I’ll first address what I liked least about these final three episodes: the Central henchmen. As great as it was seeing Ryo kick ass again in Episode 10, I can’t say I was convinced Kusunoki could wipe the floor with him. Honestly, if any of these henchmen disappeared in the story, it wouldn’t surprise me. Evidently, it seems like even the show could care less too since Nikumi and Megumi’s matches against them were summed up in a minute. I would’ve loved to see those two girls fight again but I’d would also rather have bigger fish for them to fry (the fish being, say, the Elite Ten I mean…).
While I didn’t really buy the stakes in this fight, I will admit that Alice’s motivation turned out to be really interesting. Even though she doesn’t get along very well with Erina, Alice cares very deeply about her cousin and and vehemently opposes Azami for his abusive parenting. That alone makes Alice an immediate opponent towards Central. Even though she most likely cares little for the Cutting Edge Cooking RS, she nevertheless expected a win from Ryo just so that she threw a jab at her uncle’s regime. Maybe she would’ve fought herself if she didn’t let Ryo take the fight instead.
Afterwards, San no Sara presents Souma’s first real interaction with Tsukasa. The former first helps the latter with a class lecture and the two later compete against each other in a duel. If Souma wins, he becomes the First Seat in the Elite Ten. If Tsukasa wins, Souma is forced to become his right-hand man at Central. Watching this subplot made me realize how these two are complete opposites from one another. Tsukasa is a chef who lacks his own culinary voice and yet is so knowledgeable about food and cooking to the most meticulous detail. By contrast, Souma is unorthodox; constantly experimenting, using atypical ingredients, and perfecting a cooking style that is so distinctly his own. Frankly, I can’t think of a more perfect duality than these two and I think Tsukasa could become the best foil to Souma yet.
During this match, Souma finds out what Azami’s endgame is: to eliminate any restaurant in Japan he sees as subpar and caters to the masses. Personally, I think that’s an absurdly ambitious and impractical goal for a headmaster to have (even if he is in control of the biggest culinary school in the country). However, this revelation does give Souma a personal stake in this arc. The Yukihara Diner is practically his livelihood and inheriting the place from his dad is the biggest reason he’s studying at Toutsuki. Souma was already resistant to Central’s new curriculum but now there is absolutely no way he’ll want Azami to get away with what he wants.
Meanwhile, Erina is hiding and eavesdropping on the match with Hisako and Megumi following suit. It’s a little odd that she wanted to hide though maybe she’s realizing that she’s become concerned about Souma and, well, gotta keep up the “I don’t care about Souma” facade I guess. Hiding doesn’t last for very long though as it turns out Souma knew the girls were there the whole time and asks them to be the judges for the match. That’s admittedly a slight risk given the girls’ affinity with Souma and the serious consequence of giving Tsukasa the victory. At the same time, they know that no matter what, Souma prefers knowing when he’s outmatched.
Both dishes do look incredibly tantalizing and what stands out to me is how both Souma and Tsukasa enhanced their venison in their own ways. Souma’s addition of chestnuts and ground coffee are certainly atypical, as it should be given his ability to think outside of the box. Conversely, Tsukasa’s roast uses more traditional condiments but the way in which he blends them together is impressive. I think the girls’ reactions to each dish also reflects the difference in taste and cooking style as well. With Souma’s dish, it’s the usual clothes tearing foodgasm which matches the wild aspect of his cooking style. Conversely, when they eat Tsukasa’s dish, they imagine themselves clothed and enjoying the sights and sounds of a serene forest. I’m curious if there’s a deeper meaning behind them not getting their clothes shredded in this reaction (this is Food Wars, after all) but it does capture the harmonious nature of Tsukasa’s food.
Ultimately, Tsukasa wins the match though he decides not to make Souma a member of Central and his right-hand man. That’s admittedly a cop-out but the First Seat does have a point that Souma is simply too uncontrollable and unpredictable as a student and a chef. And while the gap in skill is apparent, Tsukasa definitely recognizes Souma’s abilities. His conversation with Azami strongly suggests that he sees Soumas a student to keep a close eye on.
The ending scene where Souma reveals to Azami and Erina that he’s Joichiro’s son was a strong way to end San no Sara‘s first cour. It’s kind of insane that it’s taken this long for Erina to find out but I like that it was timed after she got to know Souma and his friends more first. The revelation also startles Azami as apparently, his grand plan is meant to “correct” a culinary world that “tainted” Joichiro. That has to connect with the fact that Souma’s father didn’t graduate Toutsuki though I wonder if Azami’s perspective is askew since Joichiro seems well known and well respected in some parts of the world. Regardless, the pieces seem to have aligned even more for Souma and Erina to become key players in this conflict.
As flawed as the first cour of San no Sara may be, I think the good definitely outweighed the bad. I’m not a big fan of the villains overall and the plot certainly requires more suspension of disbelief than ever before. Still, the character development continues to be solid. I really enjoy seeing Souma take center stage and oppose Central and it’s satisfying to finally see Erina not be a complete jerk to him. There’s definitely some serious issues here and my enjoyment did ebb and flow a bit. But overall, I’d say I still enjoyed this cour and I will definitely check out the second cour of this season when it airs in April.