Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate ?
While there are elements of the very end of this episode that don't work, except as an advertisement for the manga, I don't think that we need to worry too much about them, given that a fifth season has been announced. (Or, conversely, worry a lot, because in my opinion it's a much weaker arc that's upcoming.) It's very possible to take the experience Megumi mentions, where she and Soma take on a guest at a hot springs inn, as a preview of what's to come rather than a rushed look at how Megumi has improved from her new ability to travel the world, so while it isn't great here, there is a decent chance we'll get to see the whole thing play out later. That would make sense, actually, because it's pretty important to the new plotline.
Those issues aside, this is still a vaguely lackluster ending to a story arc that feels like it went on just a little too long. Since the actual victory was declared last week, in episode eleven, what we're left with here is the clean up and fallout. Of the latter, there's impressively little. That's because Soma, the new First Seat, isn't a vindictive guy; the closest he came to it was when he told off Azami about deciding if people were happy or not without consulting them. There's no way Soma's going to punish someone for disagreeing with him, or even for making a challenge more difficult via underhanded means, because if there's one thing that he's always believed, it's that adversity makes you stronger and that even by losing you can win if you've learned something new. That philosophy is behind his major initiative as First Seat: anyone can challenge anyone else to a shokugeki at any time. While that may not be appealing for non-competitive people, it also isn't compulsory, and it allows aspiring chefs to have a first-hand look at what other cooks are doing. Given that it's worked for Soma his entire life, we can see that it's him trying his best to give others the chance to improve in the same way.
It also makes him a slightly more easygoing First Seat than some others, although that may be in part because he's working with a Director, Erina, who understands how he functions and, while she may snipe at him, she isn't really inclined to force him behind a desk. Given that that's what helped to make Tsukasa such a tightly wound, nervous person, it's a good thing, although not nearly as nice as seeing the sheer relief on his face when he is no longer bound by the job. While it's great to see Megumi come out of her shell, it's Tsukasa's transformation that really feels the most rewarding, because it's a bit like he's finally learning to stand on his own two feet and actually enjoy his skills and life. Rindo gets a lot of credit for helping him with that, and it's interesting to draw a parallel between those two and Joichiro and his friends in the past, because it's arguable that Rindo prevented Tsukasa from having a similar breakdown. While Joichiro ended up just fine, it was still his near-burnout that started this whole Central mess in the first place (or rather, Azami's misunderstanding of it), so having Rindo actively helping her friend is a good way to let viewers know that things truly have changed, while also pointing out that the stress Tsukasa, and Rindo, were under as members of Central was no different than what Azami thought he was trying to prevent.
For the most part, we don't see huge amounts of aftermath for most of the characters. Erina and Hisako trying to act more like real friends is perhaps the best bit of development we have, and in part that is because the Megumi scenes at the end are so rushed. But there is a sense that everyone is moving on in appropriate ways that work for all of them, and if a new threat is looming on the horizon, well, at least this time we know that anime-only fans will get to see how it turns out when the fifth season comes around.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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