Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate ?
To say that this is the best episode of Food Wars in a long while isn't actually praising it that much because the bar is set so very low. But despite that, what makes this more engaging is that it gets right to the heart of the matter: all of Asahi's issues stem from the fact that he's a sad, angry little boy on the inside who never got over the fact that Joichiro went home to Japan to raise Soma after Tamako's death.
The kicker, of course, is that Joichiro actually offered to adopt Asahi and take him along with, and if he'd insisted or if Asahi had gotten out of his snit, things would have turned out much differently. Yes, the boys might still have been rivals, but it would have been in a wholly different sense. It's Asahi's own fault that things turned out as they did, not Joichiro's and certainly not Soma's. (That is, if we're okay blaming a ten-year-old for a decision he made in the heat of the moment. Honestly, I'm not convinced that Joichiro shouldn't have done something more for Asahi's emotional well-being. He was the adult in the situation, after all.) So now Asahi's embroiled countless people in what is essentially an attempt to make his would-be dad feel guilty or badly (which assumes that Joichiro never did, which I'm not sure I buy) about kind of abandoning him. Childhood hurts can affect your entire life, but this may be taking things a bit far.
In any event, the other thing that this episode does a good job with is letting us know that in his head, Asahi is the protagonist of the story. While that's true of everyone to a certain extent, Asahi has built his internal narrative of events in such a way that he's the downtrodden underdog working to rise to the top on his skill alone, at which point he will save the culinary world, heal the princess' mother, and marry the princess, who will of course be grateful to him and bless him with her God Tongue. Asahi needn't be made into such a mustache-twirling villain for this to work – in fact, it might make the audience more sympathetic to his struggle if he had been a more decent person, because things really did go badly for him in a lot of ways that no kid should have to deal with. But by this point in the series he's at serious risk of lifting off from how fast those metaphorical mustaches are whirling, and his total disregard for the feelings of anyone but himself has negated any chance of us believing that he wants to win for any purpose beyond self-aggrandizement. It's irritating not because he's annoying, but because it could have been done so much better.
Still, that can't quite overshadow the things that this episode does right. The return to actually showing Asahi cooking (and hopefully Soma next week) is a major plus, but more important is the fuller picture we get of both Erina's and Soma's childhoods before the departures of their mothers. Both were left reeling by Mana's and Tamako's empty places, but for Erina the knowledge that her mother wasn't dead but just wasn't coming back may have taken a harsher toll than Soma, who at least had a non-abusive father to help him through his grief. Erina, on the other hand, went through childhood being abused by her dad and knowing that she had the same skill that drove her mother away. Her harshness in seasons one through three, therefore, may be less a result of her being an awful person and more her attempts to protect herself – just like Asahi's still driven by his younger self, Erina's snobbery was a protective barrier built around a sad little girl.
That's part of what makes Asahi's treatment of her so maddening. Erina's come so far as a person, freeing herself of much of the damage her parents did to her. To see him just waltz in and announce that he's the best person for her, and that he knows what's best for her, is like watching someone take a sledgehammer to a sculpture. At this point, I don't care whether Erina or Soma wins the entire thing.
I just want to see Asahi lose.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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