Food For Thought

 

Food plays a bigger role in anime than just making people fat

I am going to start out by stating the obvious: food is important. It’s big enough to have its own culture, with different regions having particular specialties. People can dedicate their whole life to a job where they mix different kinds of ingredients together and give it to other people to eat, like some sort of enigmatic alchemy. You can make money from simply eating food and then talking about it. Then there’s the captain obvious realization:  humans need food to live. That’s everyone’s ultimate goal when all is said and done with, I would assume. So, I think I’ve done a pretty job convincing you that food is important.

Oh, you were already convinced that food is important? Well…how about food in anime? Now that’s a different roll of the die. I was at a panel about food in anime when I went to Anime North and they quickly brushed over a bunch of interesting points, but didn’t go quite deep enough to leave me satisfied. That led to the birth of this post. The gestalt of everything we talked about essentially boils down to the fact that food can play a big role in anime. It’s not just something you eat, but it can be used to define a character, to advance the plot, or even as the story itself.

FOOD AS THE MAIN COURSE


Starting off very simply in the schematics of food playing important roles in anime are anime that just simply revolve around food. No analysis needed, they’re blatantly about eating, baking, cooking or what have you. There’s a surprising amount! Toriko, probably one of the most popular manga right now, is about a guy travelling the world to make the ultimate menu. The whole concept of the manga is watching a burly man beat the shit out of endangered animals (ingredients) and devour them. Most of the enjoyment is in seeing the whacky food-animal hybrid creatures such as Castella lions or koalas with cocoa on their backs, and the ridiculous battles to murder said hapless ingredients.   On the less muscular end of the spectrum are shows like Yumeiro Patissiere which is about making dainty little cakes. There’s also Yakitate!! Japan is about making the ideal bread to represent Japan. Ja-pan. Get it? Pan means bread….Haha…Yeah, it’s all about bread. The most recent example I can give you is the upcoming Ben-to which is about lunch specials who try to kill you, or something insane like that.

There’s anime about everything, so food shouldn’t be that surprising. I realize this is probably no big revelation just yet, but I’m getting there! When anime use food in creative ways to show something other than a character taking in calories is where things get really interesting. Food can be meaningful – even powerful. From now on, I’m here to draw these more obscure connections between the link that food has with characters and storylines. I guess you could say it’s the bread and butter of my argument. Oh, I just know you love my puns.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT


It’s surprising how something as simple and inanimate as food can describe and even define a character. Male characters with a sweet tooth are usually more childish and even feminine. Characters who like expensive food are usually stuck-up and rich. More specifically, there’s Luffy and his love of meat. It’s not just any meat, but a big chunk of meat with a giant bone protruding from both sides. It looks like something a caveman would be gnawing on, and that’s quite an apt description for Luffy. He’s a very simple man with not a lot going on in that rubber head of his. He acts on his instincts in a very primitive nature. While his like of meat doesn’t necessarily define his character, it quite strongly reinforces it.

As much as I hate Fruits Baskets with all of my being, it has another good example of a food metaphor that is used on more than one occasion. Kyo is described as an onigiri with an umeboshi (the part that gives the riceball flavour) on the back. To him, he can’t see the umeboshi and thinks he’s just a dumb little blob of rice granules. But in reality, he actually has a lot of talents and shouldn’t look down on himself. tl;dr don’t have low self-esteem, because everyone has delicious/good aspects, they just can’t always see them.

The amount that characters eat can also tend to tell you which characters go into which category. Lina Inverse from Slayers, Goku from Saiyuki, and Toriko are just a few of the many big eaters in anime. It’s a trend. While not a golden rule, you will find these characters are loud and rambunctious more often than not. Why? Because a voracious appetite nicely complements a wild character. It’s a nice added touch that actually becomes part of the character’s personality.

Characters can often be judged based on their ability to cook or not. Most guys can’t cook, and are never seen making even macaroni and cheese. We’ll leave potential sexist claims for another day, but most typical guys don’t cook. Naturally, this leads to making it so that the ones who can are seen in a sort of “special” light. But there’s not much cooking says definitively about a guy in the way appetite does, since even Rin from Ao No Exorcist cooks and he’s about as domestic as a sabre-toothed tiger. It’s all about the girls!

