Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate ?
This episode has one of my favorite moments from the original Food Wars manga – when Soma tells Azami to stop deciding someone else's happiness all by himself. Azami has been vocal about how he felt that the gourmet world, and Totsuki's competitiveness, let down his idol Joichiro, the man who would grow up to be Soma's father. By stating that Joichiro's life was ruined by the cooking standards of the world, Azami is basically negating Soma's entire existence, invalidating not only the fact that Joichiro could find happiness outside the world of gourmet, but also telling Soma that his family life would never be anything but second-best. While it would have been better for Joichiro to stand up to the man himself, having Soma tell him that Soma's own experience of his family, of life with his father who kept his wife's restaurant going after her death and who may have had some weird ideas about training his son but still clearly loves him, is not open for Azami's judgement, feels like a defining moment. Even if it isn't given the impact that it deserves (either here or in the source manga; apparently the author doesn't share my feeling about this being as important as it is), it still stands out as one of the few things Azami can't refute, because it not only reveals him as the petty little man he is, casting aspersions about things he knows nothing about, but it also points out his own failings to live a happy life and to recognize that there's a world outside of even his view of cooking. I'd like to think that it's that, as much as Erina's refusal to go back into her cage, that brings him down.
Prior to this moment, of course, he's up to his old tricks. That he's not even feigning the impartiality required of a judge is reprehensible, but also a statement of his own insecurities. Somewhere in himself, he knows that Erina and Soma's unorthodox two-course meal is going to prove him wrong, so he hides behind his wall of bluster and pronounces it bad just from looking at it. Now I'm willing to admit that Erina's chicken didn't look quite cooked through to me (and when Rindo and Tsukasa pronounce it “rare” in the middle, I felt a little queasy; chicken doesn't seem like a meat to be served that way), but as a judge, Azami was still absolutely in the wrong to refuse to try it. It's the mark of his ultimate cowardice that he couldn't do it without having his hand forced, because he knew that despite his best efforts, the moment of his downfall had come.
That moment would have been stronger without that silly “Gifting Pulse” that stripped the entire audience, although it is at least a little entertaining to see the different reactions of each person as their clothes shred off. (How much money do they spend on clothes in the story's world? Is the cost of a new outfit part of people's going-out budget?) It was inadvertently made more ridiculous by the fact that Hisako was allowed to remain fully clothed until she finished her touching speech about being Erina's friend; that would seem to imply that Food Wars is fully aware of the absurdity of the device and how it can do a disservice to the storytelling.
Also interesting in a slightly better way is the foodgasm brought on by the female judges eating Erina's food; basically it's just a recolor of some of Soma's, only featuring fallen angel Erina. What makes this worth noting is that Azami's anger at his daughter sounds awfully like a father outraged at his daughter's loss of “purity,” either in the social or sexual sense, rather than simply like he's talking about her cooking. It casts Erina in a more classically rebellious-daughter role, but it also continues the trajectory of food as something sexual within the context of the entire franchise – by being influenced by bad boy Soma, Erina's no longer Daddy's Little Girl, and Azami can't cope with that.
This episode wraps up the original storyline from the manga, and the title of the next episode indicates that we're going to end the season by starting the new arc. That's not great, but hopefully it will give us more of a sense of closure than we had at the finish of the season that preceded this one.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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