To think the very nature of the Tootsuki Academy would change, from one inspiring freedom within many to one centralising power in the few. Erina’s father, Azami, has been revealed and alongside the shock of his personality, we also learn of his plans for Tootsuki Academy and the restaurants around Japan. Azami plans to totally twist the very meaning of Gourmet and to rob the “unworthy” students of their right to cook within Tootsuki Academy. Azami desires for Tootsuki Academy to become his fortress where the students will be molded by the darkness of his “true gourmet” cooking thereby becoming his soldiers for his future plans across Japan. The Polar Star Dorm and a few other clubs have voiced their disagreement by defeating his chosen soldiers within Shokugeki’s to earn the right to continue to exist but with the Promotion Exam, Azami has all but quashed the rebellion thanks to the Elite Ten Council members under his command. With only Souma, Megumi, Erina, and Takumi remaining, how will their objective of winning the Elite Ten Council seats play out?
Coming out from Souma proving to the (former) Elite Ten Council member Kuga that he is worthy of the Elite Ten Council’s attention, we are cast right into the thick of the Nakiri story about their banishment of Azami and the trauma haunting Erina. As it turns out there was a serious darkness haunting Erina’s thoughts and despite her having escaped that darkness thanks to her grandfather, the trauma imposed onto her by her own father remained a wound within a her mind and soul that she couldn’t forget. The years managed to dull its effects but Erina was unable to forget about it, she remained a prisoner to its terror. It took the help of her friends and their hands reaching out towards her to pull her out from the darkness she had begun to be engulfed in. Erina saw, felt and experienced a side of the world she had never been exposed to before, a side of the world that made her really appreciate other people and cooking. Her responsibility to carry on the Nakiri legacy didn’t leave much room for fun and a childhood and as a result she developed a disdain for cooking and those who couldn’t master its art. Through Souma’s cooking she was able to remember why she loved cooking and thanks to Souma in general, to arrive at an answer for what she needs to do. Erina chose to take matters into her own hands and lead the rebellion against her father. She prepared the “rebels” for the upcoming trails they would face in the promotion exam and how to think on their feet when a situation takes an unexpected turn.
It is really great to see “who” Erina is and the story behind her frozen personality. At the beginning, Erina was a ‘godlike’ character that had no equal in her year and wasn’t to be seen as on the same level as the other characters. But now with the ‘vulnerable’ side of Erina revealed, we as readers get to finally relate with her. Her struggles and pain serve to expose Erina as human and with her now resolved intention to protect her friends, she has become a character that is extremely enjoyable to watch develop and shine. It is also great to see Erina warm up to Souma, even before it was revealed to her that Jouichirou was his father. It is quite ironic, thanks to her father, Erina has gotten the opportunity to meet all the people she now considers friends and to realise with clarity that which she needs to do. Even with her father twisting the rules of Tootsuki Academy to isolate her from her friends, she has chosen to fight and oppose what he deems as “true gourmet”.
Souma VS Etsuya Eizan (Elite Ten Council Ninth Seat), this has been a long time coming, after all the scheming and manipulating, Etsuya has zero to show for it and thanks in part to Etsuya’s inflated ego and being invulnerable to failure, he accepted Souma’s Shokugeki challenge. As a result of his own lack of mental readiness and inability to break Souma, Etsuya fell right into Souma’s pace and opened the door to victory for him. Etsuya could have won the Shokugeki easily if he stuck to his plan but he just had to let his ego take over. Fortunately, because of that, the judges sampled his dish and realised the true depth of flavour his cooking can produce. Consequently, because of this and Souma’s message Central had no choice but to allow the Research Societies and Seminars to repeal their dismissal through Shokugeki’s challenges with neutral and fair judges. Souma brought back the meaning of the Shokugeki through his victory.
Ryou VS Rentarou, this was an exciting match, right from the start Rentarou was propped up as some insane level genius capable of equalling Elite Ten Council level. His use of heat and top-of-the-line cooking machines/appliances set him up as an unbeatable chef. Ryou had to literally blast in with his own dish and force the judges to recognise just how much more depth he was able to bring out in the salmon. Only when tasted together did the judges fully realise what set the two dishes apart. Ryou didn’t just limit himself to the ingredients, he found a path to enhance and evolve it. Ryou had grown as a chef. Thanks to his lose against Akira during the Autumn Election, he chose to open his mind towards the world of flavours. His battle against Rentarou conveyed just how much he desires to change as a chef. Alice was also extraordinarily badass in this chapter when she stood up to Azami and signalled her intention to not let him have his way with Tootsuki Academy and Erina.
Souma VS Eishi (Elite Ten Council First Seat), right from the start it was pretty obvious that there was only one result, Souma would lose, but it was interesting to see how Souma would lose and what the resulting effects would be. Surprisingly though there was a relevant purpose to the match. The dish Souma prepared conveyed to Eishi just what kind of chef Souma is. Eishi wanted to make Souma his right-hand man but after tasting his dish, he realised how uncontrollable Souma would be in regards to conforming with Central’s ideology and intentions. Eishi realised it would be too dangerous to keep Souma by his side.
