Tag Archives: food

Review: Dark Roast Houjicha

I’ve gotten really into drinking tea in the last few months, so I figured I could take advantage of this blog to review different types of Japanese tea. I was going to start with a classic green, but after watching the first episode of The Helpful Fox Senko-san, where Senko serves Houjicha to Kuroto, I realized I had to try this mysterious, roasted tea.

No thanks, Senko-san, I have brewing instructions from the vendor.

I ordered some Houjicha from Yunomi, a really cool online tea retailer that I recommend. In addition to sending me delicious tea, they also sent me a little “guide to green tea,” with brewing advice. I even got an email from the owner, thanking me for buying their tea. If you’d like to support a Japanese business that really appreciates its customers, try picking up some tea from Yunomi.

Some technical info: Houjicha is roasted over charcoal, so it has a different flavor from most other green tea, which is steamed. It’s made from late-harvest leaves (Bancha), which have less caffeine than leaves picked earlier in the growing season. This is part of the reason why Senko-san served houjicha to Kuroto after dinner; since it has less caffeine, it’s a good tea to drink in the evening. Some versions of houjicha are made with younger leaves, and thus are likely to contain more caffeine, but I didn’t try that kind; the kind I bought is a more standard houjicha, assuming “standard” is an appropriate term here.

An appealing package.

Tea: Dark Roast Houjicha from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. Roasted Yanagi Bancha

Aroma: The tea smells a bit like fish and seaweed, which I found off-putting at first. I think it’s just a general umami smell, which can smell like fish if you’re new to Japanese green tea. It also has a bit of a coffee smell, but that could just be the term “dark roast” playing tricks on my mind.

Flavor: It tastes like toasted rice. Imagine you toasted rice in a frying pan, and it has just started to caramelize; that’s the kind of toasted flavor this tea has. Originally I thought I wouldn’t like Houjicha that much because I really like the grassy, sweet flavor of a good Japanese green tea, and I thought the roasting would obscure the grassiness. That’s not really what happens though; instead, the roasted flavor and the grassy flavor play off of each other. As the roasted flavor recedes, you get the more typical sweet/astringent green tea taste, so the tea has a sweet aftertaste. It’s a lovely, refined flavor.

There is definitely a mild seaweed flavor, so keep that in mind if you hate seaweed with a passion. I think the roasted and grassy flavors overpower the seaweed, but if you hate the idea of your tea tasting like seaweed, this is likely not the tea for you. The amount of seaweed flavor may also be related to brewing temperature; I may be brewing at a higher temperature than the package directions call for.

Verdict: I’m really happy with this purchase. It’s always a relief when a tea I like has low caffeine so I don’t need to worry about upping my caffeine intake too high, plus this provides a nice alternative to my typical green without changing things up too much. Also, I can take the leaves and re-steep them in cold water for an even lower caffeine cold-brew, so I can really get my money’s worth out of it. I haven’t tried this tea cold-brewed yet, but usually teas that I find delicious hot only improve in cold water, due to the lower astringency.

I have some other teas from Yunomi that I have yet to try, so expect more tea reviews. I probably won’t get another perfect anime tie-in like I had for Senko-san, but we do the best we can in the otaku-blogging biz.

Welcome To Starbucks Westeros

In the latest episode of HBO’s popular medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones, a disposable coffee cup was visible on screen during a feast at Winterfell. Most viewers thought this was simply a production goof, however, those of us who have read the books and all of the other relevant literature and apocrypha know better. Fans have theorized for decades that Starbucks locations exist within Westeros, and with Season 8, Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks,” it’s safe to say that these rumors have been proven true.

Of course, a Starbucks in Westeros would not be the same as a Starbucks in say, Albany; there’s the local culture to consider. For that reason, as an enlightened scholar who has read all the books and other materials, including a discarded notebook that George R. R. Martin left on a bus one time, I’m going to share with you what Starbucks is like within A World of Ice and Fire. Before you leave a comment in disagreement, please keep in mind that this is now strictly canonical and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Beverage Rules:

–You must give your full name, including the name of your House, to the barista when you order. This is a nuisance, but on the plus side, if anyone misspells your name, you can have them drawn and quartered before dawn.

–If you give a Bastard surname like Sand, Snow, or Waters, in theory the whole menu is available, but you can only order decaf. Regular is not for the likes of you.

–The lowborn can only order plain drip coffee, no lattes or other specialty drinks; plus, the coffee tastes about 5x as burnt as Starbucks coffee normally does. Not recommended.

–If you answer the request for your name with “A man has no name,” your latte will be at least 90% cyanide.

–If you claim ancestry from the First Men, you may have dairy milk. If you claim ancestry from the Andals or the Rhoynar, you may have soy milk. Those who ask for almond milk are weak and will not survive the winter.

–If your noble birth qualifies you for milk in your coffee, but you don’t want it, you have several options: you can order your coffee black “as a Trueborn Baratheon’s locks,” black “as a Dragonglass Dagger,” or black as “The Dread.” You can also request coffee that is “dark and full of terrors,” but there’s an excellent chance that you will end up with a cup full of scorpions.

–Giant’s Milk Frappucinos only available at locations North of the Wall.

–Anyone who demands that their espresso shots be poured over the foam in their drink, specifically, will be ritually burnt at the stake. Not as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light, but just because they obviously deserve it.

–If you say “Dracarys!” while your drink is being prepared, that’s a cue to the barista that you want it Extra Hot. They won’t actually make it Extra Hot, because scorched dairy is gross and everyone should know that by now, but they’ll imitate dragon screeches out off the side of their mouth and pretend they’re doing it.

–You can try asking for your drink “Kissed by Fire” if you want it with cinnamon. However, that’s a stupid idea since this is a Starbucks, and everyone knows that the cinnamon is located at the Condiment Bar: put it in yourself.

Food Rules:

–All pastries and breakfast sandwiches are made with 100% Free-Range dragon eggs.

–Bagels are only served with cream cheese, not with butter. In addition, anyone who asks for jelly on a bagel will be flayed alive until they are the color of said jelly.

–If you order anything gluten-free, you must swear on the Light of the Seven that you actually have Celiac Disease and aren’t just a trendy-ass motherfucker.

–Anyone who orders quiche will be disembowled out back. No one knows why, this is simply how it’s always been done, and what’s good enough for our ancestors is good enough for us.

–Lemon cakes are available, but only for young girls who have been forced into political marriages with dwarves or sociopaths.

General-Purpose Rules:

–Eunuchs receive a 50% discount because really, they deserve something.

–Anyone who leaves garbage or crumbs at their table, regardless of birthright, will be castrated. On the plus side, see above.

–Once you claim a table in the cafe area, only you and your trueborn offspring may use that table. Illegitimate children can sit at your table, but they have to sit in that awkward, half-the-butt-hanging-off-the-chair position.

