I’ve liked Shokugeki no Souma pretty much since the very beginning, but there were a couple of moments in this episode that really made me stop and think “Respect.” The first was at the beginning, when Megumi lost her match to Kruokiba. It’s nice to be surprised, and Ryou winning that match was definitely a surprise. The second was at the end of the episode more or less, so I’ll get to it in a minute – but there’s an interesting tie-in between the two, given Ryou’s relationship with Nakiri Alice.
He hasn’t taken the stage yet, but a good chunk of the episode was given over to the formal introduction of Mimasaka Subaru (Yasumoto Hiroki) a character seen at the edges of our vision a few times already and the mysterious eighth contestant in the election finals. Mimasaka is a man of contrasts – a burly biker-type who looks the part of a punk, but locks his bike up carefully and ties it down with rope neatly as you please and serves his guests proper Japanese tea and sweets. He welcomes Souma and Megumi (running late) to watch the third quarter-final in his dressing room, and they’re joined by his eventual opponent Takumi. Mimasaka shows off his obsessively meticulous side quite readily – to say he does his homework would be an understatement – but there’s a less pleasant side to him that he doesn’t reveal until later.
That third quarter-final pits spice boy Hayama Akira against Erina’s lackey Hisako in a burger battle. It’s a match that seems a bit one-sided on paper and based on the prelims, but Erina isn’t one to make it routine. I must say I was rather shocked that she whipped out a live Japanese soft-shelled turtle, suppon (when I saw her pot shaking I thought it might be a lobster, and was freaking out at that) and promptly chopped off its head. This series has guts, I’ll give it that – and they’re flying all over the place. I don’t know if that was something I needed or wanted to see, to be honest, but credit for ballsiness. As for Akira, he decided to do a riff on the doner kebab – a ludicrously popular item of street food in Japan, and very much in his comfort zone as a chef.
Here’s that other part of the episode where Shokugeki no Souma got my respect. Something has always nagged at me about Hisako and characters like her, and after solidly defeating her Akira came right out and said it. Characters who define themselves solely through impressing someone else – especially in as shallow a relationship as Hisako has with Erina – don’t impress me. Good for Hayama-kun both for winning the match and calling out Hisako for setting her sights too low, and good for Shokugeki for showing that it gets that.
There is a larger theme at work here, though, and I’m not exactly certain how it resolves itself as a whole. I mean, Ryou basically defines himself through Alice in the same way that Hisako does through Erina – and he won his match. And Takumi’s motivation is driven by his shounen rival man crush on Souma to what seems to me an unhealthy degree. I get that Takumi appreciates having a rival his own age who treats him with respect – that’s totally healthy. But why does everything with Takumi always seem to come down to Souma? Like Hisako, I think he needs something stronger and self-driven or he’ll never truly be a threat to those at the top.
As for Subaru (remember him?) he shows himself to be a masterful manipulator, someone who actually utilizes the information he obsessively collects to get inside the head of his rivals. That whole business with figuratively spitting on Takumi’s skills (and even more his brother’s) and literally on his rocking knife is pretty demeaning to all involved. I was thinking for a while there that Mimasaka might be a big-time player, but I think his actions in this episode reveal him to be small potatoes and not worthy of consideration as a rival to Souma or those on his level. He might still be a threat to take out Takumi though after rattling him the way he did, in the process (presumably) goading him into challenging him to a shokugeki (I didn’t realize that was an option). Obviously that’s a dynamic Mimasaka feels favors him, and he’s not one to misread a detail like that.
One last thought – where are my hilarious eyecatches, J.C. Staff? I miss them!