Not all superpowers are created equal.
Case in point: when someone says the word "superpower", what comes to mind first? If you're like most people, your answer will be something along the lines of "super strength", "super speed", "the ability to fly", "ESP", and so on. There's a reason these powers are perennial in fiction: they're very powerful, versatile attributes that are useful in any number of situations.
Some characters, however, have much more... specific superpowers. One can transform inanimate objects into gourmet pastries. Another can make cheeseburgers fly around the room... but only cheeseburgers. Yet another can eat one bite of baked potato, and instantly obtain all the potato's memories, from the plant's exact location right down to the exact people who dug up and cooked the potato. These characters have what are known as Food-Based Superpowers.
"Food-Based Superpowers" is broad, catch-all term for a wide variety of superpowers that turn up in fiction. While this idea can take on any number of different forms in a work, the trope itself is fairly easy to define. For an ability to qualify as a Food-Based Superpower, all three of the following conditions must be met:
- It must directly involve food in some way, whether as a starting catalyst or an end product.
- It must be something that is impossible for a normal, ordinary person to do — ergo, a superpower.
- It must not be any old stock superpower bestowed by a Power-Up Food, but an actual food-themed superpower inherent to an individual character. note
Food-Based Superpowers (and most of the stories they appear in) tend to be rather whimsical (or even comedic) in nature, at least compared to more conventional superpowers. As such, their value as superpowers tends to be downplayed, or in more extreme cases, played entirely for comedy. As such, Food-Based Superpowers don't necessarily have to be impressive or even particularly ''useful'' — they may only be useful in specific situations, or they may not have any practical use at all.
Another product of this trope's inherent whimsy is that Food-Based Superpowers tend to appear mostly in media aimed at children, who are generally assumed to have a higher appreciation (or at least tolerance) for silliness than the older set. As a result, many Food-Based Superpowers tend to have combat-oriented applications in action-based cartoons or anime. This need not always be the case, however — Food-Based Superpowers can entail something as simple and practical as producing Miracle Food for a starving person.
While none of the following are exactly subtropes of Food-Based Superpowers, they are related in some way. As they don't really constitute examples of this trope, any examples of the following should go under their respective pages:
- Food with an innate ability to grant someone powers is Power-Up Food. The ability to create Power-Up Food can be a Food-Based Superpower, but the powers gained by eating it may not necessarily be this trope. (See also Cereal-Induced Superpowers and Mutagenic Food).
- A person who has extremely high-level cooking ability that isn't explained by some superhuman power is a Supreme Chef, and a cook who can fight is a Chef of Iron. Neither apply here, as being very good at something isn't a superpower in and of itself.
- Instances of eating massive quantities of food or eating non-food items are Big Eater and Extreme Omnivore respectively. These abilities can theoretically be part of a Food-Based Superpower, but by themselves, they're more often used as sight gags than superpowers.
- Using caloric energy gained by eating food to cast magical spells is Cast from Calories, which is more an explanation of how magic works in a specific universe than an actual superpower.
- Characters with superpowers related to growing or manipulating plants fall under Green Thumb. While these examples ostensibly have the power to grow food, plant-based powers have their own distinct trope.
- For instances where regular foods are used as ordinary weapons, see Edible Ammunition for projectiles and Edible Bludgeon for melee weaponry.
- For instances where a character eats enemies or other characters and gains their superpowers, see You Are Who You Eat and Cannibalism Superpower.
- Pepsiman, a '90s Japanese Pepsi mascot, would race up to thirsty or upset people, thrust out his open palm, and suddenly everyone would have a can of Pepsi in hand. It's not clear (or terribly important) how Pepsiman produced free soda for random people, but it might be best not to think about that too deeply.
- All of UFO Kamen Yakisoban's attacks involve food in some way, from weaponry like sauce guns to his Agedama Bomber and Noodle Attack finishing moves, where he throws fried batter at the enemy or wraps them in noodles.
- Banana no Nana: The main character, Nana, has absolute control over bananas such as using them as a sword or using the peels as shields. However, the rules of her world have certain conditions to them for one to use their powers. In Nana's case, she can only use her power if she eats a banana once a day, unpeeled. And an extra one if she does use it.
- Bleach: The Royal Guard Kirio Hikifune can create extraordinarily powerful Power-Up Food from pure spiritual energy. She spends most of her downtime bulking up so the drain on her power won't endanger her life.
