Exhibit A: A classmate shaking hands with a half-naked man shedding tears.
Ibusaki was spot-on. Isshiki-senpai didn’t get serious at all – rather, it felt like his motive behind challenging Soma unannounced was merely to test the waters. He wanted to see if Soma was all bark and no bite, or if he genuinely had some skill to back up the claims he made during the entrance ceremony – which must be spreading like wildfire given that he’s heard about it as a second-year. So Isshiki’s dish was good -good enough to properly stand out from everything Soma has experienced thus far- but it was not the best of his ability. He’s definitely devious (and he has to be, if he’s gotten as far as the Seventh Seat) but I doubt he wanted to utterly crush Soma on his first day. I think he could have, though. Soma talks about how he thinks Isshiki’s family must run a traditional Japanese restaurant for him to produce that mackerel dish with the quality he did – but I don’t think he does. Isshiki never gives him a straight response, but I think it’s just that much of a testament to his skill as one of the Elite Ten. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he won – Soma expressed shock, and apart from Erina-sama it’s the first time he’s realized the existence of tough competition in Tootsuki, and that there was a reason why his father sent him there.
For those who were previously unaware, it’s finally now clear exactly what a Shokugeki is! It’s basically a formalized cooking contest, issued as a challenge from one party to another and used as a method to resolve disputes in Tootsuki. It is definitely one way to get an Elite Ten seat, although it probably isn’t the standard route – and in contrast it’s certainly the most risky route. Soma has unknowingly already had a lot of experience with Shokugekis – because he’s been doing them with his father all this time! They were never formal, but the essence of it was the same. Both his past experiences and the one Isshiki challenge him to this episode are actually even more superior than standard Shokugekis in a way, given that they limited themselves to the same theme and the same main ingredient – so it becomes a contest where you really decide which dish is ‘better’ from two similar dishes.
Of course, it’s not necessary to implement that sort of limit, and Erina-sama managed to pull off a beautiful win regardless. She was so cool. Every week, I have to restrain myself from praising her mesmerizing voice in the way everyone in this series describes the food they eat. I was also hoping for her to articulate, in meticulous detail, what exactly was wrong with the lobster dish – hippo by hippo. I love how the last one just stared at her, and she stared back unamused.
But yeah, it’s Nikumi next! A new challenger approaches!
Finally, I’d also like to advertise Chapter 116.5 of the Shokugeki no Soma manga, which is basically the very essence of fanservice! Erina hosts a banquet for several girls from Weekly Shounen Jump, from manga series like Ansatsu Kyoushitsu, Haikyuu! and Gintama to Nisekoi and One Piece! You can see where this is going, can’t you.
Kagura says: “This is an erotic plan the Jump editorial proposed for the double issue. ‘Teenage boys will fall for the bait of naked women, so it’ll be a-ok if we just make Saeki Shun draw some random nude pics of the animated series heroines’ is what they said, aru.”
To which Chitoge announces: “We can’t get swallowed up in a raunchy perverted manga which uses food as a pretext to strip girls!”
They promptly got swallowed up.