Food Wars! The Third Plate
Episode 22

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 22 of
Food Wars! The Third Plate (TV 2) ?

All of us who were wondering how on Earth Food Wars was going to handle the impending Team Shoukugeki in the scant episodes left this season got our answer this week: by totally skipping over the lead-up to it. After last week's flashback and the brief training episode before it, this week opens right up with Soma, Megumi, Erina, and Takumi all showing up at the arena with four other teammates and zero explanation of how they got there. Granted, in most cases we can make an educated guess – Isshiki, Kuga, and the deposed Third Seat are all vocally opposed to Azami and Central to the point where they were removed from the Elite Ten, and Mimasaka Subaru has previously voiced that his preferred allegiance is to Soma. So it really isn't as if they pulled some random kids we'd never seen before into the story. That doesn't mean that it isn't a disappointment to see so much just tossed aside in the name of cramming the full story arc into too few episodes, though.

That's what we've got though, so now that the teams are assembled, it makes sense to just start them cooking. Somehow I had gotten the idea that the adults would be a part of the whole thing, so it is a bit surprising that Dojima and Joichiro are no where to be seen as the shoukugeki gets started, but there's plenty of other tensions to be addressed. (Plus the judges haven't arrived yet, which may be telling.) Azami is making zero effort to hide his plans, with a clearly brainwashed school idol running the show by leading the audience in a Central chant, and while he's allowed the expelled Rebels to attend, he's also got them locked up in a cage, because honestly, not much would make him look any worse than he already does, so why not. None of this is dampening the spirits of our Rebel competitors, though – or Ryo, who feels oddly relaxed in jail – and what's particularly interesting about this first match is that two of the three Central students are clearly there not because they agree fully with Azami, but because they see him as valuing centuries-old traditions rather than reckless innovations.

Soma is up against Nene, the bespectacled Elite Ten member who is heiress to an old soba tradition. (Of course that's what they're competing in.) As Nene and Soma both prepare their doughs, it becomes apparent that Nene is not just rooted in tradition, she's mired in it – she's been so inculcated in the specific theories and methods of her family that she can't see value in Soma's newer, more machine-based techniques. She's obviously listening when Erina explains to Megumi and Kuga why Soma's doing what he's doing, but she just as clearly doesn't see him as any sort of threat. In their case, it's a real match of tradition versus new ideas, and even without accounting for the fact that tastes do change over time (pick up an old cookbook and look at the recipes and think about whether you'd want to eat them for an example), she's also discounting the idiom first used by Chaucer in the 1300s that familiarity breeds contempt, a trap she's potentially falling into.

Concurrently with Nene and Soma's cook-off is Isshiki's with the new Third Seat, Jurio. This is an entirely different battle, although Isshiki's attitude is similar to Soma's in his apparent diffidence. While Jurio, also potentially bogged down by his family's traditions and his Italian training, is warbling on about how Isshiki is a disgrace to his own family because he opposes Central and hangs around with riff-raff, Isshiki is checking on Soma, mulling over what he and the others will do if this doesn't work and they're all expelled…basically just being Isshiki, albeit with more clothes on that usual. It's clear that he really doesn't give a damn about what Jurio says or perhaps even if they win or lose, possibly because he knew about Joichiro before and not graduating from Totsuki certainly didn't make his life terrible. It's only when Jurio starts denigrating Polaris and Isshiki's friends that Isshiki gets truly serious – the scene of him suddenly killing the eel by driving a pick through its head, pinning it to the cutting board is the most impressive of the episode.

There's a third show-down going on at the same time, but since it's between characters we barely know, it looks as if Food Wars will once again handle it by not handling it – we'll probably just see the outcome. Hopefully I'm wrong, but it really feels as if this cour bit off more than it could chew with this story arc and its allotted episode count. What saves it is that I really, really want to see Soma and his pals destroy Azami, and at this point if they just kept panning the camera back and forth between chefs and dishes, I'd probably be okay. Let's hope they don't do that, though. Azami needs to feel his defeat – and we deserve to feel it too.

Rating: B-

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

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