「リベンジ・マッチ5」 (Ribenji Matchi)
This is one of those times I dislike covering an adaptation, because I’m going to opine about some things that may or may not happen next, details which manga readers will immediately know the truth of. Please leave me in my ignorance until the reveal comes, and if you’d like to comment with any spoilers, make sure to tag them and label them. Thanks.
Now, let’s talk about collaborating with the enemy. It seems to me that Hayama is one of two things: an authentic quisling who has gone over to Azami’s side because he’s so focused on climbing the mountain that his ambition has blinded him to the mountain rotting beneath him, or he’s acting as if he’s an enemy collaborator in order to reclaim a space for the Shiomi Research Group and his beloved Jun within the academy. Either way, he’s a fool. If it’s the former, he is well and truly blinded by his ambition. This is where Dojima’s exhortation comes in:
“But too great a talent will turn against itself in the end. I hope that you will be able to maintain a good relationship with your talent.”
Obviously this is paving the way for Akira’s (potential, assumed) defeat; pride goeth before the fall. He is certainly being painted as better, but his hubris is striking. This in comparison to Souma, who is learning from others just as he teaches others himself. He’s raising everyone up as he tries to become the best (not make it to the top—he’s competitive enough to desire that, but enough his father’s son to know the difference), as opposed to Akira, who is tearing everyone down on his way to the top. To sacrifice the place his beloved Jun so loved on the altar of his ambition is a foul thing. He should be able to have both. It’s Azami who has forced a decision between the two, and as such, he should be taken down. (Though Dojima’s words seemed carefully selected. “It no longer exists at the academy.” Hmm…)
Or he could be a double agent. If that were the case, he is still a fool. Recall his dismissal of Souma’s goals as shallow—of saving his dorm, of waging a “futile” struggle against Azami. That’s nonsense, of course. The double agent would argue that what’s important is getting into a position to affect the big changes—in this case, obtaining enough seats on the Elite Ten to change the rules. They’re wrong. That’s what’s most important, yes—when you’re playing at games of power, power matters above all else—but it’s not all that matters. When people are trying to dominate a society/system, they’ll seek to destroy all your places, to leave you harbourless in a constantly changing sea. They’ll put informants in your school, your places of work, even your home. Stopping them then and there is vital. These places are the foundations upon which you fight back. You don’t let them take them. Once those are gone, they can take apart the really important stuff at their leisure.
What’s more, people like Azami always demand too much. They’ll force you to slowly betray everything you once professed to believe in. Even if Akira is playing the double agent, he’s already compromised the Shiomi Research Group, Jun, and his old friends and rivals. If the gambit does not succeed quickly, then you’ll do more damage than if you had struggled futilely. You may destroy them from the inside, but just as often you’ll be left with nothing in the end. They will subsume you.
All of which is to say, Shokugeki no Souma is getting at some real, human dynamics by making an important character make big mistakes. Coupled with his clear talent, and how they’re once again competing in a battle that favors him, it puts Souma on the back foot. The odds are stacked against him. Kuga-sempai helping him gives him a fighting chance, but as this episode shows, he’s still at a disadvantage. But it also shows how he’s seeking to synthesize different ideas of what the ingredient could be—spices, smelly, clever, berries—to create something that can defeat the raw power of Hayama’s talent. Souma is a titan himself, so he’s got to go up against someone at least this good to have a chance of failing. I can’t wait to see their battle.
Though I was delighted when Hayama cracked out the cajun spices. I love me some cajun cooking, though I haven’t had any cajun food worth a damn since I left the South. Do it justice, Hayama! Even if I still want you to lose, you prideful bastard.
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… huh. An episode that doesn’t focus on the actual battle! Am I really watching Season 3?? I was expecting more of these moments of Souma just going through his thought process of what recipe to make earlier in the show and a bit of a slower pace is exactly what this needed.