Soma Yukihira, the main character of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma, is a fairly conventional shonen lead. The secondary protagonist Erina Nakiri, the scion of a powerful family of chefs, proves much more interesting. Over the course of Food Wars!, Erina's personal arc takes her in directions that she never thought possible.
In many ways, she slowly and surely becomes like Soma himself, even if she doesn't want to admit it.
Erina's Strength Of Friendship
At first, Erina Nakiri is the most powerful student at the Totsuki Academy, but she's also the loneliest. She comes from a family of chefs who are practically too talented for their own good and has been raised like a princess. She was born for greatness and had the best tutors and upbringing possible... at the expense of friendships or self-determination. She had Hisako Arato around as her loyal assistant, and she got along with her cousin Alice, but she lacked true friends.
By contrast, Soma Yukihira is quick to make friends and quickly absorbs all kinds of lessons from his many new friends at Totsuki. More than once, Soma created unique and resourceful dishes because he got ideas from the likes of Megumi Tadokoro , Takumi Aldin, Satoshi Isshiki and many more. Erina was raised in a tradition-based, conservative environment where there was only one way to do the right thing, but Erina broke free of this when she realized that, like Soma, she could learn new techniques and styles from her classmates. Erina didn't have to be alone anymore; other chefs could deepen her style, not corrupt it, and she learned things about food that her family never could.
Erina started adopting a playful and whimsical attitude toward cooking, inspiring the judges to imagine goofy little Erina angels swarming around when they ate her food, similar to the reactions Soma sometimes inspires. Erina defeated her father, and in that moment of triumph, she loosened her ponytail's hairband and used Soma's victory phrase, "Glad you liked it!"
Erina Starts to Cook For Her Family
Erina vanquished her tyrannical father Azami, but she was still alienated from her mother, Mana Nakiri (who also had the God Tongue). The mother-daughter relationship had gone sour years ago because Mana had given in to despair, believing that she'd never enjoy food again, and she doubted that Erina could fix the problem. Erina and Mana came face to face at the BLUE tournament years later, and Mana was actually hoping that Asahi Saiba would free her from that despair. But that's not how it played out; Asahi lost to Soma, and Soma's values were based not on elitism, but on cooking for beloved friends and family.
Soma grew up with two parents who loved cooking, and the desire to make each other happy with food is what spurred them on. Soma's own mother, Tamako, wasn't a very good chef, but that fact didn't bother her at all. She had her husband and son to cook for, and they felt the same way about her. This was the secret to true cooking.
Erina learned that lesson well and used it to turn the tables on her lofty mother. Off-screen, Erina won the entire BLUE, and she had won Mana's respect once again. Mother and daughter were going forward hand in hand, and they were comfortable enough to tease and taunt each other about who was the superior chef between them.
It was just like the banter-filled rivalry between Soma and his father Joichiro, and it proved that Erina had truly broken free of the God Tongue curse at last. As long as she had someone beloved to cook for, she'd never run out of ideas and joy in the kitchen. That makes her and Soma two of a kind.