One of the things that I find really intriguing is that in a typical shounen series, it’s very easy for supporting characters to get lost in the fray. Usually to avoid this, people get associated with their powers and they get turned into “the girl with ice powers”, “the guy with electric powers” or “that pet that is really a demigod”.
In the world of Shokugeki no Soma, people are associated with their food specialities. This has the added effect of making them ten times more relatable, because it’s easier to imagine being obsessed over vegetables than it is to learn how to summon fireballs. The use of typical shounen tropes coupled with these characteristics is presented in: Ibusaki, the quiet one who is seen wielding an electrical saw to make his own wood for smoking. Ryoko, the one with the “suspicious” bottle who is really an expert on fermentation and rice. Yoshino, who is trying to breed a special Polar Star chicken. And Isshiki, aside from being the occupant of the Seventh Seat at Totsuki Academy, is also the manliest and one of the most confident people in the series as he grows his own vegetables with very little on.
Isshiki not having clothes is just going to be one of those things.
In the previous episode, we got a hint regarding the clubs that one would find in Totsuki Tea Culinary Academy. I don’t need to tell you that the club experience is the integral part of high school life (every other school series should have done that for you.) -but instead of typical “clubs” like Light Music, Reading, Calligraphy etc., here, we have Research Societies. Research Societies means that you can do a lot of things such as have your own space and compete outside of school but more importantly – being associated with a Research Society means you can actually compete in a Shokugeki for your Research Society. The choice then, is highly important. French Cuisine, Patisserie, Train Bento – the list of Research Societies is endless. Megumi decides to tag along to help Soma makes his choice.
The one that catches Soma’s eye of course, being a “diner brat”, is that of the Donburi Research Society. Donburi is rice toppings and is ubiquitous as a Japanese dish. (Just look at the Yoshinoya chain of restaurants and you’ll see what I mean.) However, because it’s a “common” dish, the Research Society is struggling to make its mark.
Donburi Research Society – aka Don RS as run by Konishi Kanichi, a second year.
Konishi tells them not to waste their time as the Don RS was going to be demolished under the tyranny of Erina’s reign as the effective head of the student council. It simply didn’t have appeal to sustain itself in an environment of high aspirations such as Totsuki.
And true to form, Erina’s sent over someone to demolish the club for her because it simply wasn’t worth Erina’s time. Mito Ikumi has cleavage to rival Isshiki’s nakedness and she is the the antagonist of this arc. She’s the “Meat Master”. (no, get your minds out of the gutter). She’s the heir to a family that has a monopoly on beef in Japan and she knows her beef. And chicken. And pork. She’s clearly destined for greatness and her butchery skills aren’t bad either.
A non standard uniform seems to go a long way in this series.
Soma, who can’t stand the way that Erina acts and is not happy with Ikumi for going with it, is quick to jump to the Don RS’s defense. He’s agreed to compete in a Shokugeki as part of Don RS. The terms would be his expulsion versus Ikumi joining Don RS and continuing the research into this hearty staple.
Konishi of course, thinks that Soma has lost his mind. Because the terms were set to be a meat donburi dish, it ruled out any seafood or vegetable donburi that they could use to be off the beaten track. Sourcing is an important part of the battle and Konishi doesn’t think they can simply find anything to beat the top of the line meat that Ikumi is inevitably going to procure. So we get a training montage where Soma, Megumi and Konishi go through all of Don RS’s recipes to try and find that one knockout donburi that they could do on a budget.
More than anything, Soma’s ethos and attitude to cooking becomes apparent. The key to a donburi is not to simply throw the most expensive ingredients at it – but it has to be the most affordable, filling, and self contained. If they can’t do that, they lose the heart of the donburi.
After a long night of experimentation, they may have found the one.
A Challapin Steak on a Donburi, where fried onions make for a succulent steak regardless of cut.
A clear example of yoshoku (western inspired food) meets washoku (japanese cuisine), the dish seemingly solves the problems of cheap cuts of meat yet still staying true to the donburi’s essence as a simple yet beautiful dish. This may be the one to knock it out of the park for the Shokugeki – but the episode ends here.
This means that next week, we’re going to get the actual battle. There are actual stakes involved in the show now, which means that it’s doubly important that Soma wins. While it’s pretty assured that he wins because he is the protagonist, I feel like the show has done enough to invest us in his story. It’s clear that he’s got talent but he still has a lot of growing to do. He needs the knowledge to back up those skills and it seems like participating in these Shokugeki is the right way to do it.
Episode 6 Rating: 3/5. It’s a build up to the actual Shokugeki! More exciting stuff is probably happening next episode but it isn’t exciting on its own yet. It was worth it for the training montage though.
Episode 6 Gastronomy Factor: 3/5. The point this episode makes is that learning how to source your ingredients is deeply important. This is why knowing where your food comes from is always a plus. The challapin steak is an unusual take on donburi but this seems like a mash up of two dish types rather than any inventive leaps.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is broadcast every Friday in Japan, with a simulcast available on Crunchyroll the same day at 8:25pm IST.