Once again, it’s all or nothing. They either cook so badly that people enter the afterlife, or cook so brilliantly that they make everyone cry tears of joy. Making lunches for characters is a very prominent feature in anime, and more often than not it’s a surefire way to tell who likes who. Girls spend a lot of their time cooking for guys in anime, and God help them if they’re not good at it.

COMFORT FOODS (aka FOOD PR0N)


Sometimes food has nothing to do with a character, it is just used to give a sort of “moe” boost to characters. An appeal that says little to nothing about the character, and yet it is an almost iconic trait used to recognized the character in question. Where would Death Note’s Ryuuk be without his apples? It’s such a simple little addition, and yet the whole apple imagery is constantly used over and over. Moving along, Shinobu from Bakemonogatari likes donuts. Her like for sugar says nothing about her, and yet she’s almost always seen drawn with one. It’s just part of her character now. Kotetsu admitted to liking mayonnaise once while doing the voiceover for the next episode preview, and is now seen in all manner of fanart with mayonnaise in it. You don’t want to know half of the creative uses I’ve seen for mayonnaise thanks to it. Characters eating food has become a sort of fetish (lulz food porn). It’s a hook that gets people attached.

Case and point: pocky scenes. I don’t mean it just being eaten as a snack, because you could say that about potato chips in American movies. It doesn’t really mean anything. But very often you will see scenes where characters both bite opposite sides of the pocky and slowly get closer for a kiss. I’ve seen it in Nyan Koi!, MM!, and even Gravitation. It’s everywhere. Food. is. everywhere.

SERVE ME YOUR THOUGHTS


Hopefully this has been a nice little tower of text highlighting how food is used in anime to make a statement and not just make you drool. Maybe now you’ll give each appearance of Doctor Pepper more credit for being clever. Now that I’ve got you thinking about food, you might as well share your food-related thoughts here. Discussion time! Discuss with me and your fellow commenters about food. Bring up any food-related anime you know. Impress people by thinking of how food develops a character I haven’t mentioned. Mention a character with quirky eating habits.  Everything is fair game.

PICSPAM FOR DESSERT: Show ▼

Tags: , ,

About

A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
Blinklist BlogMarks Delicious Digg Diigo FaceBook Google MySpace Netvibes Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter

24 Responses to “Food For Thought”

  1. animeluv04 says:

    Don’t forget Hijikata’s love for mayonnaise!

  2. Toori-chan says:

    I agree with you about the fact that you are what you eat. I eat almost anything that comes to my plate. But there are always exemptions. I hate bitter things like herbs and also most things that contains dairies (cheese and milk). I don’t mind having milk if its chocolate flavored.

    All these traits also relates back to my anime interest. I watch almost any genre of anime. I always exclude my list from Yaoi and cheesy shows (if you know what I mean by cheesy).

    One of the characters I just thought of is Kanade from Angel Beats. She likes the super spicy Mapo Tofu very much. When Otonashi took a bite of the Mapo Tofu, it was super spicy till your mouth burns up, but later he finds the aftertaste really good. When you look back at the whole story, we started off thinking Kanade is scary and dangerous but she is actually a soft and quiet girl.

    • Overcooled says:

      My eating habits describe me to a certain extent too, but of course not EVERYTHING you eat defines you. I’m just as picky with my friends as I am with my food. No junk allowed!

      Ahh yes Kanade is a perfect example. I loved how Otonashi got to know more about her just by having tofu with her.

  3. Amutofan123 says:

    Awww, Fruits Basket is my love (the manga anyway). ;_;

    Great post, but now I’m hungry. I’m gonna go… find some chips or something.

    • Overcooled says:

      Well my friends love it…but it’s not my thing.

      Food posts always make me hungry too. Reading my own post makes me want to have a snack…

  4. Foshizzel says:

    Ooooh awesome post here OC! Really good stuff, and yeah Luffy is a simple minded person! After all he never backs away from a fight even if that guy is stronger than him. Speaking of One piece, I know Sanji loves to cook and serve food to make everyone after a hard battle just so feel better. And we all know he likes to serve tea to Nami and Robin and well any other chick that he happens to runs into xD

    We also have countless shows that use food like Working! And countless maid cafe stuffs in random anime like Mayo Chiki episode nine! And I Can’t forget Hanasaku last few episodes have been food themed.

    Time to eat some snacks! Woooooo!!

    • Overcooled says:

      Thanks for the support! :3

      Guys that can cook always get the girls! Well, okay, Sanji not so much, but he tries. Getting to someone’s heart through food is always a surefire method though XD

  5. Junko says:

    Does anyone else follow the anime food blog on tumblr? God that makes me hungry.

