「新たなる『玉』[ぎょく]」 (Aratanaru “Gyoku”)
“A New Genius”
With only 3 episodes left this season, I was surprised to see Shokugeki no Souma start a fresh arc that feels like there should be a lot of material to go through. Instead of taking the time to really explain the next task at hand, episode 11 blows through it rather quickly. So fast in fact it’s like I’m missing a large chunk of Hisako’s development – not to mention Erina and Megumi’s. As an anime-only viewer, even if the episode isn’t clearly missing anything or leaving any loose ends hanging, the tone and build-up for the episode could be improved. It literally seems like the creators just copied and pasted all the important frames in the manga and animated it in that sequence exactly as you’d read it. This can be seen as good and bad depending on what you’re trying to accomplish because on one hand, you get all the key frames in but on the other hand, the episode feels jagged. I get that they’re probably crunched on time (especially if they want to wrap up everything in 2 episodes) but then the overall pacing of this season could’ve been improved if they wanted to hit all the right tones as well. Overall, episode 11 wasn’t what I expected from an episode that highlights Souma’s strengths and Hisako’s weaknesses. It almost felt filler-ish, as if they’re trying to skip this chapter to get to the next quickly.
Now I wouldn’t go as far to say that the episode is completely for nothing because a lot of important things happened. Hisako grows a lot more than Souma this episode but a lot of her development is thanks to Souma’s “teachings”. I give her credit (as the other staff in the restaurant do) for being a fast-learner and a genuinely great cook already, but working in a restaurant (as Souma says) is so different than an isolated kitchen/or at home. I’ve only worked in a restaurant once as a waitress (part-time job long ago) but I’ve worked in foodservice for over 3 years and let me tell you – it’s very different. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Souma would excel in this “challenge” because to him, just another day at the restaurant. The accomplishment came from seeing him change the restaurant and actually build in new ways of operating; reservations only at a restaurant is the key here. In fact, the “Reservations only” rule is a huge change for a restaurant that used to take walk-in customers. Average restaurants these days would do ”Walk-in only” where I’m at because they know that people would wait for their food. For a restaurant that wants to attract more of the local crowd though, it’s hard to draw them in when you have a line-up out the door; especially when your older visitors never used to wait. This change that Souma proposed is definitely a bold one (not to mention a huge change in mentality for the diners) but one that I’m sure will work for the clientele they’re going for.
The biggest win for Hisako this episode though wasn’t so much the actual Stagiaire challenge but the realization that she can’t always walk behind Erina but beside her. She needs to become her own chef and person to be someone that can be by Erina’s side. It wasn’t a huge epiphany or anything for Souma (or even for me as a viewer) but for a side character that didn’t get that much screen time in the past, I’m surprised that Hisako would get that much time with Souma at all. Her character isn’t one that strikes me as someone that I have empathize or sympathy for, but I do like how it makes Souma realize that he can also walk his own path rather than shadowing his father. I never thought that Souma was trying to be anyone other than himself, but I guess it doesn’t help that he’s always trying to defeat his father. Although it gives him a goal and something to strive for, maybe it would do him better to strive to be a better chef in general.
The scenes between Erina and Megumi were short-lived and felt a bit like a filler for the already filler-ish feeling episode. I liked seeing Megumi and Erina “help” the chef in different ways and from their own POV because they see the restaurant from a different perspective. What I didn’t like was seeing the chef’s reaction to it – I mean, you’re asking for help from these students and you know that they’re top students on an assignment… the least you could do is welcome a bit of advice from an unbiased POV. Obviously Erina was way out of line and she’s not the best at delivering “advice” in an non-condescending way… but poor Megumi. Megumi only meant well and the chef still blew up on her. The only good thing that came out out of this experience was seeing Erina actually take Megumi seriously as a chef (and fellow student).
Now for some quick impressions of last week’s episode…
I’m not surprised that Akira won – he was my vote to win as well just from the foodp0rn alone… but I do wish that they didn’t just slap in some sappy scenes with his childhood right before they announced the winner. It made the reveal much less impactful because they’re forcing the sympathy votes from the viewers. Akira’s past has already been briefly shown last season so it doesn’t come to a surprise that he made a lot of progress from his younger days; all thanks to Jun. Not sure if this was also done in the manga, but the timing of it just seemed so coincidental and also gave away the ending. In contrast, Ryou’s past was actually animated piece by piece (almost a bit every episode that had him competing) and I thought it was just enough for us to really understand him. It didn’t come with the convenient timing of him winning and there’s just enough for us to feel triumphant for his wins. Overall though, I felt that Akira truly deserved this win (even though I can’t taste his food). I can’t speak towards his own “uniqueness” coming through in the dish or the flavors that made it his own, but just from visuals, presentations and description of the dish – I would’ve given the win to him.
Author’s Note: Once again, I’m late posting Shokugeki no Souma and I hate giving excuses but I rather given an explanation than none at all. Last week was Labor Day long weekend and I was on vacation with family – thus, not only are weekends bad for me, but this particular LONG weekend was worse. Thanks to all the readers for continuing to put up with me. I promise I read all your comments even when I don’t respond and I appreciate it. The rest of the season should be easier for me (but seriously, no promises as the season preview is on the horizon).