There’s this character quirk that I’ve noticed in manga. I don’t know if it’s prevalent enough to call a stereotype, since my sample size is all of two series, but its appearance across genres in Honey and Clover
makes it worth noticing.
I call this character quirk “women who cook weird food.” These women are not always bad cooks, although apparently Honey and Clover's Ayumi (Ayu) is that as well, but they can cook freaky bizarre dishes with skill. Ayu and Hagumi (Hagu) have their Mintkin and Apple Curry, and Orihime from Bleach has whatever it is that makes people think there’s something wrong with her taste buds. Orihime has got one recipe with leeks, butter, bananas and red bean jam, but we never get to see the end result. I'm guessing it's a casserole.
This phenomenon is to be distinguished from the whole “women who can’t cook” thing, which does make some sense. Woman are supposed to be able to cook, and when a character can’t, it’s either shorthand for how unladylike she is (Akane from Ranma 1/2) or how odd it is that a pretty woman can’t cook (Usagi from Sailor Moon).
But the weird food thing is stumping me. Is it just supposed to highlight the character’s underlying weirdness? Is it the equivalent of dressing characters in “alternative” outfits like arm socks and Doc Martens with a prom dress? See, she wears glitter tights and eats jellybean sandwiches! How delightfully odd!
Is this a Japanese take on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie character archetype (Think Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or Zooey Deschanel in anything)? And how did it come to be? Because when I think back to my days in a sort-of art school setting, it was the dudes who did weird things with food.
Examples from my dining-hall memories:
Sour cream instead of yogurt with the fruity granola breakfast thing
Wasabi on toast instead of jam
Tater tots with grape jelly (This was a dare, but he kept eating it until it was all gone!)
Pizza Salad Sandwich! Two slices of pizza, ranch dressing, and various stuff off the salad bar (Full disclosure: this is actually really good.)
Orange juice and Coke. Even worse, pink grapefruit juice and Coke
Bacon and chocolate pudding (I think you can buy this at stores now.)
Corn (from the salad bar) and vanilla frozen yogurt
After jogging my memory, I now remember that I used to eat chili two times a day for three months. (Chili was the first sign of winter at University of California Santa Cruz.) But, I’m no closer to discovering the truth of the weird food trait. I think this calls for rewatching the Honey and Clover anime. As “research.”
— Pancha Diaz, editor, Bleach, Honey and Clover