead chef. Souma can offer no recipe suggestions – he’s there strictly as a sous chef, helping Megumi with the prep and cooking but not acting as a creative influence. This is welcome for obvious reasons, but it must be said that above and beyond that it pretty much had to happen right now and not a minute later for Megumi’s arc to have any traction at all.
The shokugeki (we see about the first half of it) is one of the most entertaining so far, Shinomiya is the picture of serene cockiness and nonchalance, while Megumi leads with abject panic. Fortunately Doujima said nothing about Souma not being able to act as a security blanket, and he performs this function more than admirably. Meanwhile Inui-sensei acts as a one-woman peanut gallery, while the trio of alumnus Doujima has brought in to judge (including L from Death Note) watch with rapt attention.
One might have expected Shinomiya to deliver a vegetable-based example of haute cuisine (Doujima expected his unnamed “signature dish”) and Megumi to offer up simply country fare, but Shinomiya serves Chou Farci – a theoretically simple and hearty rustic cabbage roll. Naturally the “Légumes Magician” puts a spectacular spin on it and sends the judges into one of the most hilarious foodgasm sequences in the series – a full-on “Mahou Kabutsu” transformation for all five observers, with Souma’s trademark equal-opportunity service. The dish does indeed look good enough to eat – but it’s a reflection of Shinomiya’s confidence that Megumi is no threat to him whatsoever. The surprise is that she’s the one that’s ventured into the lofty heights of Escoffier et al, with a pretty beautiful-looking terrine – and it seems to be one that pushes some of Shinomiya’s buttons…