Food Wars! The Second Plate
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Food Wars! The Second Plate ?
Congratulations, Food Wars - you've given me a character I hate more than Erina. That would be Subaru Mimasaka, introduced last week and memorable for the way he smeared his gum on Takumi's mezzaluna before challenging him to turn their cook-off into a shoukugeki. Now this week we see what he was up to – Subaru has a habit of doing this, and his endgame is humiliation. Ninety-nine other students have faced off against him before and not a single one has won, with Subaru claiming their cooking tools and shattered egos as his prize. His trick? He uses the results of his obsessive (and creepy) stalking to figure out what they're going to make and then simply makes it better by tinkering with their already perfected recipes. As Soma points out in the end, that's hardly the kind of cooking most of the Totsuki students are here for.
This episode is enraging on a couple of levels. One is the sheer horror of what Subaru is doing to Takumi, just for the sake of doing it – and it's technically within the rules of the school. Kudos to Oizumi, the balding judge with the sidewings of hair, because he actively protests what's going on, trying to find a way to disqualify Subaru legally. (Does anyone know who does his voice? It isn't in the encyclopedia.) But this is the kind of school where such obvious bullying is allowed to stand, and that's never a good thing in an educational institution. “It's not fair” isn't always much of a complaint, but in this case, it feels like a valid one.
The other way this episode frustrates is in how it condenses the shoukugeki itself. I generally try to avoid direct manga-to-anime comparisons, but it's so clear that half a volume's worth of material was condensed into twenty minutes that it needs to be mentioned. While this did cut down on the “argh” level of the battle, it also robbed Takumi of his due as he scrambled to make things work, as well as some of the gloating that makes Subaru such a villainous character. It did add in a pretty great rap song, but that's not enough to make up for taking some of the punch out of this storyline. On the other hand, the post-credits finale is done quite well, with an excellent performance by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka as Soma sounding quietly menacing. Subaru may want to rethink what he assumes he knows.
This is also a fairly lackluster episode in terms of visuals. There's barely any major animation in either the cooking or the foodgasms, and there are far too many shots of Subaru standing and talking. His diabolo form is pretty good, especially the icky purple tongue, but there are only so many shots of the back of his head that we can take. Takumi's secret toward the end of the shoukugeki is also a bit too well-concealed, depriving us of the chance to really witness his ingenuity at work. My hope is that they've been racing to get to the next part, the showdown between Soma and Subaru, but I have a bad feeling that it will also be rushed in favor of finishing the Autumn Elections arc as a whole. It's a shame – Subaru is a good villain, if only because he showcases so much of what's wrong with Totsuki as a whole. But we'll just have to wait and see – here's hoping I'm proven wrong.
Food Wars! The Second Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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