What They Say:
“Battle of Seasonality”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With only the final match of the Autumn Elections remaining, the three contestants have their work cut out for them in preparing the finest Pacific saury dish. Each of the three starts with the same idea, heading to the fish market first thing in the morning to pick out the freshest, most ideal specimen to use. However, Souma isn’t on the same level as the other two, Ryo going against the most obvious characteristics to outdo Souma’s seemingly flawless selection and Akira living up to his gimmick in especially ridiculous fashion, able to smell the subtle qualities of each individual fish from far away. Everyone around them seems to realize this as well, as every one of the countless reporters covering the story speaks as though Souma isn’t so much as a challenge to the others. Souma has often been the one to effortlessly stand above all others around him, but now that he’s in the final match of the greatest chefs his age, he sees how fearsome the best of the best can be. That means his only chance at victory is to think outside the box and innovate in a way that distinguishes his cooking enough to earn his place at the top that all three so covet.
In the earlier situations when he had the advantage, Souma could act as a singular force just as his opponents are for the most part in this process. As he’s been knocked down a few notches, though, he’s forced to acknowledge that all those who have made it this far in Totsuki have specialties that he could benefit from learning about, and there’s a great deal of helpful variety just within his core group of friends. He assembles the brain trust to explore his idea of going in the opposite direction of the assumption that the freshest fish will be the best, leading to multiple different experiments but never reaching that perfect taste that will win him the tournament. While each has lost in the tournament proper by now, his friends continue to be valuable characters who show their support and, in some cases, a desire for more than friendship. Nikumi always thinks Souma’s requests for her presence mean something more, which invariably results in her looking very annoyed when she finds herself in a room full of his other friends. Still, she’s happy to help him in whatever way he needs, and while she’s naturally too embarrassed to tell Souma directly, she shows a strong character moment in letting Megumi know that she’s always there for him. As is always the case for these moments, we aren’t let in on Souma’s final planning, but we see the flash of inspiration that seems to set him on a path he can be proud of for the big battle.
It’s a bit surprising that this buildup to the finals is only one episode; we begin the match at the end of it, complete with the ultimate panel of judges (including the introduction of a certain character’s very amusing mother) and the revelation of just how different Souma’s approach ended up being from the others. It seems in line with his introduction lacking the fancy title or uproarious applause of those two, instead receiving a few scoffs and his friends’ concern over being as out of the loop on his recent preparations as we are. It will be interesting to learn what he settled on, why it resulted in his fish looking like it does, how that will give him the edge he was looking for, and especially what will end up taking up five full episodes if this fast pace continues.
The main event is here far more quickly than most would’ve anticipated, leaving plenty of time for it to spread out, or maybe rush by just as much to deliver a few episodes of post-tournament affairs. It’s very much a setup episode, but the payoff will surely give it more value in retrospect.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Roku 3, Sceptre X425BV-FHD 42″ Class LCD HDTV.