"To control food is to control life, you see! I create my dishes to foster life, and I create the ingredients from my own body."
- Fukuyama in Dorohedoro can turn anything into a pie. Yes, including people.
- Dragon Ball:
- Eat-Man: Combined with Extreme Omnivore. The protagonist Bolt Crank has the power to eat anything made of metal, and then produce the fully functioning original item at will. Naturally, this usually translates to a hero who can pull out massive firepower when he needs it most (though, mercifully, he pulls it from his arm rather than his ass).
- Fighting Foodons: Crossing this with a Mons Series gives us this show, where the fighting monsters are actually food recipes come to life. A talented chef can make better Foodons, and even empower them using power toppings. The most skilled such chefs are actually termed Dish Wizards.
- In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Tonio Trussardi is an Italian chef whose Stand, named Pearl Jam, grants curative properties to the food he prepares. Each dish has a specific effect (for example, his Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca can treat dental cavities).
- The Law of Ueki: Yunpao has the ability to transform electricity into sugar and back again.
- My Hero Academia:
- Sato's quirk, Sugar Rush, revolves around him consuming a lot of sugar and gaining a temporary boost of strength and energy.
- Tamaki Amajiki, hero name Suneater, can transform his body based on any food he has recently eaten. He eats beef, he turn his hands into hooves. He eats squid or octopus, he can transform parts of his body into tentacles. His mentor, Fatgum, makes a point of giving him swordfish meat just before they take part in a raid on a gangster's stronghold.
- In Naruto, the Akimichi clan converts the calories they consume into chakra, allowing them to use their techniques
- Something of a running theme for the Big Mom Pirates (and those outside of the family) of One Piece who tend to have cooking or (more approriately) food-based powers. Some examples are:
- Katakuri, who can generate and control sticky mochi from his body and even mimic protagonist Luffy's Rubber Man powers.
- Charlotte Prospero, who can create and manipulate candy as weapons, servants, and even prisons for his enemies. When he loses an arm in a surprise attack, he's even able to create a working replacement made of candy.
- Sweet Commander Cracker, who is able to create a mobile, Multi-Armed and Dangerous suit if armor made of tea biscuits he can ride around it. His opponents usually can't beat the thing, but even if they do, Cracker himself is still waiting inside, fresh as a daisy, and usually ready to perform a surprise attack while his opponent tries to celebrate. When Luffy proves powerful enough to go through the armor and still deal with Cracker, the nefarious pirate reveals he can make unlimited copies of the armor that operate independently of him simply by clapping.
- The prize probably goes to Head Chef Streusen, however, one of Big Mom's first allies. He has the power to turn anything he cuts into food. This is demonstrated when he uses his sword to start slicing up a log, with the slices becoming prepared ham steaks for him to eat. Put to an interesting test when he cuts up the crumbling castle of Whole Cake Island, turning the stone walls to actual cake and saving his crew from being crushed under the rubble.
- Outside of Big Mom Pirates, there's Wapol of Drum Island, who combines it with Extreme Omnivore: he can shapeshift parts of his body into anything that he has eaten, such as turning his arms into functional Arm Cannons after eating a few cannons. In his side story, he can use his power to produce toys by eating some scrap, which he then sells to children. Later, the Wano arc introduces Tama, a young girl who can generate edible dango from her cheeks, which can be fed to animals and SMILE-users to make them tame and subservient to her. However, this effect doesn't work on humans, and it won't make humans any less hungry if they do eat it.
- In Toriko, Gourmet Cells allows an individual to develop unique abilities suited to that user. Gourmet Cells drastically enhanced the environment that are flat out impossible to exist in the Real World and make animals exponentially stronger.
- BoBoiBoy: Gopal Kumar actually has the ability to manipulate the molecules of objects to transform into anything. However, due to his obsession with food, he mostly ends up turning things into food.
- ALF: Marvel's comic book (released under the Star Comics label) once parodied the X-Men and two of the characters were example of this. Magneto became Magmeato who could attract and levitate meat while Hagen-Dazzler (based on Dazzler) could create massive blocks of ice cream. Unfortunately, when Hagen-Dazzler encases Magmeato in a giant block of Neapolitan, he uses his powers to instantly free himself.
- Invader Zim (Oni): In issue #18, Zim takes over the restaurant Burrito King by kicking out its owner, Burrito Royale. Burrito Royale travels the land to gather followers (despite him only being gone since the morning of the day he returns, he claims that it was a long journey) and learn the power to control beans before returning to reclaim his restaurant. Burrito Royale demonstrates his new power by levitating a bunch of beans (although he doesn't like when one of his followers dubs him a "beanbender") before kicking Zim out by using the beans to push him through the door.
