Talk about an unsatisfying after-taste. This week’s episode of Shokugeki no Soma went by fast, and left me wanting and hungry. Generally… by the end of an episode of Shokugeki no Soma, I’m content, satisfied and excited for the upcoming week’s offering. While this week’s episode had its good moments, it felt like a bit of a step down from the usual top tier entertainment we’ve been getting from the series as of late.
They often say that if it feels like the episode ended before it started, then its generally been a good time. Its this particular line of thought that suggests that your extreme enjoyment and involvement in an episode, to the point of not noticing the time passing by, is a good indicator of how good the episode is.
I actually don’t subscribe to that particular philosophy myself. Sure, that kind of show can be good, and they often are, but I think it takes a certain level of masterful storytelling and pacing, to leave a viewer both hungry for more but also satisfied at the end of the 24 episode run-time. Those types of episodes, where there’s enough content to satiate the week’s hunger yet still provide some intrigue for the next, are what I enjoy the most.
Its no surprise therefore, that while I liked this episode, it didn’t 100% do it for my like this show normally does. There were some stand out bits for sure, but I think largely the reason that I found this to be uninspiring was because this episode consisted of two disparate elements.
One of those elements was setup for the good stuff that’s inevitably coming down the line. It was that stuff that I found to be the true highlight of the episode. At the start of the episode, Soma woke up from the fragrance of his unique dish, a dish that seemed to surprise both Akira and myself with its contents. As Akira eluded to, there’s probably a lot more to Soma’s work than meets the eye but as an episode opener, that scene arguably did its job; it garnered my undivided attention.
Yet, obviously that’s about all we got on that front, a small tease… That in itself is a bit disappointing, if only because the show and this current story arc have setup the battle between Soma and Akira so well. Its hard not to want it right now, rather than wait till what I wager will be the last episode of this season.
Be that as it may, there are other characters to get through for now, and not all of them undeserving of attention. If there’s one other character combination that can truly hold a candle to the Soma vs Akira bout, its Megumi and her potential competition with Hojo.
If Soma’s scene was a strong opener, than Megumi’s segment was the show stealer. I think I’ve long since mentioned that out of all of Soma’s prospective girls, Megumi is my favorite, and I stand by that statement. But I think simply reducing Megumi to “Soma’s best girl” is doing her a disservice (and a bit sexist, which is definitely NOT my intent! XD).
The thing that makes Megumi such a nice pairing with Soma is that she’s such an interesting character in her own right, a protagonist in a story that almost runs parallel to Soma’s. Her meeting with Soma early in the series has more or less gotten her out of her downward spiral and toward an upward hike to greatness.
Megumi’s constant battle to prove herself, to gain back her confidence, to stand out at Totsuki while being true to herself and not really being excessively competitive… Its all just such a joy to behold. Its very much the light in the horrible dark environment that I see Totsuki as. Her relationship and friendship with Soma is one of mutual respect, support and comradry, something that’s a great contrast to nearly every other interpersonal relationship on the show, which seems to favor rivalry and competitiveness.
Beyond her obviously strong connection to Soma, however, is Megumi’s background. Megumi’s a girl that came out from the country to improve herself and shine in the “bustling city”. That fish out of water story is a shounen classic, and we’ve often see some of the best shounen anime leverage it as an origin for its protagonists. Megumi has that trope, but who she is, her character and personality, make it so darn unique and fresh.
The whole flashback to her childhood and learning how to properly skin and butcher the Monkfish was an endearing story. It highlighted the best bits of what makes Megumi special, her unique background and her dedication and love for her family and friends.
The whole story of a young granddaughter wanting to protect her grandfather’s dream and passion? Learning and going through rigirous training and making it a reality? And then using that experience to her advantage here? All of it was just splendidly well done, and by the end of it, I was roaring for Megumi in the way I usually reserve for the show’s protagonist, Yukihira Soma.
So having lavished all that praise on the show, why was I so unsatisfied then? That has to do with the other element this episode housed, which was a focus on some rather uninteresting characters and their conflicts. And that element is largely the reason for my overall enjoyment of this episode plummeting. Not only was there too much of a focus on character that I largely didn’t care for, but I really did feel like all the jokes and the battle itself was rather weak, if taken by itself.
