Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate ?
Okay, Food Wars, we need to talk. It's bad enough that you're flying through this season like there's a herd of murderers behind you and that you've stooped to using Loony Toons tactics to keep Isami from reaching Takumi for their match. But deciding to stoop to “funny” depictions of transwomen and homosexuality is where I draw the hard line. I realize that this won't be an issue for everyone, but as far as I'm concerned, it falls under the heading of “mean humor,” the same place where I stick “accidental” boob gropes or “humorous” girl-on-girl nonconsensual touching. It's a style of humor that requires that the audience find someone's discomfort funny, and it just doesn't work for me. That Takumi's rival in this cook-off is named Don Kama (which seems to be an intentional similarity to “okama”) and that his helpers are a group of either transwomen or cross-dressers who deliberately look like men dressing up as women is just distasteful, and it brings down the entire episode – especially when the studio audience is so clearly uncomfortable with them.
But even if that's not a problem for you, the episode still isn't great. As with its predecessors, the action is very rushed, with barely any cooking being performed on camera unless it's of the vaguely ludicrous variety, such as the use of specially crafted shakers by Don Kama's team or Takumi just whirling that mezzaluna knife around like there's no danger of cutting his own fingers off. (Adding insult to injury are flashbacks to the rest of the school year when apparently Soma and Takumi worked out their rivalry, something that would have been good to explore more fully since it's so important here.) Then there's the fact that no one says anything to Don Kama about his intensely unprofessional behavior, loudly taunting Takumi and harassing him verbally when they're the reason Isami hasn't made it to the venue. This is a major international competition, the highest of the high, as we've been told repeatedly. It's administered by the Bookmaster of the WGO, for goodness' sake – surely there are some rules of conduct that include “don't behave like a fifth grader on the world stage.” It's just the latest in a series of undeserved validations that the Noir chefs receive and another nail in the coffin of what's supposed to be the ultimate in cooking competitions.
It is not, however, all that surprising, given that the Bookmaster clearly has it out for Erina, and may not actually have any intention of letting anyone from Totsuki win. The corruption seems to start and end with her, and even if she okayed the substitution of Soma for Isami, there's a sense that she's doing so because it amuses her rather than out of any real sense of fairness. She's clearly got at least one or two ulterior motivations going on, and a dislike of Erina may only be the start of it.
On the plus side, the other judges seem to be stepping it up a bit in terms of making things run smoothly and more fairly. That they clearly have zero doubt that Don Kama did something to stop Isami from showing up is evident in their response to his attempts to prevent Soma from filling in; even if Anne hadn't brought the Bookmaster in, there's a very good chance that Histoire would have said something, because it looks like these three have just about had it with Don Kama – and maybe Noir as a whole. That makes me wonder how much their hands are tied by the Bookmaster's biases and what would happen if they should decide to go against her. I'm hoping we'll find out, because what once seemed capricious is now seeming downright cruel. I don't want anyone to save Erina but herself, but something's got to give if this arc is going to redeem itself in even the smallest measure.
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