The fight continues between the oppressive forces of Central and the brave Resistance. It’s getting towards crunch time though as both teams are being whittled down to just a few chefs.
Story: Yuto Tsukuda
Art: Shun Saeki
Contributor: Yuki Morisaki
Translation: Adrienne Beck
Production: James Gaubatz, Mara Coman (Touch up art and lettering), Alice Lewis (design), Jennifer LeBlanc (editor)
What They Say:
The fourth bout of the team shokugeki begins with Erina finally taking the stage. Her opponent? The queen of cute confections, Momo Akanegakubo! But what kind of dish will the former ice queen present to combat such cuteness? Meanwhile, Isshiki and Takumi take on the council’s top two members—Tsukasa and Rindo!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume is a study in contrasts. For the first battle, we have the in-universe proclaimed Queen of Cute, Momo, versus the Ice Queen Erina. I recognize the ways in which Momo is supposed to be cute: she’s small, she goes around with a stuffed toy (who is constantly annoyed at having his paws ripped off to serve as oven mitts), and all of her confections are acclaimed by all to be just the cutest things ever. Though with that much effort being put into her “cuteness,” it doesn’t really work for me. There is the bit about her teaming up with an authoritarian jerk who wishes to impose his very narrow vision of food upon the world. That’s not really cute at all.
In the battle over cuteness, complete with brief filling in of Akanegakubo’s backstory, that theme seems to be a red herring in the end, since it’s not cuteness that wins the battle, but instead two factors: one’s being bound or not bound to a narrow vision of the world and the difference between a selfish gourmet aesthetic that seeks only perfection from within versus a far grander view of things, a willingness to learn from others—and improve upon their ideas.
No guesses as to which side represents which. It is, in fact, the centerpiece of Erina’s victory over Momo. Erina does not win simply because she is the “God Tongue” and capable of understanding the perfection of flavor better than anyone else. Instead, Erina’s path to victory lay in going outside of her comfort zone, her own understand of perfection, to catch a glimpse of realms of flavor she was incapable of imagining before. We know who she owes that ability to; we also see, from the very name of the dish she creators, where her inspiration comes from these days. Hint: it’s not Daddy Dearest.
The other matches are not as laden with meaning as the opening pairing. That does not mean that the study of contrasts ended with the first bout. On one side, you have the dull perfection of Tsukasa; on the other, the much more daring perfection of Satoshi Isshiki. Here, the results turn out differently: Isshiki tries his best, refusing to bend from his own style of cooking and makes a very powerful dish, but Eishi Tsukasa is still the avatar of a perceived ideal that cannot be knocked aside through conventional means. Rindo is similarly too high a mountain to climb for Takumi Aldini…but that does not mean Takumi did not catch a glimpse of what awaits at the summit of Mt. Kobayashi. For all of her bravado and boisterous behavior, Rindo is covering up for something. Takumi, even if he could not defeat her, was able to notice what it was.
With the defeat of two more members of the Resistance, the teams are now pretty evenly matched. It will be up to Soma and Erina to face Tsukasa and Rindo. Instead of things being dragged out further, the “sponsors” of this even, Sanzaemon and Azami both take steps to bring things towards a conclusion. The final bout is coming up.
It is about time that the Team Shokugeki comes to an end. Now that things have been boiled down to the battles we’ve probably all been waiting for (Soma and Erina vs. the top two Seats), it’s time to stop dragging out the result. It was probably predictable that it would come down to this. While the other members of the Council are accomplished chefs in their own right, of course it would be the First and Second Seats who would last the longest—obvious since the Seats were originally determined by a series of cooking battles at the start of the school year when a new Council is selected by the Dean. On the other side, while the former Council members are clearly powerhouses, it was always going to be Soma and Erina. The one is the embodiment of everything that is not Central; the other represents that icy, flawless perfection…but also what happens when someone who is “perfect” hits the wall. The mental wall that then crashes down spectacularly on the perfectionist when they learn that there actually is something beyond their own ideals. In the real world, this can sometimes be a very hard thing for flawed human beings to come to grips with. In fiction, it is a make or break moment for a character. And we have seen what has happened to Erina.
If you had told me twenty-eight volumes ago that Erina Nakiri would be able to admit that there are things beyond her own understanding, I would have scoffed at you. It seemed too far-fetched from the very narrow way her persona was introduced. But over the course of this series, Tsukuda has done a very good job of very slowly peeling away her layers of perfection and laying bare what is underneath: someone who just wanted food to be fun, not the chore her Daddy Dearest made it for her.
The final confrontation awaits.
Another round of the Régiment de Cuisine passes, with victories and defeats on both side. Satoshi and Takumi are forced to bow out, though it seems that Rindo may have taken some psychic damage from these battles. Tsukasa remains boring, perfect Tsukasa…for now. Azami pulls a fast one on the contestants by switching two of the judges with himself and with another “Book” person—but one who is on his side. Soma, however, relishes the chance to make Azami fight on his turf: having to taste his cooking. Whose cuisine shall reign supreme? We’ll find out next installment.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Package Rating: B+
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Released By:Viz Media
Release Date: April 2nd, 2019