    • Overcooled says:

      Nope, but I want to now. I did recently follow a Tumblr blog that posts recipes for food you see in video games (the Portal cake for example). 8D I can’t wait to flex my cooking muscles~

  6. Shey says:

    I love these kind of posts, keep it up 😀

  7. Namika says:

    wow….. that’s an interesting idea…… Actually, food didn’t catch my eye in any anime,besides Yumeiro Patissiere, I guess.. )))

  8. Kyokai says:

    Good stuff, Cools. I’m quite picky about my food unless I’m enormously hungry and I’ve learned that it can literally change your life (how you eat it that is) so I’m a believer but in case of anime food, it’s more on the fun side and become a cute quirk of characters.

    The first person that came into my mind after reading this is Hei from Darker than Black. He eats like a beast and knows to cook gourmet too but man look at DEM collarbones and disinterested visage of his, but of course he’s a contractor so he doesn’t need to love food because it’s more of a payment for his abilities. Also, Hijikata’s love for mayo and Gintoki’s love for sweet is their peculiar character trait that is loved by all fans. Oh, I can’t forget Shiki whose moe is induced by strawberry Häagen-Dazs (yum!).

    • Overcooled says:

      I’m really picky too. I’m willing to try just about anything, but I have a looot of food on my dislike list XD

      He has an insanely high metabolism, probably from all that running about he does. I do too, heh. It is funny how he eats a lot, but takes no particular interest in the food he’s eating. He’s really like a zombie o_o

      Can’t forget dat ice cream XD ahaha

  9. T.K. says:

    You missed out on Cooking Master Boy (Chuka Ichiban!) for you food-for-plot (dohohoho) anime list, it’s like the Iron Chef of animeverses.

    One thing I should mention is certain shows also prove how the tastiest of gourmets doesn’t have to look pretty. Look at Hijikata’s mayora special, it taste better than it looks!

    • Overcooled says:

      I’ve never seen that before or even heard of it! I’ll have to look that up.

      Yeah, some food looks horrendous, but actually tastes quite good. XD My friend is lazy and just throws all the sushi ingredients into a bowl and eats it with a spoon. It’s ugly as hell, but he says it’s delicious. XD In the case of the the opposite, Himeji from BakaTest makes gorgeous-looking food and it tastes like crap.

  10. […] smells what the Ringo is cookin’ (btw, a quick plug for Overcooled’s Food For Thought […]

  11. Joojoobees says:

    There are a lot of anime that include food in the concept aren’t there? Another for the list is Ristorante Paradiso.

    You forgot to mention the “indirect kiss” motif, when two characters share a can of juice. I have no idea how many times I have seen that one.

    Another show that wasn’t principally about food, but used food to deal with some things is RahXephon: [1] In one scene Elvy and Haruka are eating out of some fry at the table dish. Elvy shows her displeasure with Haruka by eating all of the meat just before it’s done, thus preventing Haruka from getting any. [2] One episode had a lot about food combinations that one character liked but another character thought was “weird”. The only one I distinctly remember was Haruka putting sugar on fermented soybeans (nattou). This was used in different ways throughout the episode, to indicate cultural differences, flirting, acceptance, and rejection.

    • Overcooled says:

      Haven’t heard of Ristorante Paradiso and the indirect kiss is another great example I didn’t have time to put in. I’ve seen that almost as many times as the pocky kiss.

      I’ve never seen RahXephon, but it seems interesting. Reminds me a bit how Ikoku Meiro no Croisee shows the cultural differences between the two through the different types of food and combinations of tastes that they’re used to. Especially how Yune wants to try and like all the French food in order to feel “accepted” by her guardians.

  12. DarkFireBlade25 says:

    Great post! I love the discussions that people have on here about the subject.
    I don’t really care for new food unless I am in the situation that there is none of my favorites and all the menu has is new food. Then I just go random 😛 I’m like that as well, always going for the familiar at first notice and going random if nothing is familiar is left.

    Btw, it is Tohru that is the onigiri, not Kyo. Good try tho .____.

  13. Such a delicious post! Good remarks. But damn you made me hungry~

    I’ve written about food in xxxholic in a post about body and soul. Food expresses ourselves, let us know ourselves and connect body and soul :)

Leave a Reply