Food Wars!: Who is Erina Nakiri’s Mother?5 min read
Food Wars’ Erina Nakiri has a terrible relationship with her tyrannical father Azami, and then there’s the matter of Mana, Erina’s mother.
Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma is a smash-hit shonen manga and anime series all about the world of cuisine, and the star is Soma Yukihira, the son of a diner owner. When Soma gets enrolled at the elite culinary school Totsuki, he meets the fierce but brilliant tsundere Erina Nakiri, and later, he crosses paths with each of Erina’s parents too.
As expected, both of Erina’s parents are elite chefs with lofty, even arrogant ideas on what the culinary world should be like. Soma and Erina took down Azami during the Regiment de Cuisine, but then the BLUE tournament started, and Erina’s mother was the mysterious Bookkeeper. However, underneath it all, Mana Nakiri is simply a woman struggling with despair.
The Despair Of Mana’s God Tongue
Mana Nakiri is an anime character whose destiny was shaped not by her own actions or dreams, but by the circumstances of her birth, and unlike a shonen protagonist, Mana didn’t have the vision or the resolve to break free of this paradigm. In fact, Mana’s greatest gift, the God Tongue, was actually a serious liability for her career as a chef and food critic.
For centuries, the esteemed Nakiri family bore the God Tongue once every few generations, and when Mana inherited it, her life was set up for failure and misery. Her God Tongue makes her palette far more sensitive and refined than anyone else’s, which makes her the ultimate chef and judge, but she cannot control this power at all. The God Tongue placed her at the apex of the culinary world — and from there, she had nowhere to go.
Mana had no room for improvement or innovation as a chef or judge, and in that sense, her career ended before it even began. This meant she became hopelessly lost in “the storm,” a phenomenon where chefs struggle to find a way to improve their craft and make new discoveries. Mana had nowhere to go, and food, which should have been her greatest passion, became a tedious chore. She tried in vain to find meaning in her career and failed.
This made her haughty and arrogant on the outside as an objectively incredible chef, but on the inside, she was in agony. It seemed that all her actions and desires were pointless, and this alienated her from her daughter, Erina Nakiri. Indeed, Mana felt like she was all alone in the world, where no one could understand her, impress her or rival her.
Mana Nakiri & The True Meaning Of Food
Mana Nakiri’s life began to change when she met Azami Nakamura, an ambitious boy who didn’t defer to Mana just because of Mana’s God Tongue or family name. For once, Mana knew someone who actually wanted to challenge her and didn’t treat her like royalty, and while she didn’t admit it at first, she found this refreshing and started spending more time with Azami.
They later married and had a daughter, Erina, who inherited the God Tongue from her mother. This was unexpected, since the God Tongue usually waits a few generations, and Mana felt despair sink in all over again. She knew right away that her daughter would bear the same impossible burden that she did — the despair of never being satisfied or growing as a chef. Erina was born perfect, and on the inside, that meant she was born dead.
Mana distanced herself from her daughter and resolved to not accept Erina until the latter could satisfy Mana’s nigh-impossible desire to create a dish that could satisfy her. Years later, Erina the Totsuki student finally confronted her mother at the BLUE tournament, and at first, Mana doubted her daughter’s ability to create such a dish and meet her absurdly high expectations. In fact, Mana set up her daughter to fail, unfairly projecting her own insecurities and despair on her daughter.
However, Erina felt differently. After spending time with Soma Yukihira, Erina finally learned the true purpose of cooking. This was a lesson Mana had never learned — that when someone selflessly cooks for the sake of friends and loved ones, anything is possible. Mana had selfishly sought to find the perfect dish to meet her own expectations and break free of her despair, only for her daughter to take the opposite approach and cook for someone else’s sake. This lesson inspired Erina to win the BLUE and, more importantly, win Mana’s approval as her mother. The rift between mother and daughter vanished almost overnight.
By the end of Food Wars!‘s story, Mana had transformed her relationship with food and her daughter, and she was present when the Nakiris reunited as a true happy family, with Mana at the head. Thanks to the seemingly silly but very real power of love and friendship, mixed with some exquisite cooking, Mana found purpose and joy in cooking at last, God Tongue or not.
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