Shokugeki no Soma Ep. 8: Camptown races

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Soma doesn’t realize just how right he is. The anime is getting kind of predictable.

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— Anyway, we kick things off with the adults hiding in a darkened room. Why? ‘Cause it’s what you’ve come to expect regardless of whether or not it makes any sense.

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— We soon find out that our students are leaving on a trip… a camp, if you will. So it’s like every other high school-based anime. Y’see, if Soma had been a little older, and instead of attending a high school like every other boring-as-shit anime character, he was staging at an actual restaurant, we wouldn’t be able to have crazy camping fun times with our tomodachis! I mean, sure, a lot people in the culinary world will do drugs or get shit-faced drunk after a long, stressful night on the line, but that’s nowhere near as crazy as a high school camping trip!

— B-b-but you have to take this camp super-siiiiiiiirius!!! ‘Cuz this is when they start weeding out the bad chefs!

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As such, you see Megumi passed out on the ground.

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— The other characters are a little annoyed that Soma isn’t perturbed by the challenge that lies ahead, but he’s right, y’know… stinky, unclean people will contaminate the food. C’mon, people, food safety first!

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— Kinda. If they don’t fail, they get to stay in this fancy hotel. So it’s not really a camp…

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— Anyway, we run into Meat Master and she’s being all tsundere and shit. Water is wet, the sky is blue, anime is anime.

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— And again, everyone hates on Soma because they’re not real people anyway. I mean, c’mon, we don’t have time for that.

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— In any case, it is soon announced that the kids will be judged by the school’s alumni.

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A-a-and these chefs have been featured in magazines!!! Every month, too! Haha, okay. Did you hear about when Rene Redzepi was featured in Time? Mm-hmm.

— One of them immediately expels a kid for having some sort of citrus scent in his hair products. Smell is hyper-important when it comes to food, so this is a big no-no! Well, sure, the guy isn’t wrong. In a lot of romantic restaurants, for example, you’ll often have little more than candles to create that sensuous mood. But don’t you dare use a scented candle! So this little gag makes some sense. And because this is a highly exaggerated comedy series, you will get kicked out for something that you would normally be gently chided for in the real world. So about that bathing…

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— The rest of the alumni, however, are a bunch of creeps.

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Seriously…

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— They then introduce this guy, and we’re supposed to be mega-impressed. First, he’s turned down hundreds of offers from restaurants! Well, a brilliant chef would instead have investors, and they would help him build his own restaurant. Secondly, he’s head chef of the Totsuki Resorts. A resort. A fucking resort. I mean, you want to look down at diners, but you try to act big and mighty about a resort?

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— We skip ahead to the first challenge, and immediately, some kid wants to prove himself superior to Soma by… uh, stepping on his foot. Well, if you’re so much better, you’d just beat him fair and square. That’s pretty much the best way to do it. But even if you want to be a shady fuck, why would you go for the guy’s foot? Why not pretend to shake his hand and thereby crush his fingers? Or, even better, ask him to taste something for you, give him a super spicy bite, and as a result, you fuck his palate up for the rest of the day. But nah, these bullies resort to these brainless tactics instead.

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— And they love to smirk. God knows mean anime guys love to smirk.

— The judge soon tells the room full of kids that they’ll have to go out into the wild and acquire their own ingredients. Like with fishing poles and shit. This reminds me of the worst Top Chef challenges I had ever seen: the contestants had to break their ingredients out of a block of ice. Y’see, they were at a ski resort, and there was snow everywhere.

ice block

As a result, wouldn’t it be cool if we forced these chefs to have to rely on their physical strength in order to get some shellfish out of ice?!!! BRILLIANT COOKING COMPETITION! Anyway, Food Wars is supposedly a comedy anime, so I guess we can overlook it…

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— Soma is good at everything so he somehow catches this giant thing.

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— When they get back to the kitchen to cook, however, the foot-stomping jerk reveals that he had found a duck! That is one weird-looking duck, though…

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— They then proceed to try and impress us by cooking at super speeds. Eh… sure, you have a time limit, but do you get any extra points for blowing the time limit out of the water? Probably not.

— The kid also reveals that he used to cook in his family’s trattoria, so he’s not much different than Soma. So why do you guys have to be such dicks to each other, man?

— At one point, he pulls out a mezzaluna to chop some herbs, then hands the knife to his brother, who also uses it to chop stuff up. I don’t see anyone washing the knife in between, though! For shame!!!!

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— Finally, the dish is complete. More inedible garnishes on the side. You amateurs.

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— Blah blah blah, the judge is impressed. It makes her anime-sized boobs heave as she is serenaded by a man in a duck costume. Every food reaction tries to be crazy, right? But they don’t actually get crazier and crazier. No one can keep that up. So at this point, some of the less crazy stuff are just boring. It’s like, “Oh, heh… it’s a man who looks like a duck…”

— So let’s focus instead on what she actually says. She said that the astringent flavors in the herbs heightened the gaminess of the duck. Something like that. It makes some sense. Something that is astringent is kind of like… it feels like it dries your mouth out, I guess. A wine that is high in tannin is astringent, for example. Or maybe grape skins. If you’ve ever chewed grape skins, they taste dry. Anyway, duck is very fatty.

