Joichiro’s past – and his relationships with both Gin and Azami – are the focus of “The Pioneer of the Wastelands”, which will probably become my favorite episode of Shokugeki no Soma. This was just a really great episode, and I think I enjoyed this flashback more in the anime than I did in the manga.
Shokugeki no Soma is pretty straightforward as an anime and manga, with plotlines and arcs that are laid out neatly in front of you. That said, there is still a little bit of mystery, and for a long time, one of those mysteries was Joichiro. “The Pioneer of the Wastelands” does a lot to fill in the blanks for both us, the audience, and Joichiro’s own son. Joichiro’s backstory is probably the coolest part of the manga, so it was a real treat to see it adapted so well in the anime.
“The Pioneer of the Wastelands” does a great job about showcasing the differences between Joichiro and Yukihira. Joichiro was uncontested as a chef; we saw how often he won against Gin, and then his unparalleled defeat of 50 competitors in a team shokugeki. But everyone dismissed his creations as genius and didn’t see the effort he put into everything he made. He was hungry for a challenge, but there was no one to do so. This is so different from Yukihira, who is a great chef and has one a lot of cooking battles at Totsuki, but he’s also lost a lot. And more importantly, he’s never managed to beat his dad. He’s not a “genius” like Joichiro is, but he never gives up. He supplements his lack of genius with his resilience and ingenuity.
This episode also gives us a little more depth about Azami and his plan. He saw what happened to Joichiro and wants to make sure no chef ever has to go through that. Joichiro was alone in his “genius”; Azami seeks to elevate everyone to the same level so that no one has to walk alone. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that, by hindering creativity, he would stifle chefs like Joichiro, who like to experiment. So, yes, it’s a little easier to understand what Azami’s attempting to do. It still doesn’t make any sense, though.
You can also see how his parenting skills differ so much from Joichiro’s. Erina was Azami’s test run for his plans for Central; he raised her to believe only what he considered was gourmet, and as a result, she structured her cooking around this idea. (Also the emotional abuse, you know.) Joichiro raised Yukihira to experiment, even when the results were less than appetizing. As a result, Yukihira loves cooking because he has fun doing it, while for Erina it is merely a skill. She didn’t realize cooking could be fun until recently. That is the end result of Azami’s plan – a generation of chefs who have no passion or love for their craft.
And one thing that I’m glad about is how much this episode emphasizes how important Yukihira is in his dad’s life. After all, when he called Gin for the first time in years, he didn’t say he’d met someone – he said he had a son. In the very beginning of the story, Joichiro stresses to Yukihira the importance of finding someone to cook for. As he says it, we’re treated to a picture of the Yukihira family (with of course the mother’s face obscured), so we’re led to believe that it was his family that pulled Joichiro out of the desert.
Of course, this just makes me even more curious about Yukihia’s mom! Who was she? What happened to her? Will we ever get more than super vague references to her existence? (While we’re on the subject, more about Erina’s mother, please.)
“The Pioneer of the Wastelands” is just great. I loved seeing Joichiro and Gin’s relationship. The scene where Gin breaks down because he believes he failed his friend was phenomenal; both voice actors did a fantastic job. I even liked seeing a younger Azami – although it’s not very refreshing to realize he was creepy even then.
Have you guys seen “The Pioneer of the Wastelands”? What did you think?
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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