「極星寮を背負って」 (Kyokuseiryou o Seotte)
“Bearing Polar Star Dormitory”
In a lot of ways, this episode is too rush. Suddenly revealing that Nene and Isshiki-sempai are childhood friends right before they’re embroiled in a fierce proxy war is too much with too little foreshadowing. Isshiki’s opponent was always destined to lose, because he was just introduced here and I knew I needn’t bother to remember his name. But the emotional core of the episode was a delicious meal indeed.
Isshiki-sempai as a character has often been used to lighten the mood, but it’s been clear from early on that he has incredible skill. Tsukuda-sensei was deliberate about that. So it’s good to see Isshiki really lean into a battle, but it’s also good to see why. It’s not merely the stakes, because the fate of Totsuki doesn’t seem to really matter to him. It’s the fates of his kouhai that matter to Isshiki-sempai, a man who I always refer to as sempai for a very purposeful reason. Isshiki is defined by his sempai-ness; he is motivated by his kouhai above all else. He’s a protector, and what he wants to protect is Polar Star. That’s why this episode worked. It’s not that Isshiki won. It’s that Isshiki won because of the reasons Isshiki would fight for, and the ideals he would seek to win for. It’s character informing the plot. This Isshiki-sempai could only be defeated by someone with such overwhelming power as to invalidate his ideals through sheer force of cooking. Anything less would be a betrayal.
While Isshiki-sempai’s battle was more of a realization of character, I’m looking forward to how Souma will take on Nene, because his is more an evolution of character. The old Souma, even the Souma of a few episodes ago, couldn’t beat Nene, and certainly not at soba. How will the new and improved evolved Souma battle her, though? By infusing himself in the dish, and creating something no one else could come up with. We will see if he can pull it off. Isshiki-sempai certainly has faith in him, at least.
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