- Chew features a wide variety of food-based superpowers.
- PS238 has Uther Brown, a student in the Rainmaker program who can transmute anything into tasty, and nutritious food. Oddly, it still looks like the original object, but it's completely edible. For example, Uther once made a flowerpot taste like waffles, and ate it for breakfast.
- Power Lunch deals with a kid named Joey who can take on different powers based on the colour of food he eats. For example, if he eats spaghetti he gains rubber powers, eating a pepperoni pizza allows him fire powers or eating cotton candy can make him go invisible. Due to all these various effects, his mother will only allow him to eat white food (like eggs, milk or bananas) since it's the only thing that won't trigger any powers. The comic depicts the shenanigans he gets into when she isn't looking or at school.
- Marvel Comics has a comedic duo for gag comics named Milk and Cookies. One is basically the Thing if his hide had the texture of a cookie, completing the look with Wolverine like horns on his head that make it look like a bite was taken out of it. He also carries an ammo belt of fig newtons. The former is a woman who's basically Starfire if all her visual aesthetics, i.e. hair, costume and power blasts, were milky white.
- The same gag comics that introduced them also parodied Cloak and Dagger as "Clunk and Dagnabbit". The former's cloak was a portal to a dimension of dark chocolate chips, the latter could create gobs of cookie dough to throw.
- Dueling Keyboards: "Under Wraps": Combat confectionery skills allow turning sweets into weapons such as red-hots that physically burn instead of just being spicy, or voice-changing lozenges.
- Julieta from Encanto can make food that heals people.
- The Adventures Of Food Boy is about a teen who can generate food from his hands.
- This joke features a superhero named Wonderbread, who (naturally) possesses bread-themed super powers, as does his sidekick Yeast Boy.
- Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: The Bartender Ancient Order of Protectors tap into the magical properties of alcoholic cocktails to fight monsters. Bailey finds herself recruited when she accidentally mixes herself a screwdriver that gives her temporary Super-Strength.
- Whateley Universe: Donut can make any pastry size and type he knows, appear in his hands, and it tires him out if he overdoes it. Also, they seem to have a slight effect of helping people out mentally and physically.
- In Misfits, Brian aka "Monsieur Grand Fromage" has the power of "lactokinesis" — the ability to control dairy products with his mind. This briefly makes him famous, but then the media loses interest as other superhumans with more impressive powers enter the public eye. Then Brian learns that he can use his ability to kill people...
- Big Eyes, Small Mouth: The Uresia: Grave of Heaven supplement includes the "God of Cookery" Attribute, enabling characters to do things such as preparing an entire meal in a single round, serving said meal with perfect poise while whitewater rafting, or reverse-engineering the recipe of a dish from a single taste.
- Warhammer: The Lore of the Great Maw allows the Butchers, the magic users of the Ogre Kingdoms, to caster different spells depending on what they eat. Eating the heart of a powerful beast, for example, allows them to strengthen their allies, while eating the entrails of a Troll allows them to give a nearby unit a Healing Factor and consuming a victim's brain can project the unfortunate's nightmares into the minds of the Butcher's foes.
- Turning monsters into sweets is a recurring ability in the Atelier Series, with methods ranging from straightforward witchcraft to conjuring a giant shaved ice machine. The sweets are typically used as unique synthesis materials instead of being outright eaten, although there’s nothing stopping the player from using them to synthesize a Power-Up Food.
- In A Boy and His Blob, the titular Blob gains shapeshifting powers from eating ordinary jelly beans, and the flavor of bean determines what the Blob will turn into. Most of the transformations are based on wordplay, using Alliteration (Root Beer Rocket), rhyme (Tangerine Trampoline), or even puns (Apple Jack)
- ClayFighter: Most characters are humans or animals that mutated from a clay meteor, but in some cases the food became animated and so became a fighter itself. This is the case of Taffy (a literal Candyman) and Nanaman (a living banana), both are fighters that use their own edible elements as weapons: Taffy uses gumballs as projectiles and stretch his body to attack at distance, and Nanaman throws banana slices as projectiles as well his body slides to reach the opponents.
