Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fourth Plate ?
What this episode lacks in cooking scenes it makes up for in backstory and plot. Somei Saito, the sushi chef of the Council, has largely just been sort of there, looming in the background while we try to figure out how his earrings work. (Seriously, are they screwed on to his ear lobes?) This week changes that as he goes up against Soma and manages to combine his sushi skills with their theme ingredient of butter, opening the door for Isshiki to relate where Somei came from. While everyone has their own reasons for being at Totsuki and wanting to be the best, as well as for siding with or against Central, Somei's story is perhaps one of the most significant, not only in its tragedy, but also in its parallels to other characters'.
As it turns out, Somei is the only child of a widowed mother who ran a highly successful sushi restaurant. By dint of careful saving, she managed to get him enrolled in Totsuki and then decided, like all good professionals, to further her own skills by learning from the top sushi chefs in the country. But unfortunately for her, this supposedly venerable institution and its chefs suffered from a hefty dose of sexism. Adhering to reprehensible standards roughly the age of the Model-T (and not nearly as useful), the men discriminated against Somei's mother simply for being female, and wouldn't let her in the kitchen. Instead they turned her into basically a maid, forcing her to do basic chores instead of the learning about sushi she enrolled for. The result? She died of overwork, forever scarring her son.
This is important not only because it prompted Somei to become the best so as to spare anyone else from having to “learn” under the men who killed his mother with their misogyny, but also because it has direct parallels to why Azami wanted to found Central in the first place. After seeing Soma's dad, Joichiro, drop out of Totsuki and leave the competitive world of gourmet, Azami became both warped by and driven by his desire not to see the same thing happen to anyone else. He was canny enough to recognize the same easily-molded desire in Somei and to use it to win the otherwise very reasonable young man over to his side, meaning that at his base, Somei is a gentler person than most of the rest of Central. He honestly thinks he's helping because he so desperately wants to save his mother by proxy; for Somei it's only tangentially about ideals of “gourmet.” That puts him much more emotionally in line with Soma and the Rebels, whose core belief that everyone should be able to cook as they want, and what they want, could easily have persuaded Somei if they'd gotten to him first. There's also the parallel between Somei and Soma we can consider; not only are their given names similar, but both are the sons of restaurateurs who always sought to improve themselves, giving them a lot more in common than not. The major difference is that because of his mother's experiences Somei thinks he has to go it alone, while Soma is always open to learning and accepting help from other people.
In some ways that makes Somei a bit of a sad character – he's a little more lost than most of the rest of Central, even if he's not fully aware of it. His desire to see himself as a protective samurai almost seems to speak to how much he's still hurting, because he could have just as easily taken up a theory of vengeance, which is what we'd expect of Eizan, for example, or maybe even Rindo, although she may be too happy-go-lucky at heart for that. Maybe losing to Soma, as he does this week when Soma's latest weird diner-inspired hybrid dish blows the judges away, will give him the perspective shift he needs to find joy in his cooking. It'd be a nice bonus to the hopeful defeat of Azami and Central, because what Azami doesn't seem to realize (or care about) is that happiness is different for everyone and there's no “one true path” to finding it.
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