“Hitokuchime no Himitsu” (一口目の秘密)
I might be in the minority here, but I think I this week’s episode was the best so far.
Even though it spent most of its time outside the match-up, it did a better job of handling the issues I’ve been bringing up for the last few weeks. However, these issues didn’t disappear for the whole episode, and things reverted back as soon as the match started.
The episode starts with Soma and Subaru’s conversation about having a shokugeki match. Despite Nikumi and Soma’s other friends desperate tries to convince him to rethink, Soma pushes on with the challenge and Subaru accepts it. The theme for their match is any western-styled main dish. Since Soma knows Subaru will figure out what he plans to make anyway, he goes ahead and shares that his dish for the match will be beef stew.
Although Soma has good reasons to take things this far (he wants to take back all 100 of the tools Subaru took and denounce his approach to cooking) it’s this reckless confidence that I’ve always found interesting about him. It’s not that he’s 100% confident he can win, but he’s always willing to risk everything and step up to a challenge.
The next large chunk of the episode spends time on a variety of small scenes, but it focuses mainly on Soma preparing for his match.
A new character is introduced, Sotsuda Mitsuru. He’s a student from Totsuki’s middle school division and part of the Journalism Club. In order to write a story for his newspaper, he begs Soma for an interview and for a chance to watch him prepare for his match. As Soma experiments with different recipes to improve his beef stew, Mitsuru lends his aid as a taste tester.
Soma soon hits a roadblock, and decides to enlist Erina’s help as a food taster. In exchange for some shoujo manga, Erina agrees to taste his beef stew. She gives it a complete failing grade. This helps Soma realize where his dish is lacking though, and after booting Mitsuru out of the kitchen, he refines his recipe.
Before the episode ends, we see the beginning of Soma and Subaru’s semi-final/shokugeki match. Soma overcomes the weakness of his original beef stew recipe by using ingredients that’ll deliver a much stronger impact. We mustn’t, however, underestimate Subaru’s stalking prowess. He’s able to see through Soma’s changes and perfectly copies his ingredients and dish. The episode ends as Subaru gets ready to mention his dish’s first original twist.
Considering how rushed the matches have been so far, I think some people might dislike this week’s episode for spending so much time off the match. The preparation scene before the match, however, was actually the part I enjoyed the most about this episode, and it also helped me pinpoint the exact issue I’ve been having with this season so far. I’ve touched on this many times in each of my reviews: the viewer feels distant from the characters in each match. There is no connection.
The reason I enjoy watching Soma prepare his dishes is that we are right there with him in the moment as he cooks. We are able to watch him cook, think about his dish, and taste it. We are almost part of this team.
Now, fast forward to the match and the connection disappears. The viewer is now away from the characters that are cooking and he’s forced to watch the match unfold from a distance. This is because the match unfolds the opposite way from the preparation: We barely see the characters cooking or hear what they’re thinking. The anime spends the majority of each match focused on other characters’ explanations or comments. Even when these characters are explaining what Soma and his opponents are making, the camera doesn’t shift to show us the action, but instead remains on the character that’s talking. Comments from the peanut gallery are commonly found in battle and sports anime, but this season is way too skewed in favor of these comments in comparison to other series, or even in comparison to its own first season.
This distance might’ve been intentionally created as a way to place the viewer in the same space as the characters watching the match, but I think it’s an unfortunate mistake. It spoils my enjoyment of the series; I now enjoy the preparation scene more than the actual match.
Next week will be a continuation of Soma and Subaru’s match. Although the ending is framed in a way to seem like the momentum has shifted to Subaru, I don’t expect Soma to fall prey to Subaru’s cooking style so easily. I think Soma’s creativity will shine through and it’ll turn into a match that really showcases his talents.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma The Second Plate
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©Yuto Tsukuda, Shun Saeki/ Shueisha,Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Committee 2