–Lighting other tables on fire to increase legroom is not just allowed, but encouraged.

–Starbucks Westoros is not legally responsible for what will happen if you attempt to ally with guests from other tables for any reason.

–You may get up and go to the bathroom at any time, however, once you return, the political situation will have changed so much that you won’t know where you’re sitting.

–If you sit down at your table with a laptop and begin working on a novel, you must finish the goddamned novel. If you open a browser or a video game instead, you will be forced to run naked behind a stallion until you die.

–Sex in the cafe area is allowed, but only as long as you narrate your entire life story during the act. Anyone making love silently will be asked to offer the appropriate amount of exposition or leave immediately.

–Gender-neutral bathrooms are available, but only in Dornish locations. On that note, popular “Orgy Thursdays” are only available in Dorne (and occasionally Highgarden, but only if you know who to ask.)

–Fire exits are only guaranteed to work for regular fire, not Dragon fire. Once the dragon shows up, it’s safe to say that no one’s getting out.

–Other than the aforementioned penalties and legalized executions,  violence, war and genocide are not permitted at Starbucks Westoros locations. Starbucks Essos, on the other hand….

Review: Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon Vol. 3

(This review originally posted on The Fandom Post.)

A sentient snack vending machine continues to do a better job romancing the ladies than you might think.

Creative Staff:
Story: Hirokuma
Art: Ituwa Kato

This volume focuses less on the mechanics of Boxxo’s existence as a vending machine, and more on developing the supporting cast. On the face of it, this is good; how many times do we need to find out that Boxxo added a new kind of corn soup to his products? Do we really need to know how many points Boxxo has accumulated at any given moment? Probably not.

However, I think this series is meant for a particular type of reader, and we’re the kind who enjoy this kind of minutia. I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys organizing (and re-organizing) long lists of items in RPGs, and that’s part of the reason why the extremely detail-heavy nature of the first two books appealed to me. Several times during this volume I found myself asking “How many points did Boxxo just spend to do that?”, something I’ve never had to wonder with this series before. One of the things that made the series initially compelling is the fact that Boxxo’s point total is effectively his life; if he runs out of points, he stops operating, essentially death for a vending machine. I think you need to really care about how many points Boxxo has left in order to be fully invested in the story, and that’s something that doesn’t work as well when the narrative starts glossing over the numbers.

Regardless of whether other readers get hung up on the lack of detail (maybe it’s just me being obsessive compulsive?), this volume does benefit from the greatest strength of this series: the fact that, as a vending machine, Boxxo’s solutions to problems are never what you would expect from a more typical hero. His use of different vending machine functions is a little less creative here than earlier, but it’s still interesting to see him utilize the benefits of practically every single kind of vending machine created by humanity. This time around, he even starts functioning as a jukebox, which seems like a bit of a stretch to me– that’s a different kind of machine, right?– but I’ll allow it.

This volume does continue the narrative of Boxxo’s party’s struggle against the mysterious dungeon bosses, but most of it is spent on downtime with the ladies in Boxxo’s life: particularly Lammis, the mighty but surprisingly timid adventurer who carries Boxxo on her back, and Shui, an archer with a bottomless pit for a stomach and a heart of gold. The focus on Shui was somewhat surprising (in fact, I barely remembered that she existed before this volume), but not unwelcome, and an eating contest is certainly tailored toward the strengths of this series. I’m hoping we’ll eventually get more background on Director Bear, the trustworthy public servant who happens to be a grizzly bear, but I guess I’ll have to wait for another volume for that. There are some fanservice scenes (which illustrator Ituwa Kato appears to have some fun with), but they’re pretty mild altogether.

My one big complaint about this volume (and this series in general) is the fact that the main character feels the need to remind the reader that he’s a vending machine waaaaaay too often. Dude, the premise of your series is unique, it’s not like any of us are going to forget anytime soon, you know?

In Summary:
A more character-driven installment that tones down on the “gamey-ness” of previous volumes, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you liked the focus on vending machine stats earlier on. It still reads like a breath of fresh air compared to more formulaic series. Also, don’t read this book when you’re hungry: just don’t. You’ll probably end up demolishing an all-you-can-eat buffet, but if you planned on doing that anyway? Full speed ahead.

Wrapping up the Summer 2018 Anime Season

I didn’t watch nearly as much summer anime as I planned to, so this post shouldn’t be 8 million words long (for once). The shows covered here are by no means the best or most significant of the season, they’re just the ones I happened to end up sticking with for the last three months. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to watch some of the more noteworthy shows that I missed (like Planet With and Revue Starlight) sometime between now and the heat death of the universe.

For the record, I did see some of Hanebado!Asobi Asobase, Chio’s School Road, and How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, but didn’t end up getting very far with them. Also, Steins; Gate 0 just wrapped while I was in the middle of writing this post, but I’ll deal with that show separately.

Note: Crunchyroll’s new video player makes taking screenshots an absolute chore, and it’s having an impact here. With the current player, whenever you pause you get a giant “play” icon over the screen, making the screen unusable. So you need to try to get a shot while the episode is playing, without being able to remove the subs. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this, because trying to take multiple screenshots from different shows feels like stabbing myself in the face with a spoon, so for the time being, enjoy the one screen I successfully took from Phantom in the Twilight above. Maybe it’s time I started replacing screenshots with terrible MS Paint art anyway? It could be my new aesthetic.

Free! Dive to the Future

This was a really frustrating season. About two-thirds of it was taken up with an arc I didn’t really care for, and when we finally got to the good stuff towards the end, it wasn’t quite enough. I appreciate what KyoAni tried to do here by opening up the world of Free! so much; seeing the boys out in the world, attending different colleges (even on different continents), made it feel like the world of competitive swimming was much, much bigger and more colorful than the little town of Iwatobi. It was an ambitious effort.

However, as a result of making the scale so big, the cast became extremely large. And because it’s Free!, almost everyone is a blue or pastel-haired pretty boy with perfect abs, so it became hard to tell some of the characters apart. Maybe if I’d watched all the seasons back to back I’d know who all these different swimmers were, but to be honest, I started tuning out some of the supporting characters after a while: I didn’t remember where I was supposed to know them from, and nothing they did seemed important to the plot anyway.

Ikuya’s arc, however, proved to be a much bigger problem than the overstuffed cast. Ikuya is a character who has a bone to pick with Haru because he always felt like Haru abandoned him, a similar plot line to the first season of Free!, which dealt with similar feelings between Haru and Rin. This would be okay if not for the fact that a)Ikuya is a much less interesting character than Rin b)Ikuya does not have shark teeth like Rin and c)how many of these close childhood friends/swimming groupies does Haru have in his closet, anyway? It seems like everyone who so much as steps into the shallow end with Haru becomes obsessed with him for life.

