Food Wars! The Third Plate Episode 6
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Food Wars! The Third Plate ?
Abuse can take many forms, and emotional abuse is among the most insidious of them because it hides itself in “care.” That's what Erina Nakiri was subjected to at the hands of her father, the ultimate reason he was banned from Totsuki and stripped of the Nakiri family name. While there are many reasons to worry about his return to the academy, Erina's well-being is chief among them. This week's episode shows us what Azami subjected his daughter to in the name of “training” her special sense of taste, revealing all the hallmarks of a classic abuser; he confines and isolates her, and he couches his threats in "love" and concern for her well-being. No matter what else he does to the school, Azami has already become the ultimate evil in Food Wars' world.
Fortunately for Erina, now she has people around her who are aware of what's going on. After Azami dismisses Hisako (over Erina's half-voiced protest), Hisako realizes that things are going downhill fast. Since she's been watching Erina come out of the glass case her father put her in through her interactions with others, she's terrified that her friend will relapse once she's back under Azami's control. When Alice and Ryo find her pacing around following her dismissal, the two agree to help get Erina out – and Megumi, who got to know Erina at least a little during the Stagière, offers her shelter at Polaris.
To say that this is an abrupt shift in Erina's dynamic within the cast would be an understatement, but her horrible past is made clear enough that it doesn't feel as if this comes out of nowhere. Apart from giving us a solid reason why she has come across as so difficult, it also underlines the severity of the abuse she's suffered; her tough outer shell and knee-jerk reaction to people like Soma are coping mechanisms she's learned in order to protect herself. While they certainly don't negate some of her crueler acts from season one, they do explain those actions in a reasonable way. So this week's use of fanservice with Erina is also important – when we see her undressing and finally relaxing in the Polaris bath, it's not about showing us her body, it's about showing her as vulnerable. Her slow undressing is symbolic of her slow release of the fear and tension she's felt since her father came back into her life. She's taking off her armor, and when we see her at the table afterwards, dressed in someone else's clothes, she's merely uncomfortable rather than standoffish. It won't be a quick or easy change for Erina, but she's beginning to realize that she can be herself, not the person her father made her into.
It's a given that Soma's bound to play a large part in this transformation (or perhaps de-transformation), but at this point he's not doing much. That's actually a good thing, because right now Erina needs to see that people besides Alice and Hisako can be trusted. Polaris is the perfect place for that, with its warm and welcoming atmosphere and people who are happy to embrace a newcomer. Sure, they're impressed with her God Tongue, but they don't see her as just a tongue – they want to know her as a person as well. Soma's role will be to help her see that she can stand up for herself as Erina, not as a Nakiri; the rest of Polaris can help her to remember who Erina is – and I think that the real Erina is going to be someone worth knowing.
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