Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate ?
Soma's always been wily, but he also may be a bit more traditionally clever than people give him credit for. Yes, he's hot-headedly hell-bent on creating his own specialty that embodies his cooking style, but that's not the only thing behind his crafting of an appetizer that masquerades as a main dish. As he reveals in the final moments of the episode, what he's really doing is forcing Erina out of her comfort zone. After tasting Tsukasa's dish before finishing his own, Soma realized that even Erina's “very good” just isn't going to be enough – not only is she up against the First and Second Seats (when she was the Tenth), but she's also got to convince her unfairly biased father of her food's superiority. That means that she needs to go above and beyond, and she's just competitive enough where Soma's concerned that he's the one to push her into it.
It's an interesting statement on Erina herself as well as her cooking. She's always been conceited, but that hasn't translated into “competitive” in most cases. Her God Tongue has allowed her to wallow in her own perceived superiority whether or not that was true of her actual cooking. Soma's the one person who has consistently challenged her security; even Tsukasa and Rindo couldn't shake her to the point where she has to try to surpass herself. But Soma has been her nemesis from day one (literally), so if he's going to set up a challenge, her pride won't let her refuse it. So his caveman meat appetizer isn't just to show off his own skills (and probably to annoy Azami); it's to force Erina to surpass herself and create a main dish that forces his own offering into the category of appetizer – her plate must not only be somehow better at being an entrée than his, but also be enhanced by it. It's a tall order, but it's the only way they can win this thing and shut her father down for good.
That this isn't just a shokugeki for Erina is also an important factor here. She's fighting to beat Central, yes, but she's also standing up to her abusive father and all the people he's made drink his Kool-Aid. Like many manipulative abusers, he has convinced people that his One True Way is unbeatable and the only way forward; going against him is to court certain doom. It's how he wore Erina down as a child, how he manipulated Tsukasa, and how he bullied his way into power. If Erina can't prove herself and break whatever remaining hold he has on her (and she is technically still a kid while he's her dad, and that's a tough bond to break), she'll never truly be free. That's why Soma, whose admittedly weird relationship with his father is still based on love and respect, needs to force her to step it up – yes, it's about the food and the future of cooking, but it's also about his friend getting to live her own life and become the person and chef she wants to be. She can't do that if Azami retains any sort of hold on her.
Meanwhile the persistent issues that have been a problem this season continue. There's almost no actual cooking shown as we fly through both Rindo's and Tsukasa's dishes at breakneck speed, and the foodgasms are back to being more exploitative of the female characters than they have been since season one. The leering ant men aren't as bad as some of the earliest examples, but they're still a far cry from what we were getting prior to Azami's return. While I'm willing to entertain the notion that this is indicative of his poisonous influence on everything, I'm also pretty sure that I'd be wrong and that someone on staff is just really excited not to have to draw beefcake anymore. They're not to blame for the whole ludicrous “Gifting” thing, though, which felt kind of lame even in the original manga.
Given that we have two episodes left and haven't seen Erina cook yet, it may be that at least one of these issues will be cleared up in the finale. Even if they aren't, though, seeing Erina do her best to become her own person may make everything worth it in the end.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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