When the show finally pushes Ikuya to the side and focuses on the characters we’ve known and cared about from the beginning– particularly Haru, but Makoto and Rei as well– it’s a much better use of everyone’s time. Haru has a fundamental problem where he enjoys swimming for it’s own sake, and doesn’t really want to be competitive, but he’s been so far above everyone (in terms of raw talent) for so long that he’s been able to get away with it. Now, at the college level, he’s encountering swimmers who can beat the pants off of him, and he has to decide if truly being competitive is something he wants for himself.

Unfortunately, since most of the season was taken up with Ikuya’s arc, we only get partial development on this; Haru seems to have decided that he is willing to play to win, but he’s not willing to sacrifice anything (or anyone) he cares about for the sake of winning either. Maybe this will be enough, but it seems to me like he’s just kicked the can down the road a little bit. Eventually, he’s going to have to accept the fact that winning will hurt people, and some of those people will likely be his closest friends. If Haru did win that last 100 meter freestyle heat at the very end (and thanks for ending in the middle of a race, show), how do you think Rin felt?

I guess it’s a pretty strong statement about how much I care about the original characters that I’m looking forward to Free! coming back in 2020, even though most of this season was yawn-worthy. I just hope the next season (or movie; it’s not clear what we’re getting in 2020 yet) focuses on the core characters and doesn’t try to chronicle the lives of 50 different lookalike pretty boys who like to swim.

Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits

This two-cour show was just quietly competent and pleasant all throughout, without ever stepping up a level and becoming something truly fantastic. There was a tease that we were going to get some kind of twist toward the end that would paint everything in a different light, but in the end, there wasn’t so much a twist as there was an admission that the thing you’d sort of guessed happened all along, did in fact happen. It’s a bit of a let down.

There are some interesting implications here. One of the things that was refreshing about this series is that even though Aoi is “engaged” to the Ogre Lord, it’s pretty clear he has no wish to force her into anything she’s not comfortable with, and the ball is in her court as far as their relationship progression is concerned. However, if the Ogre Lord had interactions with her during her youth, he begins to look less benevolent; maybe there was an element of wife-husbandry, or trying to magically raise Aoi to be his perfect bride from childhood. But honestly, the whole thing is so nebulous and vague it’s hard to say. All we know is that one time when little Aoi was starving because her mother abandoned her, the Ogre Lord (her future fiancé) and Ginji (her future best friend) appeared to her in spirit form and fed her. It’s not a lot to go on.

The more I think about it, the more I’m not sure how to feel about this series. It felt like it was always on the cusp of getting quite interesting and never really went there, but it was just such a happy, appetizing addition to my watch list for the past 25 weeks, clearly something went very right. It had the distinction of being a closet food show that included food porn without being overwhelmed by it, and took place in an interesting world that could certainly be explored further. I’d like to see more of this, but if we do get more, I hope we get more development on the main characters’ relationships and a little bit less focus on random spirit-of-the-week outings.

Phantom in the Twilight

This was a mess, but it was kind of fun in it’s own way. Pre-season, I thought this was going to be one of those episodic occult shows, where the cafe would serve as a hub where different supernatural creatures would come to hang out. Then, episodes would focus on these different beings at the expense of the show ever developing much of a plot. Well, I was totally wrong about that, because this show was very plot-driven; unfortunately, the plot just wasn’t interesting.

To best explain what was wrong with this show, rather than going through the plot in any great detail, I’d rather point out one detail of the world here. In Phantom, supernatural creatures (known as Umbra) are created by the human imagination. So the reason why there’s a vampire character named Vlad is because of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the reason why there are lycanthropes running around with wolf-ears is because people have always told stories about wolf-men, and so on. That’s interesting, right? Not original, to be sure, but a more interesting take not the supernatural than “supernatural stuff exists because, uh…I dunno, it just kind of does?”

And yet, this fact has virtually no effect on the story. Vlad could just be a random vampire, with no reference to Bram Stoker,  and everything would play out exactly the same. (Plus, I’ve read Dracula and Vlad is nothing whatsoever like the title character, which doesn’t help.)The power of human imagination to create monsters ended up being thoroughly irrelevant to the story. It was like the show put a bunch of different ideas together, some of them good, without ever really thinking about how they would interact with each other.

All that could perhaps be forgiven if the action was really cool, but it was generally talky and slow. Plus, main girl Baileu Ton is supposed to be a mage, yet she seems to do more physical stuff than the werewolves do, and I’m still not sure I understand anything about how her powers were supposed to work.

Look, it was a show that took place largely in a coffee shop and had a vampire named Vlad that loves serving tea, it had a sense of humor about itself, and so on; it wasn’t without redeeming value. It just didn’t really come together into something that I could get invested in.

Isekai Izakaya

At first, I wrote this show off as an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World, and it never did anything to disabuse me of that notion. That said, it grew on me a lot over the course of it’s run. The episodic plots were surprisingly compelling, especially towards the end, and it provided a nice hit of food porn in this sad lull between seasons of Food Wars! 

My favorite part was the live-action segments at the end, although they tended to remind me of the fact that Crunchyroll still hasn’t uploaded S3 of Wakakozake, my favorite live-action Japanese food porn show, and that is not okay. CR, what’s taking so long? You’re on thin ice with me: either upload more of my darling Wakako or I’ll do something drastic, like episodic blog posts on High Guardian Spice, and I’m pretty sure neither of us want that. Do the smart thing here.

Encouragement of Climb

Trying to write about Encouragement of Climb is a lot like trying to write about Hidamari Sketch; you want to write about why it’s so relaxing and charming, but then you just start thinking of butterflies wafting through the air on a gorgeous spring day, or drinking hot chocolate in front of an iced-up window on a cold night, and you get so relaxed that typing words just seems like way too much work.

To the show’s credit, they did add some drama without trying too hard and overselling it. The girls experience realistic growing pains in their friendships, but the show never gets depressing or melodramatic about it. Sometimes you want to slap the girls to get them to see sense, but to be fair, that is a very common reaction to real-life teenagers, and Encouragement should not be blamed for it.

This season was so encouraging, I almost called my Boy Scout leader Dad and asked if I could come along on a hike, so I could have that experience of drinking fresh-brewed coffee over the embers of a dying campfire in the crisp autumn air. Almost. One more season of this show and I’ll probably give up on this blog to go backpacking in Vermont for the rest of my life, so I’ll try to get in as much otaku stuff here as possible before the inevitable Encouragement of Climb Season 4.

 

Finishing up the Spring 2018 Anime Season

Here are some closing thoughts on shows I didn’t blog, but still watched this season.

