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        1. Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate
          Episode 1 - 2

          by Rebecca Silverman,

          How would you rate episode 1 of
          Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate ?

          How would you rate episode 2 of
          Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate ?

          We go into this fifth season of Food Wars knowing right off the bat that we may have a substantial wait for the next episode. How impatient you are may determine whether or not you decide to pick up the manga to tide you over, and while it is possible to jump in at this arc, it's also worth mentioning that the anime either skipped over or is reordering some of the initial events that begin Soma and Co.'s second year at Totsuki, so just be aware of that if you choose to go that route – and given the cliffhanger episode two ends on, there's certainly something to be said for making that choice.

          In strictly anime terms, this season is off to an okay start. Opening with the second years' end-of-term exam clearly hops over a lot of time from the end of season four, but it does mark an exciting place to start, especially because with most of our friends now members of the Elite Ten, their exam is a little trickier than everyone else's – not only do they have to make a whopping big sum in three days of running a beachfront snack shack, but they've also been given the one in the worst location that appears to have last been used as a chicken coop in 1973. This means that they have to repair/rebuild the place before they can even think of cooking in it, and with their…strong personalities, that means that things are going to be even trickier. While the event wraps up in a single episode, it doesn't feel too terribly rushed, which is an accomplishment in and of itself given episode two, and really the only major off-notes are three of the girls: Erina, Megumi, and Nikumi.

          Of the three, Erina feels the most out of character, and that's something that carries over into episode two. She's become more vulnerable, which sounds good in theory, but in the practice of carrying it out the writers have made her a bit too soft to the point where she has almost none of her old bite. Erina might believably have done one of the several things she does across these two episodes without it feeling off – had a heart-to-heart with Soma on a balcony at night in her nightgown or apologized for her unfair inclusion in the BLUE without having to compete or fainted at the thought of two men competing for her hand. But all of them? It's too much too quickly from a girl who could barely admit that Hisako was her friend last season. Yes, more time has passed than we've seen on screen, but a change of hairstyle for a few of the characters isn't enough to make up for us actually seeing the seasons go by in-show, and that makes her transformation look like too much too soon. I didn't particularly like Erina as a character before, but I also don't want to see her suddenly become someone else, especially someone much more stereotypically girly.

          Megumi and Nikumi both fare better once they hit the second episode. For Nikumi, that just means that she gets to be more than some breasts that happen to be attached to a character, while for Megumi, settling back into her old role is much more rewarding. While she wasn't as off as the other two in episode one, she definitely still felt out of character in her decision to wear a skimpy bathing suit and her almost too-confident (for Megumi) stance. By episode two, however, she's back to being a reasonable version of herself: she's got no idea how skilled she is and can't quite accept that she, Megumi Tadokoro, has beaten Soma and Takumi to take the top spot in the BLUE preliminaries. It just blows her mind that she could ever do something like that, and having seen her since season one, it's hard not to feel like she deserves this moment. It's a little underplayed, but that's more due to the rushed pacing of the episode, which attempts to cram as many dishes, nicknames, and cameos (to say nothing of foodgasms) into about fifteen minutes as it possibly can. That doesn't give Megumi nearly enough time to shine or to show how she outdid her competitors, and that's really a shame.

          Of course, the other major piece of these two episodes is Suzuki, the new teacher at Totsuki who is not only too pretty for his own good, but may also moonlight as a bandana-faced baddie at a competition in America, where he beat Joichiro. If that wasn't bad enough, he also spends much of episode one smirking in the shadows and appears to have a thing for Erina, who, despite her position as dean, is still technically a student at the school where he teaches. Of course, he may not actually want Erina so much as her tongue, a tongue that Soma also has plans for, although I doubt he plans to marry her for it. (Romance really doesn't seem to be on his radar.) Even without the disturbing aspect that neither of them are asking Erina her thoughts about all of this, they're diminishing her from a person to a highly attuned set of taste buds, and that definitely makes me worry about where she's going as a character this season.

          Hopefully it's all for naught, but we're going to have to wait a while to find out.


          Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma: The Fifth Plate is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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