Research Societies/Seminars VS Central, a shame we didn’t get to see more of Ikumi and Megumi’s matches but it is great to have acknowledgement that they have developed and polished their skills to the point of becoming able to defeat the members chosen by Azami with relative ease.
Souma VS Erina, technically not a match but I thought it was an extremely relevant moment in the manga in regards to both the story and characters, especially in regards to Erina. Erina in a state of confusion about what cooking means to her and what to do finds clarity in the cooking of Souma. The delicate and deep flavours he was able to produce and the fact that it was an egg (the ingredient she chose when they first met), drew a smile from Erina and in a sense melted the feelings that were frozen over from the trauma she experienced as a child. Thanks to Souma and his cooking, she was able to remember what she felt when she first tasted Jouichirou’s cooking and consequently come to an answer about the cooking she wishes to pursue and what she needs to do in regards to her father’s agenda. Erina made the decision to become the leader of the rebellion. Definitely loved the development Erina has gotten since coming to the Polar Star Dorm, she is a much more enjoyable character to watch now.
Rebellion VS Promotion Exam (first two phases), what rotten teachers trying to handicap the rebellion members by tampering with the ingredients they have to utilise for their dishes. Are they seriously meant to be teachers? Were they blinded so much by the darkness of Azami’s charm that they lost all morality and pride they had as teachers. Fortunately, thanks to Erina-sensei, the rebellion members were all prepared to deal with the situations they found themselves in. With their cooking skills and the knowledge acquired from Erina’s lessons, they all broke free from the constraints cast upon them and presented dishes that not only showcased the ingredients but their cooking skills as well.
Souma VS Akira (Elite Ten Council Ninth Seat), I was wondering where Akira was during the Survivor Purge and Promotion Exam and it turns out that he joined the Elite Ten Council. While the Survivor Purge was on, I was certain that Akira wouldn’t stand for the Shiomi Seminar being shut down, that he would make it a mission to ensure that whatever stood in the way of it being closed was removed. Turns out that while Akira did feel that way, there were different surrounding circumstances that led him to believing that becoming part of the Elite Ten Council was the only choice. Akira believed that the most important thing to Jun was her research and the seminar, he failed to see that the most important thing to Jun was in fact him. Jun wanted Akira to be happy, to live his childhood life surrounded by peers his age and most importantly, to have fun with cooking as he progresses it together with his friends. Akira became blinded by his research and lost sight of who he was cooking for. As a result, the dish he produced, while expertly crafted, lacked soul and a passion within it. In their third match-up, Souma finally came up victorious. And thanks to Souma, Akira came to realise what was important to him and that it would be fun to cook with the rest of the first year students. Akira felt that through his loss, he was saved by Souma.
Akira is one of my favourite characters in the manga, so it is great to see him finally get some quality development where he is humbled by not only his ego but by a chef who considers him a friend. While I did expect Akira to lose in this match, I was surprised by how in-depth his development was. Not only did Akira realise how wrong he was in how he approached cooking, but he also came to feel that they may be value in cooking alongside chefs his age. Going forward, I am really excited to see how Akira will be handled as he becomes part of Souma and Co.’s group as they stand against Azami and his soldiers, especially with Jun and him potentially becoming part of the Polar Star Dorm residents. While Akira’s lose meant his expulsion, something so final definitely won’t last.
That goes for the rest of the rebellion members expelled with their loses against the Elite Ten Council members. Something so arbitrary whereby a group of student are singled out and put through an exam tougher than what the normal student undergoes cannot in any sense of the word be fair. It would only be fair if the whole year had to face off against the Elite Ten Council members as part of the exam instead of just a select group. Well whatever the case, Souma plans to nullify the expulsions by winning over the Elite Ten Council seats and overturning the decision within Central through a majority vote. As expected Azami isn’t interested at all, that is until Jouichirou and Senzaemon show up to put forward the proposition of the “regiment de cuisine”. What has me curious is that with only Souma, Megumi, Takumi and Erina, how will they get a majority vote within the Elite Ten Council. With Akira’s defeat, the ninth seat is currently unoccupied, so they are 9 members active. Souma and Co. would still need 5 seats to reach a majority vote but with only four people (including Erina who is the tenth seat), how will they attain that majority. Will a fifth member show up? Or will the reward for winning not be the Elite Ten Council seats but the nullification of the expulsion of those who lost against the Elite Ten Council earlier? If a fifth member does show up, the one student in the year likely of being able to challenge the seated members would be Akira, who was just recently the ninth seat. But he has been expelled so that wouldn’t work, or could it? There is also Kuga, but he is a second year =/. And what about Subaru? Has he been expelled too?
I am very interested to see what will happen from here on out, especially since the Academy fates of those currently expelled are riding on the result on what will happen. What is the “regiment de cuisine”? And how does that tie into the history of Jouichirou and Azami? In addition to saving the expelled students, I feel this battle will also give us a glimpse into the history of Jouichirou and Azami and quite possible Souma’s mother. The change in Jouichirou which Azami despises, I wonder if Azami blames a person. Looking forward to the next chapter.