After exceeding expectations repeatedly for a few weeks in a row, Shokugeki no Soma delivers the expected goods this week. And while there’s no big surprises, there’s something to be said about the satisfaction of getting exactly what you want.
In overarching stories, its equally important to get breathers every now and then. So we’re at the point now where we just came off an intense story arc, and need a bit of a rest. Now, I say all of that, but its generally a pattern that long running shounen series like One Piece or Fairy Tail follow. While Shokugeki no Soma is definitely cut from the same cloth (and is serialized in the same kind of magazine, Shounen Jump) there’s the dreaded problem of this only being a 2 cour series.
There’s a tendency to worry about time, but I’m personally glad that the series is willing to take its time and give us the peaks and the valleys. Much like the cooking in the series, there are days when you just can’t stomach something heavy and intense. And speaking of light and relaxing, that’s a pretty good segue into the actual meat of the episode, the 490th cooking battle between Soma and his dad Joichiro.
It’d be wrong to say that the outcome of the match was anything but expected but, as is often the case with this series, the journey is just as interesting as the answer. While there was no question that Soma was going to lose to his father, the point of the match was something else entirely. It was another step towards developing Soma himself, and providing us a unique insight into both him and his father.
The fact that Joichiro had been raising his son into a strong, competitive and adaptive cook and even more so, a willing and dedicated young man, is something to be commended. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must’ve been to raise someone like Soma, keeping the delicate balance between confident and cocky. After 490 losses now, its pretty admirable that Soma hasn’t lost confidence or the drive to get better. As a father, I think Joichiro accomplished something that I’m sure many fathers dream of.
And the whole battle just served to highlight how great of a father/son pair these two are. Its refreshing to see such a nice and comfortable relationship in anime. Unlike other Shounen fathers, Joichiro put in the time and the care into Soma’s upbringing. He’s been raising Soma since he was a kid, probably on his own, all the while nurturing his talent and drive to be a cook that will eventually surpass him. He’s both a parent and one of the perfect teachers.
What I really like about Joichiro and Soma, is their matra of failing to learn. The thing that makes them really strong is the lack of fear of failure. We learn this week that Joichiro routinely took risks and experimented with odd combinations in an effort to learn, and I think that whole “fail and learn” way of doing things is embodied in Soma. For how overpowered Soma has seemed so far, its all built upon failure his entire life.
Soma is overpowered because he’s lost almost 500 times to an overwhelming opponent, and yet he’s kept on going. Its really key for the series to remind us that, despite how cool and awesome Soma is, he’s still got someone higher up the food chain, and that he does have his losses. Its important to remember that Soma is actually playing in a different league than a lot of his contemporaries. Of course, as Soma himself has learned recently, while his ultimate goal might not have anything to do with Totsuki, there’s stuff to learn there for sure.
The actual cooking itself? It was great as always. I honestly liked both dishes and their ingenuity. There’s something to be said for manga and anime, where there’s substance behind the actual flash and “gar! battles”.
Soma’s big win was the usage of apple juice to enhance the flavor of his risotto. Speaking of which, its also worth noting that Risotto is traditionally an Italian rice dish that’s savory, not sweet. Its such a japanese way to add sweetness and tartness to it, and create the whole yin yang combination of an apple based base with a meat contrast to with the bacon. Its definitely a different and very asian take on this particular dish, and that’s one of the things that I love about Shokugeki no Soma.
And while I’ll be in honest in saying that an apple based sweet Risotto did make me cringe a bit, the show definitely sold it to me by the end of the tasting, so much so that I’d imagine breaking my own reservations and try it if it was prevented to me.
Joichiro’s dish, in contrast, seemed a lot more standard to me, despite the buildup to it being different. The fact of the matter is, however, that the fact that Joichiro was able to create a satisfying ramen dish without using meat was a pretty big deal. Japanese ramen and noodles are unique in how they rely on broths and the almost unedited flavor of the primary meat to bring about a rich, pure flavor. Its something unique to Japanese cooking in general, where the ingredients kind of provide the bulk of the power of the dish, as opposed to sauces, axillary ingredients or spices.
SO! To have Joichiro be able to match the satisfaction and richness of a meat based dish like ramen, without the meat, is a pretty impressive feat. It may not seem like as big of a deal, but as anyone who’s had ramen can probably tell you, vegetable ramen tastes quite different from a meat based ramen. And I’m sure Vegeterians would love to eat something like Joichiro’s ramen. I mean, the monk from the first episode made another cameo this week, as the guy who this dish was created for.
And so, after raising Soma’s spirits with this little battle, Joichiro left. And much like Fumio, I totally agree that Joichiro’s motivations were purely for his son’s well being. Despite his claims of “tough love” parenting, I’d say that Joichiro’s unique brand of parenting really works well for Soma in particular. Much like a particular spice or ingredient, its the right thing to introduce at the right time.
Before he leaves, however, Joichiro suggests that Soma give their old diner a visit and “air it out”. That’s probably setup for whatever we’ll see next week, but there’s also hints of Soma’s old classmate from the premiere coming back too. I’m liking where this is going, but I’m sure we’ll get to it next week.
The last bit of business then, is Erina. Erina, Erina. Seems like we seem to get a look at her every episode, regardless of whether its needed or not. I’m personally of the mind that the whole attention to her feels very artificial and forced. Its fine to not see her a week or two, because honestly there’s nothing to be really gained from showing her off every week. We do get to see Joichiro pass by her, and her notice him but… Again, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before. If anything, we do get insight into the fact that Erina seems to sleep with that book and photo she got from Joichiro. I’m sure this will pay off at some point, but I’m curious to see where it goes.
I wonder if Joichiro’s little errand at Totsuki has something to do with Erina? Probably not. In any case, we got a nice breather episode that was still pretty entertaining and thrilling in its own way. Its nice to know that Shokugeki can balance intense exciting moments with more reflective ones, and be entertaining regardless of what its doing.
At this point, the series doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get to the Fall Elections, which is nice and at the same time kind of worrying. We’re getting at least one other breather episode (if not more) before we get into that story arc, and I’m wondering if we’ll have enough episodes to get through that arc. No series in J.C Staff’s history has ever been extended, so we’ll probably have to wait for a second season once the series concludes.
But I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s something to be said about enjoying stuff in the present. Apple!
Next week we get to see Yukihira’s Diner again, and apparently Nikumi makes a return too. Seems like another good breather episode.
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