Food Wars! The Second Plate
Episode 10

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 10 of
Food Wars! The Second Plate ?

This episode makes it official – Food Wars! The Second Plate is going to introduce the next arc, the Stagiere storyline, which is basically a work-study/study abroad hybrid program for first-years, but the season will end before actually getting into it. While this will put us slightly ahead of the current English publication of the manga, making it possible to continue the story in its original manga format from where the anime leaves off, it's still frustrating. With luck, we'll get an announcement of more anime soon, but if we don't, I expect that this season will get through most of manga volume fourteen, depending on pacing.

For this week, we wrap up the Autumn Elections. This last arc of the storyline, the three-way battle between Soma, Ryo, and Akira, has been the best part of the season, creating laudable tension while also subtly explaining why the winner was chosen. In many ways, it actually makes more sense that Akira was the ultimate victor. If Soma had won, it would have almost been too easy, handing him a victory that he wanted more than needed and undermining the subsequent storylines with the knowledge that he's already “the best.” By awarding Akira the gold medal, the show acknowledges that Soma is still learning, but also that he hasn't yet come up against a situation where he truly needs to give it his all. While he certainly worked hard this time, arguably moreso than in any prior competition, his desire to close the ingredient gap and prove the suitability of Japanese comfort food for gourmet consumption came before proving himself, Soma Yukihira, as an individual chef. He was essentially fighting for Yukihira the restaurant rather than Yukihira the person. Ryo, on the other hand, who wins third place, was too focused on himself and his own ego, determined to prove his skill and nothing else.

So where does Akira differ from the other two? Partly, it was his desire to succeed not just for himself or his reputation, but rather to show his gratitude to the people who saved his life as a child. Yes, Akira has perfected his cooking because Totsuki is ludicrously competitive, but as we see from a flashback before the announcement of the winner (which totally gives away who that winner will be), he's actually even more of an underdog than Soma. Rescued from the slums by Jun and given a sense of self and purpose by both her and her mentor, Professor Hayama, Akira wants to win this to show Jun his gratitude and let her know that saving him was worthwhile. We understand that Jun doesn't need this victory to know that she did the right thing, but that starving little boy is still somewhere inside Akira, and he needs to keep showing her that he was worth it. This insecurity is different from Megumi's, which centers on her cooking, and it's absent from both Soma and Ryo, who grew up knowing that they were good. But Akira has the most impetus to make sure that people know his personal style of cooking makes his presence at Totsuki worthy. Ultimately, the other two lack that drive (although Soma is developing it after this particular loss), and that's what brings him to a deserved victory.

Soma's dad also reinforces the idea that one of Soma's greatest talents is his ability to look beyond his loss to improve. That holds true here as well. Where Ryo gets mad (and someone should really just take that scarf off his head to chill him out), Soma starts thinking, which is what he needs to do. His dad's way-too-cheery phone call pushes him to start understanding what Akira has that he doesn't, and the three competitors begin developing a friendship at the end of the episode, much to Akira's consternation. (Jun, for her part, is thrilled.) In fact, the end of the episode seems to be all about forming relationships and learning from each other, a theme that has been slowly developing throughout both seasons of the series. When Nikumi shows up at Polaris because the other girls texted her so they can all cook game meat together, it really drives the message home – creativity, in the kitchen or anywhere else, doesn't need to happen in a vacuum. This makes one shot after the conclusion of the Autumn Elections particularly interesting – we see Erina alone in her car, looking down at the Polaris gang walking home together to celebrate Soma's silver medal. Whether or not she's realizing that collaboration and friends are good things isn't clear, but it's a very lonely moment, and even people who aren't fans of Erina can appreciate that she may be a lonesome soul up there on her self-imposed pedestal.

There's a Yiddish saying that worries go down better with soup, with part of the implication being that someone else has made the soup to help you feel better. Soma may not have gotten the top spot, but he has people to not only make him metaphorical (or real) soup, but also to help him make his own soup special. That may be the biggest takeaway from this episode. Soup's no good if there's no one to eat it, thank you for it, and maybe even tell you that it needs just a little more salt to make it better.

Rating: A-

Food Wars! The Second Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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