Comic Girls— I lost interest in blogging this episodically about halfway through the season, but still kept up with it. It was a perfectly nice slice-of-life show about girls who draw manga, except I wanted something a little more serious– like Bakuman, only with girls– and that was not this show. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that a show turned out to be different from what you wanted, as long as you realize that the creative team had no responsibility to deliver specifically what you wanted. There was never any indication that the show was going to be anything other than what it was, so really, the fault is with me for looking for something that was never meant to be there.

Still, even if the show wasn’t quite what I was looking for, it did have its moments. Kaos’ struggle with finding her voice through manga was a very relatable depiction of artistic insecurity, and as a result, her eventual success feels more hard-won than it usually does in these learning-your-craft tales. Her self-deprecation and frequent crises of confidence may have seemed over-the-top, but that’s what made it work; she basically acted out every insecure thought that many artists have, but usually force themselves to hide. People who say “I suck” over and over again in real life tend to be annoying, but it works when you’re an adorable anime character with pink braids running down your back, I guess.

This is another one of those shows with yuri moments all over the place, but nobody ever actually uses the word “lesbian,” or any other terminology that would make it explicit. I wonder; do people not count shows like this as increasing LGBT representation because they don’t label it that way? Are they right to feel that way? Nevertheless, I can’t imagine anyone even trying to deny that Kaos is a lesbian; the evidence is overwhelming. Maybe there’s one person out there somewhere who thinks that Kaos isn’t gay, but that person probably also thinks that Attack on Titan is really about bowling.

Uma Musume— This show is unusual in that it ended up being good in a completely different way than I anticipated. At the beginning of the season, I thought that if Uma Musume was going to be watchable to anyone but people with a highly specific horsie-girl fetish, it would need to embrace it’s own audacity: Go big or go home, make it as nuts as possible. Like Keijo!!!!!!!!, I guess.

Instead, they went the other route and made a show that was entirely about female athletes, with the gimmicky elements substantially toned down. Not only was the idol singer aspect minimized after the first episode or two, even the “girls based on famous horses” shtick wasn’t that important; you could take the racehorse connections out of this show, make it entirely about female track runners, and it would remain pretty similar. The horse aesthetics add charm and flair and whatnot, but end up being pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Above all, they managed to make the race sequences exciting, which I wasn’t expecting. Main girl Special Week lost often enough that victory never felt pre-ordained, and the show managed to drag out the races a little bit for drama without slowing them down too much, not an easy balance to achieve.

All in all, a really pleasant surprise this season. I seem to be in good company with this opinion, because despite the jeers before it started airing, I don’t think I’ve heard a bad word about it since it started.

Kakuriyo, Bed and Breakfast for Spirits— This is continuing for another cour, but I wanted to mention it here since I don’t think I’ve talked about it since the Spring Season Preview. Anime seems to have a monopoly on this kind of show: a story that focuses on sometimes-creepy occult creatures, yet with tons of class, warmth and playfulness. If any non-Japanese creators have ever done a show with the feel of this (or Kamisama Kiss, or The Morose Monokenean), I’ve never come across it.

Ai is a great heroine, because she’s a strong character who displays that strength in ways other than kicking ass. I hate this idea that for a character to be “strong,” they have to be a badass ninja who can beat up all of their enemies or something. Ai mainly influences her world through cooking, but she does it in a very assertive, decisive way.

She also doesn’t fall into the typical anime trap of compromising her own safety just to make a stupid point. She refuses to marry the Ogre Inn Master, instead opting to work off her family’s unpaid debt as a cook. However, characters frequently call her “the Ogre Bride” or “The Ogre Master’s Intended,” and she never corrects them, because for a fragile human in the spirit world, having that perceived status is helpful. Either that, or she doesn’t bother correcting them because she really doesn’t give a toss what anyone else thinks.

I don’t know if this really needed to be two cours; my gut feeling is that I’m going to find it dragged out by the time it stops airing in the fall. But maybe the second cour will introduce some twists that keep things lively.

Isekai IzakayaWhen it started, I thought this show was just an inferior version of Restaurant to Another World, and it never did anything to disabuse me of that notion. It’s a serviceable food anime, if you like watching anime characters cook and eat things that look delicious, but that’s really all it has going for it. While Restaurant had this delightful air of magic and mystery, we never get to learn much about the world of Isekai Isekaya; it seems to be a vaguely medieval setting with little character.

That said, this show is pretty much critic-proof. If you like food anime, like I do, then you tend to watch everything, because there isn’t all that much of it; if you don’t like food anime, this would never be on your radar in the first place. The live action bits at the end were intriguing, but sometimes it felt like I was sitting through a boring episode to get to the interesting 3 minutes at the end, which is a shame.

Yotsuiro Biyori— This show gave me exactly what I asked for, nothing more and nothing less: a relaxing, slice-of-life show taking place in a cafe, focusing on four handsome dudes, with a healthy side of food porn. There is a larger plot involving main guy Sui and his cold-as-ice, businessman brother, but honestly, very little happens with that and it doesn’t even matter. This show isn’t quite Yuru Camp levels of comforting, but it’s kind of along that same continuum. As the season progressed, I found myself looking forward to this one more and more every week.

I’m afraid this show will likely be forgotten in the future, but I think it should be added to the list of shows that are great to watch when you really need to chill out: Yuru Camp, Non Non Biyori, Three Leaves, Three Colors, etc.  I don’t feel like there’s any real need for a second season, but if they make one, I will watch it.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 24

I was wondering how they could possibly wrap up this arc with one episode remaining, and it turns out that the show had no intention of doing that. We’re ending the season practically at the North Pole, in the middle of the Team Shokugeki, with everyone’s enrollment status in flux. I expected to be pissed off by this, but actually, I think it works for Food Wars! in a way it doesn’t for other shows. Even when the characters are left stranded on the edge of a cliff, we know the bottom of the cliff is filled with bouncy pastries and panna cotta, so no one’s ever really in that much danger.

If they were cooking outside like this, Soma would definitely win, since Nene looks like she weighs about 80 lbs. She’d freeze to death in two minutes, and Soma would be the Last Chef Standing. Metaphorically, that is kind of what happens though…..

In the months (years?) that this show is going to be off the air, it’s not like I’m going to be haunted by thoughts of “but who’s going to win that Team Shokugeki?”, so let’s not pretend it’s a bigger deal than it is. I would have liked a more conclusive ending, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

Today’s Food Porn #1: Nene’s traditional Edo-style soba, with accompanying Kakiage Tempura. I didn’t know what Kakiage Tempura was until now, but now that I know, I can’t stop thinking about it; it’s chopped up veggies and seafood deep-fried together. Nom.

