Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate ?
While it is definitely necessary to hustle through the source manga chapters in order to get to the end of this arc (which is what I'm guessing that this season of Food Wars is aiming to do), I can't help but feel that this is going just a bit too fast. Some elements of the streamlining do work – the fact that this week focuses exclusively on Megumi and Momo's match-up without going into any detail about the other two at all makes sense – but overall this feels really rushed. That's rarely a good thing.
In this specific case, the episode jumps right from looking around the storehouse to presenting the dishes, with very little in between. We do see the most salient bit, which is that all three Rebels are helping each other with pieces of their recipes, but we don't really get to revel in that fact because there's basically no down time to appreciate the cooking. Yes, the outcome of the cook-off will be determined by the results, but those are directly related to the techniques and skills used, so to sort of brush by those things is definitely disappointing, even if it isn't out of the norm for the way this series has been running for the past couple of seasons.
Fortunately we do get some of the training Megumi underwent on the way to the venue, which not only makes a lot of sense given Megumi as a character, but is also kind of funny. Dojima, as it turns out, went out of his way to get Shinomiya (Soma's sort-of rival) to agree to come train Megumi for the team shokugeki, perhaps not fully cognizant of how much the French chef scares her. Soma wonders if the whole thing is really going to work out, but he's forgetting one very simple and yet important fact: Megumi is pretty much always scared. While that's not great for her, it has given her a variety of coping methods for getting through situations that make her anxious, and as it happens, one of those is 1970s shoujo sports manga. When her fear and anxiety are getting the best of her, Megumi suddenly flashes back to Aim for Victory, an in-world Ping Pong manga with a striking resemblance to Aim for the Ace!, one of the best-known shoujo sports classics. It was one of Megumi's favorite childhood manga, and now that she's got a way to see herself as its protagonist and Shinomiya as her crusty coach, she's got a way to handle her situation. It's both funny (because 70s shoujo often is, albeit unintentionally) and very real, because using your imagination to draw inspiration and support from a favorite book is something that really does help. That makes Megumi's method true to who she is and a viable way for her to essentially power up – and as the perceived weakest member of the Resistance, that's something she needs.
It's very clear, too, that everyone is underestimating her. While we might expect it of that obnoxious little twit Momo, her fellow (caged) Rebels are also doubtful of her chances of winning, and one of the judges flat-out says that he didn't expect this to be any sort of real contest between the two girls. Soma and Takumi never doubted her, but it really looks like they may be the only ones, although to be fair, it's hard to tell with Erina, if only because she's not used to emoting yet. Up to this point it's been Soma's belief in her that's really helped Megumi to get through. This time it's up to her to pull herself together enough and believe in herself to pull it off – and if that belief means channeling some fiction, that's okay.
Naturally we don't get the conclusion of the card this week, because cliffhangers are very much this series' bread and butter. But even if Megumi doesn't beat Momo, she's well on her way to proving herself and her abilities, and honestly, for her as a character, I feel like that's the more important battle.
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