You’ve got to hand it to Shokugeki no Soma, it really did capture the essence of what’s so great about Japanese comfort food this week. And not just the comfort food, but the ambiance, the atmosphere and the unique quality that a shopping district in the Eastern part of the world has… It all comes through so darn well that it made me quite nostalgic.
Full disclosure, I’m not from Japan, and I’ve never been there. The closest I’ve gotten to place is by going to the Japanese Mall in Chicago, or the Little Tokyo district in Los Angeles. I have lived in an Asian country though, and in the good old days of my early youth, I too used to frequent a shopping district like the one we saw come to life in this week’s episode.
There’s something just so magical, so lively and festive about a Shopping district, where you can walk around, buy things and eat deep fried, quick comfort food as you go. If you’ve ever been in that sort of environment, you’ll know what I mean; there’s just nothing quite like it. It becomes an addicting pass time even, and its all brought together by how the various shops in the district play off of one another. Its the spirit of the shopping district, its festive almost fair like appeal, that Soma uses as his big strategy to counter the Mozuya take-out store.
Since last week’s episode, I’d heard trappings of the fact that this Karaage chicken arc was one of the more loved story arcs in the manga, and I can see why. I think there’s just a very uniquely Japanese quality to this whole story, the theme, the food that you just can’t get anywhere else. This show kind of started out emulating Yakitate Japan’s more “international” approach to cooking (and there is still some of that there), but its in stuff like this episode Shokugeki no Soma carves out its own identity and stands a cut above the rest.
The solution that Soma comes up with is pretty elegant, and very Japanese centric in its thinking. Soma can’t compete with Mozuya on production, scale or packaging, nor even convenience, so the idea is to change the battle field significantly. Its a fact that Mozuya will always have that “take home” crowd in its pocket, but there’s an entirely different market that’s just waiting to get tapped into. The young student market, that’s looking to eat food recreationally and have a good time on their way back from school.
The Sumire Mark Karaage Roll was a joy to behold. Its distinctly made, well packaged, and even has its own branding mark. It also uses the entirety of the Sumire Avenue Shopping District to create the thing, so everyone in the district benefits and contributes to the big attraction.
In a lot of ways, the big idea combines what Soma used at the end of the Summer Training Camp and the new cooking chops he’s developed together, to create something that exceeds anything he’s done before. Its how Soma is able to take on a chain store and revive his Shopping District.
It also highlights a pretty important point about the Food service industry, in that its just not enough to have a good product. You have to be able to market it, package it and present it to your customers in such a way that it works. The business side, more so than most industries, is irrevocably linked to the actual artistry and craft. The fact that one of Shokugeki no Soma’s best arcs has featured this concept, is what makes this show such a joy to behold.
But! The cooking aspect of the show is only half the fun. The other major component is how likeable and intriguing the characters are. While the cooking element of the show definitely stole the show this week, there were some nice character moments mixed in too.
Last week I talked about how I felt bad for Mayu, in that she didn’t seem like she had much of a chance with Soma. That didn’t quite change this week, in fact, it got worse. As Mayu lamented the fact that her time with Soma was coming to an end, Soma gave her a glimmer of painful hope.
I’ve been in Mayu’s shoes, where I’ve liked someone and had them “notice” me when I thought they barely cared. In Mayu’s case, it was being asked by Soma to work part-time and continue the Karaage Roll business with Tomoitaya. In asking her, however, Soma also mentioned that he appreciated that she was a responsible and hard working person, pointing out examples from their time in Junior High. And Mayu? How can she not have been overjoyed? The person who she likes, who feels so far away actually noticed her and acknowledged some great about her.
Thing is though, that doesn’t necessarily suggest interest on Soma’s part, it just shows that he’s a nice, observant person and not a self-centered jerk. Unfortunately, when you’ve got a crush on someone, something like this can send you to extreme happiness. I’m not sure what the future holds for Mayu, we might see her again if we get another “change of pace” arc like this one, but I’m pretty sure that the poor girl doesn’t have a shot.
Now Nikumi on the other hand? Her prospects do look better, if only slightly. As a girl in love, she’s definitely giving off the cute vibes (ala Ore Monogatari or Akagami no Shirayuki-hime). What’s really nice is that her Tsundere routine seems to be tilting more towards the dere end of the spectrum and less towards the Tsun. The issue though, is that someone like Soma is the traditional clueless shounen lead, and there’s almost zero chance for him to pick up on Nikumi’s cute but weak signals.
That said, I can’t deny the chemistry that was on display this week. The two work great together, and they’re joined by a passion for cooking, and their relevant jobs (Meat Distribution and Diner) compliment one another. Them getting together does make “sense”, but it’s all a matter of there actually being something there. The fact that the series opened up with Soma’s dad wanting his son to find a woman that he could dedicate himself to hints at the fact that romance is actually going to play an important role in this story.
So yes, I’ll revise my earlier statement and say that Nikumi’s chances aren’t zero, but I still think the series seems to be building to a Megumi vs Erina shipping war. Can the shipping war evolve into a three way battle royale that includes Nikumi in there? I think there’s a chance. But if you’re finding yourself to be at least leaning towards the Nikumi camp a bit, then I feel like traditional anime wisdom suggest that we’re in for a hurt XD
And while we’re on the subject of Nikumi, I have to say that the Mitto-Mastah (Meat Master) pun this week was hilarious. Shokugeki no Soma can really do some very punny humor . -winks & is shot-
Ahem… So what that we end what started out as one of the “change of pace” story arcs but became one of the best story arcs to come out of Shokugeki no Soma yet. Now we’re onto the Autumn Elections are upon us, and we’ve already got some sparks flying.
The episode actually ends on Soma confrontation with the enemy he’s been secretly battling this entire time – Eizan Etsuya. Eizan’s the tenth seat, so he’s one seat above Erina and is called the “Alquimista” (Alchemist). He’s not all too happy about Soma ruining one his consulting gigs and is out for blood. It seems like Soma is very much going to go into the elections with the Ninth seat totally gunning for him.
And in classic Soma fashion, the guy doesn’t seem to be fazed by it at all. If anything, Soma welcomes the challenge and I welcome whatever resulting entertainment we get from it.
What is kind of worrying is that we’re 18 episodes into the series now. The series is set to run for 24 episodes, so that leaves us with only 6 episodes to cover the Elections. Its a no brainer that the story is going to be left incomplete, but the question now is how much we’ll see before the show’s time is up, and whether we’ll get an announcement of a second season. There’s also the fact that J.C Staff is producing this show, and they have a history of doing one off adaptions.
But I guess that’s a bridge we should cross when we come to it. For now, Shokugeki no Soma is as good as its ever been, and we’ve got 6 more weeks to soak it in.
Seems like next week is an Alice centric episode, as we dive into the Autumn elections. See you all next week!
Posted by setsuken
Posted on August 8, 2015 at 2:34 am
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