Anyway, Battle Soba concludes, and I have to call shenanigans here. Apparently Nene, the soba thoroughbred who has been instructed in the ways of Japanese soba practically since she was in the womb, did not foresee that the cold and drafty arena was going to affect the aroma of her dish. I get the basic point– that Nene, for all her excellence, is too rigid and set in her ways to change what she’s doing in response to her environment– but it still seems a little false to me. I don’t see how you could possibly be an expert in soba on the level she’s supposed to be and not be aware of how temperature affects smell, and accordingly, taste.

Perhaps now is a good time to admit that I’ve never seen The Girl Who Leapt Through Time? I’m aware that this is a character flaw that I must address, the sooner the better.

I also question whether the WGO judges would be so accepting of Soma’s dish when he comes right out and tells them that he was inspired by instant noodles; aren’t they too snobby for that? Then again, taking “lowbrow” food and repurposing it as fine cuisine has been a trend for a while now, so I guess it makes sense in today’s culinary climate. Ironically, Soma’s “aww shucks man, I’m just a humble diner chef!” style is now working in his favor at the highest echelons of the food world, when it had worked against him at lower levels. I guess sometimes the snobbiest thing of all is proving that you don’t have to be snobby, and that’s where the WGO is.

Today’s Food Porn #2: Soma’s Yukihira-style Yakisoba, with added duck. I think duck fat is kind of a win button in gourmet cuisine, it seems like no one with a trained palette can resist anything cooked in duck fat. Try watching one of those cooking documentaries on Netflix and see if they can go ten minutes without mentioning duck fat, you’ll be surprised.

Meanwhile, the third cooking battle commences…entirely offscreen. Without seeing any of the cooking, or the tasting. Or even any mention of the topic. This is downright ridiculous: I get that the third battle was de-emphasized compared to Isshiki and Soma’s matches, but couldn’t we at least have found out what dishes they prepared? It could have been chicken pot pie, for all we know, and I would have liked to see a gourmet take on chicken pot pie!

This is wrong. Not because it’s potentially disturbing imagery that brings to mind violence against women (which it is), but MOSTLY because we don’t even know what kind of cooking was going on. WTF????

After a 3-0 shut out in favor of the rebels, even the Elite 10 members are getting a bit concerned about their chances of winning the overall competition. Tsukasa, no. 1 on the Elite 10, is naturally perfectly confident that they’re still going to win, and I don’t even care about him enough to be annoyed by his smug sense of superiority. The show is heavily hinting at a final battle between Tsukasa and Soma, but honestly, I think I’d enjoy it a lot more if Erina was the one to take him down. You can’t make your whole brand centered around pushing incredibly subtle and refined cooking, then expect to win against the God Tongue. I’d much rather see Soma square off against Rindou, which will rapidly become a mirror match.

Well, probably; it’s the end of the season and I still have no idea what Rindou cooks. I’m pretty sure it involves knives.

I can’t resist a screen of Rindou being adorable, even though she had virtually nothing to do in this episode. Oh no, end-of-the-season means no Rindou for a while…that does kind of bother me.

Director Azami puts on a good front, but secretly he’s sweating now that he knows his team’s victory is in danger. Good, but I still think this whole thing could be resolved if Saiba just walked over to him and gave him a hug or something.

Alice explains chemistry to us unworthy pigs one more time. This is one of those little aspects of the show that I’m going to miss. I want other anime to add little segments where Alice Explains it All; hell, if Attack on Titan adds that, I’d even pick that show up again.

The ending montage features the imagery of the little tiny Soma-chickens attacking Erina, which I love; it’s probably a coincidence, but I’m going to choose to believe that people at JC Staff read my blog and put that in there, just as a little gift for me. I love you too, JC Staff; you know my harshly-worded letters are sent from a place of love, right?

Despite the somewhat abrupt ending, I had an awful lot of fun with this season of Food Wars! and I hope it doesn’t take too long to come back on the air. I don’t know if the manga has enough material left for another double-cour adaptation, but I’d be happy to get a short season sooner rather than later. In fact, the sooner the better, because I’d like to realize my life goal of blogging Food Wars! while pregnant, and I’m not getting any younger over here. C’mon, JC Staff! Take a season off to do Back Street Girls or whatever other nonsense you need to get out of your system, and announce the next season ASAP. My biological clock compels you.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 23

To be frank, I was a bit disappointed in this one. After the reveal that Issiki has God-tier chef skills, I wanted to see him cook with magical powers: slice an onion instantaneously, juggle shrimp while devaning them, boil water with telekinesis, that sort of thing. The fact that he just sort of cooks efficiently and blends flavors well is a bit of a let-down, but I guess there’s always dojinshi.

Nevertheless, the kids find it hard to believe that the goofy dude who was always running around naked save for an apron is such a skilled chef, which intrigues Alice. As a non-Polar Star resident, the fact that the former Seventh Seat hates wearing clothes is new to her. I like this little reminder that the rebels aren’t just Polar Star people; it’s a mixed alliance.

“At your place, the male seniors run around naked? Is it too late in the semester to move into your dorm after I get myself un-expelled?”

In an example of art improving upon life, this episode introduces the World Gourmet Association, this word’s equivalent to the Michelin Guide. I wish the WGO existed in real life, because even though I understand why it evolved that way, it’s still weird that the preeminent ranking system for fine restaurants is managed by a subsidiary of a tire company. It’s not often that I look at real life and say “Hmm, the Food Wars! version of this makes much more sense,” but there’s a first time for everything.

The judges are named Anne, Charme, and Histoire; I don’t know what to make of that. Histoire happens to be a black guy, so you can reset the “It has been X days since we’ve seen a black person in anime” clock.

Tires? What tires?

The match between Isshiki and Jurio is centered on eel, and I, uh…I have a really bad association with eel. Have you ever heard of The Tin Drum, by Günter Grass? Never read that book with an upset stomach; don’t read German literature in general with an upset stomach, come to think of it, but that one in particular. In any case, this is one time I’m not tempted by the dishes on display at all.

Jurio makes a fairly boring looking eel dish, which is only made interesting by the over-the-top reaction shots it provokes; I thought they had been pretty tame with the lewd foodgasms lately, but apparently they were just saving all the lewdness for this one episode.

I like these better when they’re naughty in a surreal way (like with tiny chick-Somas attacking Erina), rather than outright porny looking. That could just be me though.

Isshiki counters by making a dish that includes ingredients created by his juniors at Polar Star and I’m…somewhat underwhelmed. I get that it shows great cooking genius that he took these relatively unrefined ingredients and was able to blend them into one cohesive dish, but why was he out to prove Polar Star’s reputation in the first place? Did he anticipate that someone was going to insult the honor of his dorm, thus he prepared for that far in advance? Until further notice, I’m going to have to assume that in  addition to his near-supernatural cooking skills, Isshiki can also see the future because he is a witch. He must run around naked all the time because he communes with his forest gods through his skin or something.