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It has this really thick layer of fat that you want to score, then cook skin-side down on the pan until you can render a lot of it away. You don’t even have to cook the other side all that much because duck is often ideally cooked rare to medium rare. In any case, even after rendering most of the fat (and storing it so you can use it in other recipes), the duck will still be plenty fatty. You can cut that heaviness in a few ways. A lot of times, duck dishes are sweet and somewhat sour. We just love sweet and creamy together, so there’s that. But the acidity also helps to cut down the fattiness as well.

In the anime’s case, we’ve gone the other way with the astringency. Again, it’s about cutting the fat or achieving some sort of balance. If you can believe for a second that wine pairings aren’t completely bullshit, then it’ll serve as our analogy. You often pair fatty meats with tannic wines. You might already know that red wine often goes with steak. Why? Red wines are typically more tannic. When you make red wine, for example, you utilize more of the grape’s skin and seeds, and I’ve already mentioned how grape skin is astringent or tannic. So we pair red wine with steak because steak — the good ones, anyway — are well marbled and fatty. But like a lot of flavors, if you have too much of it, it ends up warping your palate. Fat or any heavy food will stick to the palate and make it hard to appreciate the next bite. What a tannic wine does is utilize its astringent qualities to cleanse the palate. Each subsequent bite of steak feels refreshed in a way. Anyway, I don’t think Shokugeki no Soma will get into wine pairings, but the idea that the astringent herbs complements the flavor of the duck works a lot in the same way. We also learn later that they made a salsa verde for the dish, and salsa is plenty acidic. As a result, you really have two flavors working together to balance the dish out.

— I wish the show would talk more about why certain flavor combinations work, though. Instead, it segues into some bullshit about the masculinity of the dish…

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— Some of the students complain that the dish isn’t remotely Japanese, which is one of the requirements. Upon closer inspection, however, we see that our blond jerk had used Japanese ingredients to make the salsa verde! So it’s kind of a Japanese…? Meh, it depends on your perspective. Personally, I don’t lean that way. After all, what often typifies a cuisine to me is its unique set of flavor profiles. So while this Nipponified salsa verde will have some Japanese flavors in it, it’s still a salsa verde… you’re copping out a bit.

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— After the credits, this guy gets naked just to praise Erina’s dish… which we can’t see. Anyway, very wacky of you, anime. Very wacky. I’m shocked very single time I see a naked dude.

— But you’ll have to wait till next week to see how Soma will outdo his Italian rival.

— For me, however, I seem to have only gotten more sick since last night. You might have noticed since this post is a little… meh. Anyway, I had planned to throw up another update for that stupid dungeon and mommies anime, but it’ll have to wait till later. I just don’t have the energy at the moment. As they say in Italy, “Arrivederci.” Or “ciao.” I don’t care.

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4 thoughts on “Shokugeki no Soma Ep. 8: Camptown races

  1. il-Palazzo

    Man, I’m just glad you do SnS before taking a rest. This anime wouldn’t be the same without your little companion guide.

    Take it easy and get well soon!

    “I don’t see anyone washing the knife in between, though!”
    If everything they chopped is going to be mixed into that salsa verde anyway then it wouldn’t matter, I guess? They’re cooking in superspeed after all.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: SHOKUGEKI NO SOMA - HEX TAMERHEX TAMER

  3. spectreandy

    Breaking News: Soma is unstoppable and will pretty much win. No one is surprised.

    Herein lies the problem with this show: We know who the main character is. And that’s a legitimate problem with any shounen show, something that I think most of us are very aware of. It’s simplistic when said shounen hero wants to be the best at something; the writer has already written themselves into a corner. Either the hero has to become the best or…… basically scrap the story entirely. When you’re dreaming and battling to be Hokage, you’re going to be Hokage.

    Now, I like cooking competition shows, and this show is just a hyper-fetishized version of them. And more often than not, I like most of the contestants starting off. But here’s the thing that lends to excitement: uncertainty creates drama. Drama comes when it looks like ANYTHING can happen and that’s because Emma Thompson isn’t writing the Goddamn story a la Stranger Than Fiction while vulture-circling ONE cook. We already know how the formula goes: Opponent pulls off a clever thing then Main Character pulls out Big-Dick Shounen Reversal THE Clever Thing.

    It’s pretty much late for this now, but thus the whole cooking battle thing is just lackluster. The point is that there isn’t any danger here. In your typical shounen battle manga, the price of failure is pretty much getting your shit pushed in or getting fucking dead. What are the consequences of failure here? Uh, get booted from this meh competition? Okay? I guess because of that you literally have no future in food because you get black-listed from anyone ever eating something you’ve created until you die. I guess all those great cooks that earned a reputation that didn’t go to culinary school or won a cooking competition are pretty much illegitimate right?

    What this show should’ve been (other than not existing in the first place) is a cooking and slice-of-life combo. Why not have this story take place in a town known for its varied cuisine? More of an educational piece showcasing ethnic foods and maybe sharing some cooking quirks rather than some one dimensional “battle”. Go ahead, have your characters that are bizarrely specialized in one thing. I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure a sushi chef can cook a pretty great fried rice or build a tasty pastrami sandwich even with elementary levels of knowledge.
    The cooking aspects are fine and varied enough, and it looks like the writer knows something rather than nothing at all which is usually the case.

    Oh, and the humor is top-notch as always. The whole RUNDUM-thing out-stayed its welcome during Episode 1. I’ve been expecting some kind of clever food-related word play or comedic Japanese-brand setup and timing, but I guess I’ll just have to accept the people getting naked for no real reason-thing.

    Reply

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