Shokugeki no Souma really is pretty spectacular at what it does, make no mistake about it. Between the source material and this amped-up adaptation (though I still miss the eyecatches), this is a series that’s absolutely overflowing with style. The impression it leaves is that nothing is ever left to be done without seeing if there isn’t some way it could be done a little more explosively, more emphatically, or just plain better. That’s probably not a bad way to approach recipe development, as it happens.
As it happens, this battle between Takumi and Mimasaka wasn’t one of the more suspenseful in the series (though Souma has surprised me before), since it always seemed likely Mimasaka would win and face Souma in the semi-finals. But it was one of the more stark and dramatic in terms of good vs. evil, light and dark. Takumi is among the most idealistic in the cast, and Mimasaka among the most calculated (that’s his whole bailiwick, really). And as a result, it packed some serious drama despite the telegraphed knockout punch.
Just how do we measure Mimasaka anyway, both as a chef and as a person? There’s something admirable in what he does, no doubt – research of that magnitude requires legitimate persistence and intelligence. And in a school where ruthless competition is encouraged at every turn, isn’t it hypocritical to criticize Mimasaka for doing everything within the rules to win? Not to mention, even taking the approach he does, it requires exquisite skills as a chef to successfully pull of his gambit of one-upping the opposition – which Souma-kun himself acknowledges readily.
But all that taken as read, we’re human beings – and so are the students who make up Souma’s cast – and there’s something distasteful to the way Mimasaka operates. Even going beyond his creepy stalking and general disrespect for his opponents, there’s little inspiration to what he does. This is the gist of what Souma was getting at in their beef stew meeting at the close of the episode. For him, the essence of being a chef is trial and error, the journey towards developing a brilliant recipe rather than the destination – that, and the joy of sharing it with a paying customer. And those are things Mimasaka has no interest in. And that’s why Souma can never respect him as a rival (which in shounen manga means everything).
Poor Takumi – poor orthodox Takumi, with his white glove challenges – never really stood a chance. There’s a reason Mimasaka has taken 99 precious tools from honorable opponents like Takumi, and his mezzaluna makes 100. The semifreddo battle was interesting (and mouth-watering), with the almond flour and the egg separation and the olive oil lemon curd. Ultimately it was the preserved lemons that won the day for Mimasaka, but the highlight of the shokugeki was definitely the “Yana Yatsu” rap after the judge tasted Mimasaka’s semifreddo. That had me laughing seriously hard.
In the end we get a seriously GAR Yukihira moment, as he takes up Mimasaka’s challenge for a shokugeki, but only with the stakes raised – all 100 chef’s tools Mimasaka has won vs. Souma quitting as a chef. This is a bit of a repeated theme, but that’s OK – it’s a classic shounen showdown and should bring considerable drama with it. If I were Takumi (or any of the other 99, I suppose) I think I’d be kind of humiliated having Souma win back my pride like that – but I suppose that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get to it.