Today’s Food Porn: Hitsumabushi, Polar Star Style. Eel and cheese? That sounds really unappetizing; this dish is only getting the “food porn” designation on a technicality.

Oh, and after Jurio gets eliminated, Rindou promises to take over for him. Oh, Food Wars! Do you really think I’m going to believe that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing Rindou cook before the end of the season? Don’t make me laugh, no one’s buying it.

Picture of Rindou, for no reason at all. RINDOU~~~~~~~~~

So Isshiki wins, which upsets Nene, since she has a beef with Ishiki going back to childhood. I feel for her here; it’s not easy to be a normally-talented person who’s always in close proximity to a total genius. However, she’s a total snob, so my sympathy only extends so far.

Enjoy little Nene’s look of wonder before she decided to adopt a permanent Resting Bitch Face for the rest of her life.

Soma then reveals the next step of his evil soba plan, which is to stir fry the noodles in a giant wok. Apparently this is a horrible idea, since frying burns the shit out of the noodles and destroys the subtle nuances of flavor that the judges will be looking for. I think Soma has decided that there’s no way he’s going to compete with Nene on the noodles themselves (which is logical), so he’s basically throwing that aspect while he makes the rest of the dish as delicious as humanly possible. I can’t see WGO-type judges going for this though; even if his dish does taste better overall, you can’t de-emphasize the soba noodles in a soba challenge and expect to win. I’m hoping that whatever workaround they come up with to have Soma pull this out isn’t too unbelievable.

Oh my, is the next episode the season finale already? It seems like they have an awful lot to wrap up in one episode, but maybe something unexpected will happen that will call the competition to a sudden halt. Like, maybe Azami will realize in the middle of the Shokugeki that his ideals make no sense, and all he ever wanted was for Saiba-sempai to tell him that his dumplings were tasty or something.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episodes 21 & 22

Things are coming to a boiling point on Food Wars! Oh my God, did I just say that? I really just said that. In theory I could go back and delete that sentence and try to open this post another way, but it’s too late now, the die has been cast.

Anyway, flashback time! Episode 21 gives us the background on Saiba (Soma’s Dad) and Azami (Erina’s Dad) that we’ve been craving for a while, but it manages to raise as many questions as it answers, if not more. Long story short, Saiba was the most brilliant chef of his generation, hero-worshipped by his classmates, but the constant pressure to perform eventually got to him and he cracked. Azami’s crazy, Stalin-style plans for food-world domination seem to be based on the idea that he’s never going to let another chef go through what his idol Joichirou Saiba went through…somehow. I guess if a talented chef tried to walk away from Totsuki under Azami’s reign, he’d have them dragged before a firing squad, and that’s his solution to the problem? It’s not entirely clear.

One thing this episode did clarify was how the Elite 10 works. I’ve thought for a while that the rankings weren’t strictly representative of talent; if they were, Erina should be ranked higher than the tenth seat, right? Turns out things like class participation matter, which is why Saiba was never No. 1 of the Elite Ten despite being the undisputed best chef in school. Being Rindou-centric, I wonder how this applies to Rindou, who is No. 2 on the Elite 10, just like Saiba was; there seems to be a parallel between those two because she’s probably his daughter  for some reason. I wonder if Rindou could be No. 1 if she wanted to, but never shows up to class; that sounds like her.

We still don’t learn anything about Soma’s mom; best guess is that Saiba started working at a diner called Yukihira, named after the owner, and married the boss’s daughter, but that’s speculative. We don’t even know for a fact that Soma is his biological son; he could have married a woman who already had a child. Granted, given the resemblance and all, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think that these two are related; I’m just saying, the background is so vague that nothing is certain.

My best guess, which will probably be laughed at by people who have read the manga and know all the answers already (meanies), is that both Soma and Rindou are Saiba’s children, with a woman named Yukihira. When they were still very young, Ms. Yukihira left, taking her daughter with her, and leaving Soma with his Dad. Later on, Ms. Yukihira married a man named Kobayashi, explaining Rindou’s surname. Meanwhile, Rindou knows that Soma is her little brother (hence her special treatment of him), but Soma doesn’t know because Saiba finds the whole subject painful and refuses to talk about it.

There. My theory is probably completely wrong, but it felt good getting it out there.

This episode also gives us another glimpse into why Soma is special as a chef; it’s not talent, because he isn’t far and away better than his contemporaries the way his father was. It’s the fact that he always runs head-first towards a challenge, and enjoys living like that. It’s not just that he tries hard (which he does anyway), but that he seems to have been born with this rock-solid sense of self that cannot be shaken by anything, even repeated failure. “Keep trying, don’t give up,” may be a trite message, but I think they’ve found a novel way of expressing it with Soma; it’s more about how he views the challenge than the fact that he keeps trying.

“We’re stuck in a cage with Nikumi’s boobs and Alice’s ego? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE????”

Episode 22 gives us an update on the expelled Totsuki students, with Alice, bless her, taking everything in stride. I’m glad the show acknowledged the fact that as a Nakiri family member, Alice couldn’t just be tossed aside by Central the way Azami wants; it seemed pointless to introduce her Dad in a position of power, and then have him stand by idly while his daughter was disrespected. So the kids have not been sent crying back to Totsuki, because Alice has too much pull for that, so they’re around to watch the Team Shokugeki. Central retaliates by placing the rebel students in an actual cage while they watch the match, and wow, way to be petty, Central.

We see the current line up of the Elite 10 for the first time, and RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! I repeat, RINDOU IS DRESSED FOR COOKING! Now I don’t honestly believe that we’re going to see her cook anything before the end of the season, but hey, it’s a nice gesture at least.

Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance (heh) has gathered some other student chefs who haven’t been expelled: Kuga the Chinese Food specialist (which should have been obvious if I thought about it), Isshiki the Naked Apron Senpai (former 7th Seat in the Elite 10), Copy Chef Subaru (the guy who disrespected Takumi’s Mezza Luna, but that’s okay because he’s on our side now), and…this guy.

Megushima Toskue. Does anyone remember this guy at all? Because they introduce him like we’re supposed to recognize him, but I swear I have no memory of him being on this show before.

Despite the fact that everyone in the arena is rooting for Central, including the host, we’re led to believe that this is going to be a fair contest, because the Elite 10 have their pride and feel like they shouldn’t need to cheat to crush the rebels. When Nene (6th Seat) gets assigned her specialty, Soba, she’s actually embarrassed that she got such a lucky break, which is cute. I’m wondering how Soma’s going to pull out a win with this one, because he knows damn well that he can’t outcook Nene with traditional soba. They are presenting his diner experience as some kind of superpower (“only SOMA truly knows how to cook for the unwashed masses!”), but I don’t see how that’s going to help him here. We shall see.

