Sweetness and Lightning – Mid Season Review
Sweetness and Lightning:
Original Air Dates: Jul 5, 2016 to ???
Synopsis: Math Teacher Kouhei Inuzuka does his best to raise his young daughter Tsumugi as a single father. He’s pretty bad at cooking, a chore his late wife generally took over, so to keep Tsumugi fed, he normally just buys the local convenience store microwave meals. However when taking Tsumugi out cherry-blossom viewing one day, Kouhei and Tsumugi run into Kotori Iida, whose mother owns a local restaurant. Realizing Tsumugi deserves proper meals, Kouhei sets about to learn how to cook so he can treat his little girl right.
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: As the show progresses to its midpoint, it has been slowly introducing and integrating new side characters in the form of Shinobu, Kotori’s best and only friend, and Yagi, Kouhei’s old classmate and occasional babysitter for Tsumugi. Both characters are a lot more dynamic and outspoken when compared to our lead twosome and bring some extra life and pep into the series. While Tsumugi has been a great source of laughs and energy, it’s fun to watch her bouncing off the energy brought about by these two. Besides being comic relief, Shinobu and Yagi seem to be strengthening the implication that there might be some hidden developments growing between Kotori and Kouhei, even if one of them seems completely oblivious to it.
Tom: Yagi and Shinobu both add additional flavor to the show and are introduced at just the right time, preventing the series from becoming stale with its, potentially, one-dimensional leads. Tsumugi remains adorable as ever, and provides a moe, adorable component to the series. Initially Sweetness and Lightning pulls at our hearts, but the rest of the series seems uninterested in producing tears and relegates Tsumugi to warming our hearts rather than making us cry. Her father, Kouhei, remains relatable, but becomes a fairly static character. Despite gaining knowledge on cooking with each episode, he still feels impressively inept, and whatever skills he has acquired are downplayed. It feels, in part, like an attempt to allows keep us at basic instruction levels for cooking, so the audience is potentially able to follow along with the recipes, but from a narrative stance, it feels shallow and disappointing.
Linny: Kotori’s mother seems almost bound to fall prey to the famous anime syndrome of missing parent despite being mentioned often and even making an appearance or two so far. She is yet to be shown having direct and intimate interactions with Kotori and most of her contribution and interaction with others in the show so far is through her cooking instructional letters. In fact, she is shown having a longer conversation with a neighbour than with her own daughter. On a similar note to Tom’s complaint about the show trying hard to allow basic cooking introductions, Kotori’s trauma and phobia of knives feels a little too specific and nuanced for the sake of the story. It’s not a huge deterrence but it does feel like a rather odd and uncommon phobia in a story that generally feels realistic thanks to its setting and style of story telling.
Tom: Kotori is a likable girl, friendly, and just as inept as Kouhei, but lacks enough defining personal traits to really stand out as unique. There also seems to be an under current of romance building between Kouhei and Kotori. While the show doesn’t harp on it, I won’t be surprised if the series, or more likely the manga, ultimately ends with the two of them romantically involved. It’s an aspect that won’t sit well with many western viewers, but is such a minor component for now that many viewers will find it goes by entirely unnoticed.
Linny: The idea of a teacher-student romantic relationship is definitely a controversial topic in western society where real life cases have often been of the illegal kind. It isn’t shown or expressed explicitly in the show so far but thanks to Shinobu and Yagi, there has been enough implied scenes and dialogues to make it obvious to the viewer. It’s still subtle for the most part and if you don’t like it, you should be able to easily ignore it. More experienced anime and manga viewers will be familiar with this as there have been plenty of anime and manga that have referenced or even set up similar situations but newcomers might want a heads up about this if they are uncomfortable with it.
Tom: Sweetness and Lightning is a feel good/semi educational anime. This is at the forefront and supersedes any meaningful character or story development. It’s aimed at viewers who want to get lost in an uplifting story and perhaps learn a thing or two about cooking. Keeping all this in mind, episodes feel well paced and laid back before diving into the cooking heavy segments. It’s remained light and fluffy throughout its six episodes and rarely straws into more dramatic and dynamic territory.
Linny: For anyone seeking more than what Tom just described, the show will soon start to feel formulaic with every episode having some minor dramatic moment that then in turn inspires the characters to cook something..usually to placate or cater to Tsumugi’s mood. The dishes made in the show remains staples of Japanese family cuisine as opposed to the flamboyant dishes made in this season’s other cooking show, Food Wars!. The home style cooking also inspires feelings of warm comfort that family dishes are known for, when combined with its family oriented setting. So far, Tsumugi remains the star with almost all of the content involving her. The show does try to inject some drama through Kotori and her family life but its attempts to keep things mostly light hearted means heavier topics never bear fruit or wind up on a happy note.
Tom: Sweetness and Lightning excels at what it sets out to do, and if you’re into a feel good, cooking instructional series, it’s hard not to enjoy, at least to some extent, Tsumugi and her father’s adventures through cooking.
Linny: The animation used in the show is competent and does a good job in depicting the cute expressions of its characters. Not only that, it does a great job of depicting food the way only anime can. It’s not surprising to see the food look so amazing and really helps to sell the food being prepared.
Tom: Sweetness and Lightning provides enough feel good slice of life and instructional cooking with few obvious flaws that it’s tough not to recommend. It’s obviously not a show for everyone, and requires a certain mindset to appreciate on a weekly basis. But if you’re just looking for something to unwind with after school and work, rather than something to hype you up, Sweetness and Lightning has the perfect tone to ease you down after a tough day.
Linny: As someone who prefers shows with more energetic lead characters, Sweetness & Lightning often felt a little too simple and quaint for my enjoyment. However, it’s obviously meant to appeal to those who want a show that makes them feel good and helps them unwind. There’s lots of cute and funny moments even if they aren’t always the laugh out loud kind and there’s even a dash of drama to tug at the heart strings of the viewers. If that sounds like your jam, Sweetness and Lightning provides it consistently so far.
Sweetness and Lightning is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com.