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Manga / Kitchen Princess

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A romance with a tasty twist.
After an accident leaves her orphaned, Najika Kazami is left to her own grief and unanswerable questions. After wandering too far from Lavender House, she trips and falls into a pond. She's rescued from almost drowning by a kind-hearted young boy about her age. Giving her words of encouragement and compassion, he hands over a spoon and a cup of flan. When he disappears thereafter, that flan and spoon are the only clues as to his identity. It isn't until a few years later that Najika learns that the spoon's insignia is Seika Academy's, a prestigious school for students that show incredible talents. Armed with only her amazing taste buds and cooking skills, Najika enters Seika Academy in the hopes of finding her Flan Prince.

Kitchen Princess (キッチンのお姫さま, Kicchin no Ohime-sama) is a cooking shōjo manga by Miyuki Kobayashi with art by Natsumi Andō (Arisa). It ran from September 2004 to October 2008 in Nakayoshi and was compiled into ten volumes. Del Rey Manga originally released the series in English. After they disbanded, Kondansha took over their catalogue and re-released the series in 2013 as a four omnibus set.

A light novel called Kitchen Princess: Search for the Angel Cake (キッチンのお姫さま 天使のケーキを探せ!, Kitchin no Ohime-sama Tenshi no Kēki o Sagase) was published in March 2008. Najika is tasked with replicating a white cake recipe for the grandmother of one her classmates. Del Rey translated this as well, releasing it in November 2009.

This series contains examples of:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: A lot of Najika's classmates shun her after she describes her special talent (what she needs in order to attend the special class) as being a big eater.
  • Alpha Bitch: Popular model Akane constantly frames Najika for things that weren't her fault. The Wounded Gazelle Gambit is one of her favorite cards to play, and her posse falls for it every time. After Najika helps Akane with an eating disorder, this trait fades away.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sora was tasked with buttering up Najika, but ended up falling for her in the process.
  • Beige Prose: The prose in Search for the Angel Cake is pretty basic; there are times where it reads less like a novel and more like a script for a manga.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: At the beginning of the series, Najika and Daichi share a somewhat contentious relationship, but they simmer down over time.
  • Betty and Veronica: Najika is the Betty to Akane's Veronica in the love triangle between Daichi. Daichi himself is a Veronica to Sora's Betty in regards to Najika being Archie. Then it's Daichi who becomes the Betty as Seiya takes over his space in the love triangle as the Veronica.
  • Big Eater: When her classmates asked her about the competitions she had won (a prerequisite for being a member of the special class), Najika lists off a number of eating competitions, much to her classmates' disgust.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Akane acts like Najika's friend and is supposedly on her side while other students want her out. However, there are various points in the series where she tries to sabotage Najika's relationship with Daichi and tries to make her leave the school. She also pulls a few Wounded Gazelle Gambits on her classmates to make Najika look like the bitch in disguise. By the end of the first volume, Akane stops acting like a nice person and tells Najika to her face that she actually hates her.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy:
    • Fujita may look and act like a complete slacker, but he is actually a very talented chef. At one point, he helps Najika figure out the secret to the peach pie that Akane's grandmother used to make after Najika made several pies by herself.
    • Daichi can be just as smart and studious as his brother, he mostly chooses not to.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Akane developed a crush on Daichi when they were little and those feelings transferred over to their teen years. She was hopeful that she and Daichi would get together, but then Najika shows up at the academy. When she feared that Daichi would get with a girl who wasn't her, she joined forces with a group of bullies who wanted Najika out. She even stole a present that Daichi got for Najika because she suspected a more serious relationship forming. She eventually drops this behavior and accepts that Daichi just isn't interested in her.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: While Akane and Najika are eating lunch together, Akane purposely knocks her own lunch onto her dress, then gets upset and causes her friends to turn on the girl. She also "accidentally" spills Najika's beaten eggs during a cooking competition.
  • Cooking Duel: Multiple chapters feature Najika in cook-off between herself and one or more competitors.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Najika falls onto Daichi while trying to get down from a tree.
  • Curtains Match the Window: Both Najika and Sora have blonde hair and gold eyes.