More interesting is Isshiki-sempai, who’s being a goofball and having a good time like always. That is, until his opponent has the gall to insult the residents of Isshiki’s beloved Polar Star Dormitory, and Isshiki is just not fucking having it. Apparently he’s been hiding his God-like cooking skills from all and sundry, and now that he’s defending the honor of his dorm, he’s going to show us what he can really do for the first time…including using a knife like Himura Kenshin. I’m intrigued and– not gonna lie– a little aroused.

Cooking Battousai is not amused by your remarks.

Mimisaka is facing off against someone we don’t know, unless this person has also appeared on the show before and I just forgot; Food Wars! has too many characters and I can’t keep track. Remember when it was just Soma, his dad, that chick who lived next door, and that was it? Those were the days…except we didn’t have Sexy Naked Apron Ninja Chef Isshiki back then, so I think we’re doing better now. I’m pretty happy now.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 20

After last week’s barnstormer of an episode, this one was a much more quiet affair, focusing on the kids developing the teamwork they need to win a Team Shokugeki. After a whole show full of arrogant young cooks insisting that their food is the best, it was kind of nice to see the kids pointing at each other and saying “You made the best dish,” “No, YOU did!” and really meaning it. That’s probably too much growth for them to demonstrate just based on one mock battle, but what can I say; Erina’s Grandpa is just that good.

They look so good together…but wait, I want Soma and Megumi together, right? I need to close my eyes and think of Megumi.

Something’s been bugging me about the dish of the week though. Apparently, the three main components of Hachis Parmentier are spiced ground meat, creamy mashed potatoes, and baked cheese. Um…how do you go wrong with that exactly? You’d almost have to be trying to screw that up. Soma even throws sardines in it, for some reason, and still doesn’t manage to ruin it.

This Week’s Food Porn: A giant ball of meat, mashed potatoes, and cheese. Because it takes several great chefs to make that taste good, right?

This Week’s Food Porn Part II: Team Saiba’s version of the same dish, which was so far afield of the original, they should have probably been disqualified. Lucky for Soma, I don’t make the rules.

There’s also a good bit here about Erina learning to improvise for the first time, which is pretty amazing if you think about it. She’s devoted her entire life to cooking, yet because of her rigid upbringing, she’s never just experimented in the kitchen; everything she has ever made has been either from a recipe, or so premeditated that it may as well have been. It’s like there are no limits to the sadness that is Erina’s life.

After the Mock Battle which was really more of a Mock Cookout of Respect and Friendship, the rebels and Azami’s faction meet for a Shokugei Rules Powow. Everybody can use as many team members as they want, but it seems like they can only choose from enrolled Totsuki members, so the rebels don’t have the option of getting help from their expelled friends. I think Gin and Soma’s Dad are also competing in this battle, which seems odd, but I’ll wait to see how that plays out.

Azami tries to claim that Erina has to compete on his side since, as one of the Elite 10, she is technically part of Central. To be fair to Azami, I don’t think he actually expected her to give into that, because he doesn’t seem remotely surprised when she tells him to go shove it. Erina gives up her rank so she has no ties to the Elite 10 or Central, which would be a powerful gesture…if she weren’t already internationally known as the God Tongue. They actually need her more than she needs them, but it is a strong moment for her asserting her independence against her domineering Dad, and I don’t want to nitpick too much.

The Food Goddess That Shouted “I” At The Top of Hokkaido

Then Erina agrees to do whatever her Dad tells her for the rest of her life if her team loses, and uh, what? I feel like someone should have stepped in there and said “Waitaminute Erina, think about this, you don’t have to promise him that!” then again Saiba has already agreed to basically become Azami’s love slave if he loses, so I guess we’re just at the level of ridiculous stakes now. I’m wondering if Saiba’s gambit is to lose, but in the process of the match, warm Azami’s frozen heart so much that he becomes a good person and doesn’t enact these ridiculous punishments. I mean, that would be lame as hell, but maybe more sensible than Saiba being just that sure that he’ll win.

I know I’m back on the Rindou-obsession train, but most of the interesting stuff in this episode had to do with her. Not only does she do a great job of dressing down Eizan while pretending to defend him, but she specifically says goodbye to Soma at the Rules Powow, and no one else. I wasn’t really serious that time I said she could be Soma’s sister, but now I’m beginning to wonder…that red hair/yellow eyes combination isn’t common, even in AnimeLand. Do we know anything about Soma’s Mom? I honestly don’t remember if we ever learned about her during the previous seasons.

Okay, so this episode may have killed the momentum a little bit, but I’m still looking forward to the Team Shokugeki. I have a sneaking suspicion that next episode is going to be filler, but hopefully I’ll be wrong, and they’ll be starting the competition before the opening credits. And maybe Rindou will cook something, and then I can have a pony.

Food Wars! The Third Plate, Episode 19

Another Open Letter to J.C. Staff:

YOU  MONSTERS.

YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

Love,

Karen


Now that JC Staff has betrayed me yet again, they are forever dead to me and I hope they’re reduced to making sequels to Taboo Tattoo for the rest of their miserable existence, this was a pretty darn stellar episode. Finally, the anti-Azami plans that have been in the works for some time come to light, beloved characters return, and there’s  one hell of a cooking battle on the horizon. I don’t know how this show did it, since I’ve been complaining all along that Azami’s evil plans are actually pretty stupid, almost to the point of being immersion-breaking, yet somehow, the political drama remains fun and exciting. Backdoor plotting with Erina Grandpa! Rindou the true neutral! Megumi on the warpath! Yukihira diner is ON THE LINE! Man, what an episode.

THANK GOD.

Okay, before we get into the plot here, I have a question: For those of you keeping up with the manga, do they ever reveal what Rindou’s specialty is? I get that it’s become an ongoing joke at this point that we never get to see her cook, and I think I’ve written enough strongly-worded letters on the subject, but I’m still really curious. I don’t want anyone to spoil me on what her specialty is, just if she’s ever been given one.

From this moment on, I will stop being so obsessed with Rindou on this blog. I will not cease worshipping her as a God, but I’ll do that on my own time.

Okay, so either because she’s secretly on the good guys’ side, or because she just lives for any excuse to throw a monkey wrench in people’s best-laid plans, Rindou gives Megumi and Takumi an easy pass to the next round. We’re left with four unexpelled rebel freshman: Soma, Erina, Megumi, and Takumi. The first three are kind of a given, but I find Takumi’s inclusion interesting; it could have been anyone in that fourth spot, and I’m wondering what Takumi brings to the table (quite literally) that places him here instead of someone like Alice or Ryo.

