Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
Episode 9

by Rebecca Silverman,

If there's one thing Food Wars consistently succeeds in, it is in making me hungry, and this week, while not quite as tense as previous episodes, is no exception. With i fratelli Aldini having completed their portion of the challenge (both for camp and between Takumi and Soma) last week, it is now Soma and Tadokoro's turn to wow both us and their instructor with a classic Japanese dish made only from local ingredients...and by local, I mean “on the hotel grounds.” Soma's already a beat behind in his selection of fish as the main course while Takumi chose duck, but naturally he doesn't let that stop him. The finished dish is mouthwatering (especially if you already like fried fish), but what makes this part of the episode even better is that it isn't just The Soma Show – Megumi also gets to show her talents. In this case that is harvesting wild vegetables and creating a sauce that will compliment the fish, as well as helping with the accompanying greens. It marks the first time we've really gotten to see how she's lasted at Totsuki before Soma came to save the day, and it presages a better view of her cooking in general as the camp storyline continues. Equally as important, if like me you've grown up sautéeing fiddleheads, this episode may inspire you to try to prepare them a different way.

While I realize that the showdown between Takumi and Soma is generally less tense for those who are already manga readers, there's still a weakness to their unofficial battle that surfaces in this episoe. We don't see quite enough of Soma and Megumi cooking, for one, and neither of them are whipping out unusual techniques, like the Aldini brothers and their mezzaluna knife. The cleaning of the fish is very toned down compared to the preparation of the duck last week, and on the whole, it just feels like not quite enough attention has been paid to this half of the battle. That it also doesn't have a firm conclusion isn't quite as big an issue, since it sets the boys up for a prolonged rivalry, which will doubtless do both of them some good in terms of their craft, and which we know from the episode prologue is something Takumi desperately needs in order to truly advance as a chef. I could make the same complaint about a lack of tension for the cooking assignment of the second half, preparing a steak dinner for a bunch of burly athletes, but it is clear that the show is much more concerned with making the big guys (and Yuki's disappointment at having to cook her own meals) humorous rather than focusing on the cooking. It is, however, taken a little too quickly to feel like anything but a way to spend time before the encounter at the end of the episode, which is handled as if it were much more important than what came before it.

Once again, the foodgasms have been made more ridiculous than sexy, although there's a bit of that as well, and the most intense fanservice has been saved for the end of the episode. While I don't think it's necessarily odd that someone would make sounds when she's been knocked over, the vocalizations in question are a little too moan-y to be believable under the circumstances, particularly when the camera is lingering on thighs and breasts – it's actually a shock to see that the character turns out to be fully dressed when we finally get a full body view. While it isn't nearly as offensive as the early foodgasms (and in terms of anime fanservice, it's really pretty tame), it also feels shoehorned in. On the other hand, Soma singing the ending theme badly during the same scene is pretty funny, no matter that that joke has a beard down to its ankles at this point.

Basically this episode just doesn't know where to put its focus – cooking, fanservice, or gags. The result is that none of it is done as well as it could have been, and even though upon reflection it was a decent episode, it's also one that felt like it took a while to get through. Fortunately more exciting fare should be coming right up, so it may be best to just write this one off as a “getting there” episode and use it to whet our palates for what is to come.

Rating: B-

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.

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