Unfortunately for us, the battle between the Boiling Witch and Erina’s Assistant ended up taking up the bulk of the episode’s run time, with the previously stellar scenes that featured Megumi and Soma wrapping up within the first 8 minutes of the episode.
There were a myriad of issues with the whole unofficial cooking competition between Arata Hisako and Sadatsuka Nao, and I’ll be the first to admit that some of them, were just my own personal gripes.
For one thing, the whole theme of this conflict was around Erina, and who gets to stay “beside” her. That’s all well and good, but I personally have zero attachment to Erina at this point. She’s constantly done nothing with her ample screentime to make me like her or root for her. She’s an unfair jerk to Soma at every possibly opportunity, and exudes a sense of elitism and arrogance that just rubs me the wrong way.
Its because of how the show’s chosen to build up Erina so far, that everything that’s related to her tends to make me feel severely uninterested. But leaving the reason itself behind, Hisako and Nao as characters just aren’t that interesting, at least to me.
Nao is the clear “black magic” cooking girl. Now while I’m sure that’s not a trope, her entire character reads more as an arch-type than something truly original. She’s obsessed with Erina, stalks her, and she’s got that look of that girl from the Ring, and acts like some witch. Its all just pretty bland.
Hisako, meanwhile, fares slightly better, but is about as uninteresting nonetheless. Hisako uses medicinal cooking as her “power” or “technique”, taking inspiration from Eastern herbal medicine. Its not a bad idea, as Hisako kind of serves as the anti-thesis to Nao’s pungent, shocking dishes with their horrible smells and ugly appearance. Hisako is all about assisting others, and it makes sense that her cooking exists because she wants to support Erina in all her “tasting” endeavors.
The dishes that both of them prepare also feel like they veer a bit too far from what you’d call “curry”. Nao’s really veers a bit too far from the “curry” topic IMO. I for one, in general, am not a fan of curry being part of a noodle based dish, as that’s either ramen, some kind of stew or some kind of pasta at that point. And given what we get, it really does seem like some kind of noodle dish rather than curry.
I will give credit to the idea that the show’s going for, as it suggests that there are some dishes that may spell repulsive but still taste fairly good. There is the stigma of odor attached to curry, so its nice that Shokugeki no Soma acknowledges that aspect of the cuisine.
Hisako’s dish though… It feels like we’re somewhere else entirely now. While some of the spices common to some types of Curry are used, the dish Hisako comes up feels more like Curry flavored Noodle soup than it does an actual curry dish. She can call it “Four Substance Decoction Mutton Curry” but at this point it just seems like Ramen with Curry flavoring in it.
So yes, as someone who’s a fun of Curry, the dishes and cooking fell a bit short this week. I suppose the show is going to use the idea of Curry a bit more loosely than I probably think it should, but I just can’t get behind that, yet. The show just didn’t manage to sell it this week, like it generally does.
Part of that also has to do with the reactions from the judges themselves. The reactions in Shokugeki no Soma are something I largely seem to ignore, rarely talking about them. They’re generally fine, most of the time they work, and sometimes they’re hilarious, while at other times they’re just crass and look like they’re trying too hard. This week definitely fell into the trying too hard category, especially when it came to Orie.
I could tell from the moment we saw her and her sister, that they were going to be the girls that we’d get the compromising reactions from, but it really felt like they were just there for the sake of being there. Orie’s moaning just felt embarrassing, unlike say the equally crass but funny stuff we got at the start of the series. The other judges were more or less underwhelming as well, except for maybe that Foodie Critic that went all macho after eating Hisako’s dish.
At the end of it all, Hisako managed to secure 92 out of 100 points, while Nao got bumped down to second place with her 84. A few other NPCs… I mean students, got knocked out of the running. Oh and Hisako’s magical medicine curry flavor noodles transformed Nao from her Black Mage version to her White Mage version. I enjoyed that last thing a little bit, and extra props for the show using it in its Ending theme too.
All in all though, it was an off week for Shokugeki no Soma, with the momentum barely saved at the last moment by a tantalizing tease for next week. Seems like the next big bout is going to be between the two Aldini brothers, and THAT is something that actually sounds really interesting. Of course, we’ll have to wait until next week to see it.
Only three more episodes to go too…
Seems like the Aldini brothers will face off next week, and we might get a bit of Alice in there too perhaps?
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