Soma, with his typical “The enemy gate is DOWN” approach to problem solving, decides that their only recourse is to fight for seats in the Elite 10, because once they have a majority on the school’s obscenely powerful student body, they’ll be able to rescind everyone’s expulsions. One thing I only noticed upon rewatch is that Soma’s math is wrong; even if Soma, Megumi and Takumi all win spots on the Elite 10, they’ll still only have a coalition of four (including Erina). That’s not enough for a majority. Soma seems to think they’re going to get a fifth competitor from somewhere, but how are they going to do that if everyone else is expelled? It’s possible I’m missing some aspect of the plan here, and it’ll be better explained later.

Erina has a better idea, or what would be a better idea if her father wasn’t such an unmitigated jerk. She tearfully asks Azami to reverse the expulsions, hoping that his feelings for her as his daughter will force him to listen to reason. Of course, since Azami is incapable of feeling human emotion, this gets her nowhere. It’s a pretty big deal for Erina to swallow her pride and outright ask her father for anything, but considering how fast Erina has been changing this season, it feels like a natural progression.

Soma, who is still stuck on “Whatever strategy is left to you, no matter how unrealistic, must be your plan” tries to challenge Azami to a cooking Battle Royale, but to no avail; Azami has nothing to gain by accepting challenges from anybody, and he knows it. Just when all hope seems lost, Soma’s Dad returns! And Erina’s Grandpa! And Jesus! Well, maybe not Jesus, but the effect is about the same.

Now all the stuff I’ve been bugged about for a month is starting to make sense. All the bigwigs at Totsuki (including Alice’s Dad, I’ll bet), know that Jouichirou Saiba is somehow The One That Got Away to Azami, and his presence clouds Azami’s judgment. They knew that Azami will be unable to say no to challenge from Saiba, no matter how risky. Rather than fighting Azami outright, the plan has been to go along with him and let him think he won, only for him to hang himself with his own rope when he risks his entire empire on a match with his rival.

Does that really make all of this political craziness worthwhile, when in reality, the Powers that Be at Totsuki could probably have shut Azami down before he began if they really wanted to? Probably not, but hey, at least this whole arc is starting to make sense. It actually makes more sense if you assume that everyone who’s been supporting Azami up to this point secretly hates his guts, and wants to have him almost win just so he can get crushed right before his plan comes to fruition. Why else jump through this many hoops?

One thing I’m not sure of is how much the Elite 10 is in on this; I’m pretty sure Rindou is (I could see her being another secret student of Saiba, actually; that would be a cool little twist, especially because she kind of looks like she could be Soma’s sister), but the others are up in the air. I guess it’s possible they’re all huge snobs and were the only people supporting the Azami administration sincerely.

Gin is already beginning to regret the ‘bring in Saiba to take down Azami plan’; it is possible he did not fully think this through.

One interesting little nuance in this episode is that Azami’s old classmates all call him Nakamura, not Nakiri; he married into the Nakiri family, and was not born into it. This is a not-so-subtle dig at Azami’s outsider status, but it’s also interesting when you think of the Magical Nakiri Chest-Bearing gene; maybe that’s what this is all about? As a non-biological Nakiri, Azumi lacks the Chest Bare power, Erina’s Mom felt that he couldn’t measure up to her husband and brother, and he’s been itching to prove his manhood culinary worthiness ever since.

Suddenly I’m imagining the dinner table at Little Erina’s house, where Erina Mommy is like, “The way I was raised, real men bare their chests when they eat something delicious,” and Azami is like “If you love your father so much, maybe you should have married him, Lorraine!” and then Chibi Erina is like “I just want to let you both know this dish has too much thyme, it stings my Divine Tongue.”

Today’s Food Porn is Hachis Parmentier, a dish I have never heard of, which is kind of impressive considering how many stupid food shows I watch. It seems more Italian than French to me, but what do I know? I am but a humble anime blogger who lives on microwaved quinoa.

Okay, enough fanfiction about young Erina’s life, time to return to the actual story. The good guys, including Saiba and Gin, are going up against some of the Elite 10 in a team battle, and if they win, they’ll have the power to put an end to Azami’s nonsense. However, since it’s a team battle, teamwork is going to be important for arguably the first time. Soma and Megumi have been working together for a while, but for the most part, the Totsuki way is to focus on individual achievement at the cost of everything else.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t really a case of the old Totsuki way (Grandpa, Saiba, Gin) versus the new Totsuki way (Azami), since succeeding through teamwork has never been the Totsuki way, as far as we know. However, the fact that the format for a Team Shokugeki exists in the first place hints at the idea that Totsuki’s culture might have been more team-oriented in the past, which is interesting. Maybe this whole thing is an extremely roundabout plot by Grandpa to return Totsuki to a warmer, more cooperative time, by necessitating the use of teamwork? Talk about playing the long game.

Oh, and speaking of Grandpa Senzaemon, we learn in this episode that Soma ended up attending Totsuki Academy in the first place because he pushed for it, over Saiba’s objections. Considering how much Grandpa cares about Erina’s wellbeing, I wonder if he foresaw that Soma’s presence would help Erina overcome her father’s toxic influence? Yup, I think it’s safe to say that Grandpa is playing 4D chess at this point.

“Don’t worry Erina, I am here for you, just like your Grandpa planned; also, my Dad is about to show up in five seconds, also according to your Grandpa’s plan. Your Gramps has it covered, is basically what I’m saying here.”

Naturally we need some training matches before we get the Amazing Battle Royale Team Shokugeki, so the rebels are broken up into teams and tasked with making a classic French dish. At first the teams seem sort of stacked with Soma, Erina and Saiba all on the same team, but of course father and son are much too alike to possibly get along, so their chances look grim. This is going to be about headstrong personalities learning how to work together, which isn’t the most original thing in the world, but appropriate for this point in the series; after all, a chef is supposed to be a leader of a team of cooks. He’s not supposed to be in the kitchen by himself, which is mostly what the series has been about until now.

Huh. You know, one way of looking at this arc is it’s about the kids making the transition from talented cooks (people who can make delicious dishes using traditional techniques) to chefs, people who can lead a kitchen as a coordinated unit. It’s a really obvious theme for a story about culinary education, but it kind of snuck up on me from left field, and I have to give the show props for that. Another way of looking at this arc is that it’s about fatherhood, with Saiba’s laissez-faire parenting contrasted with Azami’s controlling nature. But I think there will be more to say about that once we finally get the backstory between Azami and Saiba, and I think I’ve gone on just about long enough about this episode, so I’ll wrap up here.

Buildings made of ice and snow? Are you telling me they have Ice Hotels in Hokkaido? I thought they were only in Sweden and Quebec! Do a Shokugeki inside an Ice Hotel! Do it! DO IT!