- The adaptation of Ronald McDonald by Japanese creator Kishio (called as Donald instead Ronald in Japan) has various attacks that precisely involved McDonalds food as cheeseburgers as projectiles, hitting with giant french fries and even getting an apple from Happy Meal as an explosive. Not to mention he was modeled after Dio Brando, which included his own version of his Finishing Move, but with a giant hamburger falling from the sky instead of the steamroller.
- Dancing Banana is capable of pulling out over-sized bananas from hammerspace and throwing them at his enemies. He also can perform flip-kicks that spawn large bananas which knock back his opponents.
- Pokémon: Introduced in Pokémon Sword and Shield, Flapple and Appletun, as their name indicates, are themed around apples. Flapple has the signature move Grav Apple, which creates an apple and drops it on the opponent's head. Appletun has the signature move Apple Acid, which attacks the target with an acidic liquid created from tart apples.
- South Park:
- South Park: The Fractured but Whole: Captain Diabetes' Limit Break "High Fructose Death Wave" involves him ingesting large amounts of sugar to Hulk Out and cause massive damage to enemies.
- South Park: Phone Destroyer: Captain Diabetes' charged ability has him do this to double his health and attack power for five seconds.
- Epithet Erased has Giovanni Potage, whose Epithet is Soup, granting him the ability to conjure soup from thin air, launch globs of it as a scalding projectile, create healing soup, and generate and manipulate steam. For a seemingly useless power, he gets quite a lot of mileage out of it, which is ironic, considering Giovanni's taste buds have been largely burned off.
- Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum is a "Candy Elemental" and has the power to generate and fire jawbreakers as weapons. She just doesn't use the power because she disdains magic in favor of science.
- Codename: Kids Next Door: Grandma Stuffum is a Cordon Bleugh Chef old lady that cooks disgusting dishes that are also living monsters. True to her name she thinks children don't eat enough and wants to force feed them her creations.
- Danny Phantom: The Lunch Lady has the ability to control food, summon it, and even transform herself into a meat monster.
- The Fairly OddParents!: In "Mighty Mom and Dyno Dad", Timmy wishes for his parents to become superheroes. One of Dyno Dad's powers is "meat vision", which allows him to produce various meat products via Eye Beams.
- Justice League Action: In "Captain Bamboozle", Mr. Mxyzptlk gives Uncle Dudley the power to summon food from the sky alongside other powers for the secret motive of using him to cause mischief and annoy the other heroes.
- One of the villains in The Mask was the witch Gorgonzola, which as indicated by the name, could transform all sorts of matter into cheese.
- Miraculous Ladybug has the kwami, who gain differing powers based on what food their partners feed them, altering the empowered form for different missions.
- The Powerpuff Girls (1998): The aptly named "Power Lunch" has the Gangrene Gang inadvertently gain superpowers when the girls zap them with heat vision after they had raid a convenience store, giving them the properties of what they eat. Ace gets ice due to eating ice cream, Snake stretching power from eating taffy, Arturo super speed due to drinking coffee, Grubber belching power from drinking soda and Billy a rock due to eating rock candy. However, it only last until they get a collective stomachache and have to use the toilet. Since they -ahem- "emptied" the contents of their stomachs, they likewise lose the powers.
- Another one shot villain was the Salami Swami, a stereotypical Indian snake charmer that played his flute to control chains of sausages.
- Steven Universe: Invoked and subverted in the first episode. Steven's powers first appear when he sings about his favorite ice cream, Cookie Cat, and initially believes his powers come from the ice cream itself. His powers are actually emotion-based and appeared because he was very emotionally attached to said ice cream.
- Teen Titans Go!: In one episode, Robin gains avocado superpowers, such as the ability to project an avocado shield, after eating an avocado given to him by Beast Boy. The effects wear off after a while, however, and Robin needs to eat another to restore them. Inevitably, the Power Corrupts Robin and he devises an evil scheme to make avocados the only food in the world. He eventually merges with a pile of avocados to become an unstoppable avocado monster only defeated after he is given spicy guacamole, which shrinks him, as it's Robin's weakness.
- Wordgirl: The Butcher is capable of creating and conjuring meat out of thin air using his hands and either using it as a bludgeon or firing it. One episode gave him a rival in a posh villain who preferred summoning gourmet meat dishes. Later on his father is introduced, who has similar powers themed around potatoes.
- A gag in an episode of Family Guy has Stewie botching a suicide by toaster in the bathtub and becoming "Toaster Man" instead. He's shown conjuring perfectly toasted bread.