At the end of the last episode of Nobunaga no Chef (信長のシェフ), Oda Nobunaga (Oikawa Mitsuhiro) decided to send his chef from the future Ken (Tamamori Yuta) right into Azai Nagamasa’s castle in the place of one of three Azakura cook-spies they captured in the act of trying to poison the water. But why? What does he want Ken to do there?

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Since the spies were supposed to poison Nobunaga, it seems fair to assume that Nobunaga wants Ken to return the intended favor, but Nobunaga doesn’t say so explicitly. There’s also the issue that Ken doesn’t want to poison anyone – it’s in violation of his art. Good thing, too, since there’s no way Nobunaga would trust Ken to cook for him anymore if he was willing to put poison in a meal. Not that Ken could ever come back from such a mission alive.

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There’s no escape, either. Nobunaga has assigned shinobi Kaede (Ashina Sei) to make sure that Ken goes through with his mission.

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Ken’s stalwart companion Natsu (Shida Mirai) tries to object to all of this, but it’s no use. And no matter how much she argues, she can’t go with Ken this time.

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For his own part, Nobunaga seems quite satisfied with the plan he’s concocted. What’s he really up to?

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While Kaede is sure that Nobunaga wants Ken to poison Azai Nagamasa, Ken points out that Nobunaga said no such thing – only telling Ken to give the Azai clan what they deserve. He’s trying to figure out what that really means. There’s the complicating factor that Nobunaga’s own sister is Nagamasa’s wife, and that Nagamasa was Nobunaga’s staunch ally until recently.

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Ken wisely understands that Nobunaga could have sent any cook to poison Nagamasa – why send his best? There must be something else . . . .

When they appear before Nagamasa, I have to wonder why he’s not more curious about them. He right away asks them to cook for him and his family, and it struck me as rather odd – like there were critical steps missing.

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Back at Nobunaga’s castle, Natsu discovers that Hideyoshi is distraught. He always had a thing for Nobunaga’s sister, and even if he couldn’t marry her, he doesn’t want to see her come to any harm.

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When the former head cook looks ready to take back his old job on the bet that Ken will die, Natsu bites back and points out to Hideyoshi that if Ken dies, that will probably mean that Nagamasa and his wife had died, too.

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But Ken isn’t at all interested in poisoning anyone, and gives Kaede a piece of his mind when she tries to force the poison into the meal.

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He has his own idea about what Nobunaga wants. Is he right?

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It’s mealtime, and his choice of food already tips off Nobunaga’s sister:

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But she doesn’t stop her husband from eating. This makes sense because, if Ken had meant to poison Nagamasa, surely he wouldn’t have picked a dish that would make it obvious to Nagamasa’s wife, Oichi.

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The message is clearly for Oichi rather than Nagamasa, and when she gives her answer in the negative, saying that she will not leave Nagamasa, that’s really the end of this ploy. Nagamasa realizes then that the meal was not as it seemed, the other two cook-spies reveal Ken and Kaede despite Kaede’s threats that she would kill them if they did.

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Kaede escapes and returns to Nobunaga to report what happened, including Ken’s capture.

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Nobunaga is happy that Ken guessed his motive correctly – he just wanted to know whether his sister would return to him and abandon Nagamasa, now that Nagamasa had betrayed him.

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That leaves Kaede feeling a debt of gratitude to Ken. If they had poisoned Nagamasa and Oichi as she thought they should, Nobunaga would likely have been enraged enough to kill her.

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But there’s still the matter of Ken. Natsu begs Nobunaga to rescue Ken . . .

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. . . but Nobunaga seems to want to test out the extent of Ken’s luck. The warlord decides that Ken will have to escape and return on his own to demonstrate his loyalty.

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Unfortunately for Ken, Nagamasa is not in a forgiving mood, as Nobunaga has started attacking his towns, razing them to the ground. He wants to send Ken’s head back to Nobunaga.

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Natsu and Kaede are not in a position to save him . . .

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. . . Ken himself is rather tied up and weaponless . . .

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. . . so the only person left who can keep him from losing his head is Oichi.

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Ken regales her with all sorts of words that are meaningless to her – like ‘vitamins’ and ‘calcium’. This seems like an odd tactic to use to plead for one’s life – speaking in a language the listener can’t understand. Ken often seems oblivious to the culture gap, but this is rather not the time for that.

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As it turns out, though, Oichi is impressed by his strange words. I suspect she is even more impressed by the fact that Nobunaga had entrusted him to figure out what to do and cook instead of giving him the orders explicitly. Her impression is that her brother is rather a control freak (well, what warlord isn’t?).

So, how will Oichi plead for Ken’s life?

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Will Nobunaga continue to leave Ken to fend for himself, even as the meals in the castle go back to the old stuff and his stomach craves Ken’s cooking?

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What sort of chance will Ken get to save his own skin?

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No matter what, it looks like there’s going to be a battle between Nagamasa and Nobunaga. Look forward to that in the next episode.

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Altogether, I was quite happy with this episode. The beginning was a bit bumpy, as it took some suspension of disbelief. I was especially puzzled by how Ken could have figured out what Nobunaga wanted him to do. The ending made up for it, though. Ken’s reasoning in the part where he has to save himself is superb and detailed – almost like the solution to a mystery in its attention to detail.

The grander drama between Nobunaga and Nagamasa is also the first compelling one we’ve seen in this series. Before this, the relationships between Nobunaga and others, like the Ashikaga shogun, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa, have been very superficial and didn’t do as good a job of drawing the viewer in. Mitsuhide and Mori Ranmaru were given token scenes in a single episode and never heard from again (so far). So, it was nice to see a more proper treatment this time.

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