Sweetness and Lightning is a slice of life anime about a man, and his daughter just trying to get through life together after the mother of the family has passed away, and grow as a family after being left alone in the world. This sounds pretty serious, but truthfully, Sweetness and Lightning is an adorable good time, where you’ll spend more time laughing about a cute little girl, or about a father trying to deal with her, than you’ll spend crying your eyes out. However, given their circumstances, things can get emotional, and the show is better, and more well rounded because of it, but if you want a relaxing anime to melt your worries away, Sweetness and Lightning is the anime for you.
Sweetness and Lightning stars Kouhei Inuzuka, a high school assistant teacher, and his daughter Tsumugi Inuzuka, a kindergarten aged child. After the loss of Kouhei’s wife, and Tsumugi’s mother, Kouhei struggles to take care of her. His biggest problem being that he can’t cook, and a growing girl needs proper nutrition. Still, for a while, Tsumugi survives on convenience store lunches, and she quickly grows tired of it. When taking a trip one day in the park, they meet Kotori Iida, a high school student at Kouhei’s school. They soon find out that her mother owns a restaurant, and promise to visit one day. Sometime later, when Tsumugi has a small bout of depression, Kouhei rushes her to this restaurant, to give her a good meal, but when they get there, they find it’s closed. Still, Kotori is there, and she agrees to cook for them anyways. Kotori has an interest in cooking, but is afraid of knives, and Kouhei wants to be able to make better meals for his daughter, but doesn’t know how to cook, so they soon form an agreement, to sometimes get together to cook, in order to solve both of their problems. These cooking sessions make up the crux of each episode of Sweetness and Lightning.
That’s right. Sweetness and Lightning is deceptively a cooking show for most of the way through. There are scenes within Kotori, and Kouhei’s school, or in Tsumugi’s classroom, depicting their day to day lives in those environments, but things almost always end in the kitchen, and their problems are normally solved with food. Together they make things that range from hamburger, squid, gyoza, and curry, to sweeter things like donuts, and crepes; sometimes with friends of theirs, but normally with just each other. If you know Japanese culture, you know they take food very seriously there, and so great detail is put into each cooking scene. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you could cook some of these same meals at home just by watching the show. Likewise, the food is all drawn so well that it always made me hungry. I’ve seen it done better in anime where food is the sole focus of the show, but you will still want to reach into your screen, grab some of that food, and eat it. Or at least I did.
Outside of the kitchen though, Tsumugi deals with things like how kindergarten children can be bratty to say the least, and of course, her father always does his best to help out as well. These issues are often resolved in a sort of unbelievable manner, when compared to how things like this normally work out in real life, but it fits well with the tone of the show. In Sweetness and Lightning, no matter how tough things get, it’s not too long before we’re smiling again. Not much emphasis is placed on Kotori and Kouhei’s time in school, other than Kotori’s short interactions or lack-there-of with other students, and a quick conversation or two between Kouhei’s teachers. Instead, school is often where Kouhei and Kotori talk about what they’re going to cook that night, or about problems Kouhei is having with Tsumugi. Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t play up the fact that a teacher is spending a lot of time with a single student, during, and after school, but that wouldn’t quite fit with the show anyways, so it’s honestly commendable that the writers had the strength to avoid such low hanging fruit.
Another big hurdle the show covers is Kouhei dealing with his daughter emotionally. Tsumugi may be adorable most of the time, but children her age are volatile, and due to their lack of understanding of how the world works, they can blow up in several ways at the drop of a hat. Of course, I have no experience in raising a child, but being a single parent is hard no matter what way you look at it. The moments where Kouhei and Tsumugi argue can be heartbreaking, but very realistic in how they are portrayed. Both Tsumugi and Kouhei make mistakes, but their family bond is always strong enough to pull them back together. Honestly, Tsumugi may perhaps be too perfect of a child, as a normal child of that age might not be so excepting and easygoing about the various things that happen to her in the show. Especially given that she recently lost her mother, she should be an emotional wreck, but perhaps she is too young to quite process what happened. That said, since Tsumugi is a smart girl, who is mature for her age, that might not be giving her enough credit. However, she knows she no longer has a mother, and it is still very hard for her, which is apparent. Regardless though, Tsumugi has a big smile on her face for a majority of the show, and her antics are a joy to watch. Whether she’s singing, dancing, or screaming about something she’s excited about, she lights up any shot she’s in. She really is the star of this show.
Sweetness and Lightning is a wonderful, relaxing show, that will turn you in many directions, but at its core, Sweetness and Lightning is a show you’ll want to put on after a hard day to forget about the outside world. It is perhaps a bit too childish to be an anime for everyone, regardless of the more mature themes, and being a more casual show, isn’t a show I would recommend binging, but if you are an anime fan who would enjoy a show that’s overloaded with cute, with perhaps a side of feels, then I definitely would give this show a try. Tsumugi is worth every second!