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Najika confesses her love to Sora who delays telling her how he feels, as well as something else, because he doesn't want to distract her before a big competition. He gets hit by a car not soon after.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sora's death leaves Najika so traumatized that she loses her sense of taste for a period of time.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The reason why Akane antagonizes Najika is because she believed that Najika was trying to take Daichi away from her.
    • The bullies that Najika has to deal with torment her just because they think she doesn't deserve to be there, even when she's shown off her culinary skills. They go as far as to attempting to get Fujita Diner closed because one of them saw her with Sora and they thought she was flirting with him.
  • Driven to Suicide: This is believed how Daichi and Sora's mother died: she took her own life because her husband worked too much and wasn't home enough. Turns out this was a just rumor made up by the nurses in the hospital that Daichi overheard. In actuality, she sacrificed her life in order to save Daichi's.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Sora's death happens very suddenly, instigated by being hit by truck.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Subverted with Seiya. Seiya isn't introduced until directly after Sora's death. He looks the same, but his personality is completely different: instead of being kind and understanding, Seiya is an arrogant, snobby Jerkass.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After having to deal with cruel bullies, many step-backs, and her first crush dying, Najika does finally find her Flan Prince: Daichi was the boy who gave her the flan all those years ago. He fell for Najika during the time they've spent together, and the two of them become a couple.
  • First Guy Wins: Najika considers the Flan Prince her first love. The plot is driven by her desire to find him and cook him a special desert as thanks for saving her from drowning. The question is who out of her love interests is the Flan Prince: Sora, Daichi, or Seiya? It turns out to be Daichi, who was also the first prospective love interest she met after transferring to Seika Academy.
  • Food Porn: The main focus of the series revolves around the main character's cooking abilities, leading to many panels showing off exquisitely detailed dishes.
  • Gang of Bullies: Najika has to deal with a group of snobbish girls on a regular basis. They gossip about her, insult her, physically lash out at her a few times, and even attempt to shut down the on-campus diner she works at just to drive her away.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Najika usually puts up her hair in pigtails, and she has a lot of stereo-typically feminine traits.
  • Gut Punch: The story becomes much more serious after Sora's death. While the series never fully loses its lighthearted or comedic moments, the event casts a definite shadow; Najika has to struggle with her grief, the feelings she had for the boy she lost, the boy's father taking out his grief on her by being petty, and many other hardships.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Sora is a princely-like boy with blond hair while Daichi is a hotheaded brunette.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Akane resented Najika's closeness to Daichi, leading her to bully Najika out of jealousy. Najika takes the bullying as it is at first, even helping Akane when she was going through a tough time, but she does eventually retaliate. Akane exposes her jealousy during the aftermath, leading the two of them to have a heart to heart. From then on, Akane becomes one of her friends, even standing up for Najika when her former posse continues bullying her.
  • Heroic BSoD: Najika after Sora dies, losing all sense of taste from the trauma. She blames herself for his death, since he was out shopping for her when he got hit.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Daichi and Sora's mother died while using herself as a shield in order to save Daichi from some falling construction equipment.
  • Identical Stranger:
    • Seiya looks very similar to Sora, to the point where Daichi- Sora's younger brother- mistook Seiya for Sora the first time they met.
    • Search for the Angel Cake: Fujita apparently looks a lot like resembles Fujiko's late husband when he was younger.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the manga chapters and the light novel's arcs are titled "Recipe #: Najika and [food]." The food named is usually a dish that Najika cooks with no more significance than that, though dishes that are an important part of the chapter aren't uncommon. The manga's bonus chapter changes it up slightly, being named "Akane and Black Sesame Pudding".
  • Inconsistent Dub: According to the Kodansha print of the manga, Najika's parents died in a car crash. In the Del Rey translation of the light novel, Najika's parents (and both sets of grandparents) died in a boating accident. While neither is completely accurate, the accident involving a boat is more true to the original text.
  • Informed Attribute: In Search for the Angel Cake, Anju's repeatedly said to be very shy and introverted, but the way she made her request to Najika was rather bold. She also doesn't seem to have any problems becoming friends with Najika, Daichi, or Akane.
  • Interquel: References to Sora's death, Seiya's presence, and the fact that Najika and Daichi aren't dating yet all point to the events of Search for the Angel Cake happening at least around the midpoint of the manga.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Sora and his father's decision to hide the cause of their mother's death leads to the breakdown of their family for years. It ends up all for naught since Daichi eventually regains his memories and thus the truth.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Najika is one the receiving end of a some nasty bullying for being an outsider and Country Mouse in a rich, cosmopolitan school.
  • Lazy Bum: Prior to Najika's arrival, Fujita used to be a great chef and took better care of his restaurant. By the time she gets there, he let his diner go to ruin. One side story has him use this excuse as to why he wouldn't go grocery shopping during a hot day, instead making Najika get them instead. He's even referred to as a lazy bum by the characters.
  • Lethal Chef: Akane can't cook to save her life, and all of her attempts to make a dish invariably end in disaster.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Najika is in love with her Flan Prince, but she doesn't know who he is. Akane has had a crush on Daichi for some time before Najika's transfer to Seika Academy. Sora and Daichi eventually fall for Najika, but Sora's death leaves a shadow over Daichi and Najika's budding feelings. The hole Sora left is filled by Seiya, who also eventually develops a crush on Najika.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The spoon the Flan Prince gave Najika is the only clue she has as to her hero's identity. It isn't until several years later that she learns of its connection to Seika Academy.
  • Nice Guy: Sora is unfailingly nice and kind to Najika.
  • Orphanage of Love: Lavender House is the orphanage that Najika was taken to after her parents died. The owner is an elderly woman named Hagio, who raises her charges with an open heart and an even hand.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The spoon Najika wears was given to her by the same boy who saved her from drowning. She can't remember anything else about the boy, who she nicknames the Flan Prince, so she uses the spoon as the starting point for her search. Several years later, she finds out that the insignia on the spoon is the same one as Seika Academy's. Since she has no other leads, Najika enrolls in the illustratious academy in the hopes that her Flan Prince will be there.
  • Pair the Spares: The bonus chapter in the last volume, "Akane and Black Sesame Pudding", is dedicated to showing Akane and Seiya bonding over their shared heartbreak. The last page implies that they become a couple.
  • The Pollyanna: No matter what terrible things life throws her way, Najika always does her best to remain optimistic.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Daichi kisses Najika, but later denies that it meant anything and claims he was only trying to one-up his brother. Najika runs off crying because it was her first kiss.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Deconstructed with Sora. At first he seems to be nothing more than a stereotypical prince-type love interest who swoops in at the last minute when things seem to be going south for Najika. Then it's revealed that he got close to Najika on orders from his father. He did wind up developing a crush on Najika, and tells her that he's her Flan Prince. Then he gets hit by a truck, causing fatal injures. He dies, but not before admitting to Najika that he lied about being the Flan Prince.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sora is a hardworking and kind musician who does whatever his father wants. His younger brother Daichi, meanwhile, is a brutally honest, standoffish athlete who hates their father.
  • Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics: During the Christmas fashion show, Akane sets up Najika as a thief, claiming she stole one of her dresses. Akane's posse believe her, and one of them starts to tear the dress off of Najika.
  • Supreme Chef: Najika is an amazing cook who can make both delicious and inventive dishes. Her absolute sense of taste helps out quite a bit, being able to replicate any dish she tastes.
  • Teen Idol: Akane is a popular professional teen model.
  • Title Drop: Seiya makes a nonalcoholic cocktail called a Cinderella for Najika. He compares her to the famous princess, but Najika doesn't think the image of a castle fits her well. He corrects himself, calling her a "kitchen princess" instead.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Daichi suffered this after his mother's death, forgetting what happened and about going to Hokkaido entirely.
  • Tsundere: Akane, Daichi and Seiya all have moments where Najika would be nice to them and then they'd blush before they start shouting due to feeling flustered.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Najika asks Sora if his friendship with her was ever genuine after finding out she was being used by him and the director.
  • Weight Woe: Akane's the thinnest girl at her school, but she fears that if she gains even one pound, it'll be the end of her supermodel career. For a few chapters, she resorts to forgoing meals, which causes her friends, family, staff members, and Najika to worry. She even believed that the food she ate in one chapter would turn immediately turn to fat so she forced herself to regurgitate it.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Chapter 23: Sora is getting some vanilla beans for Najika. On his way to where Najika is waiting for him, he is hit by a truck.
    • Chapter 24: Fujita brings Najika to the hospital that Sora was taken to. Sora admits that he lied about being the Flan Prince shortly before dying.