Sweetness and Lightning Volume 4 – Review
Sweetness and Lightning:
Reviewed by: Linny
Volume Synopsis (Spoiler Warning): As Kouhei’s cooking skills grow, so does the drama. From facing cooking accidents to dealing with the concept of death, it’s another volume filled with food, love and drama as winter approaches and Tsumugi learns all about Santa from a less than friendly classmate.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Volume Four kicks off with one of the series’ more traumatic incident as Kouhei has a cooking accident and scares Tsumugi and Kotori. Watching Tsumugi react with fear and worry to her father’s injury starts off funny but soon develops into a concerning matter as she decides cooking is too dangerous and wants her father to stop cooking for good. Sweetness does a great job of utilizing Tsumugi for a lot of its big impact laden moments, using her plethora of goofy expressions for comedy and her teary eyed face for drama. For readers charmed by her adorable looks and personality, it’s easy to crumble at the sight of her concerned and troubled face and really helps to get the gravity of the situation through. The fact that Kouhei is a single father who’s still learning the ropes makes the entire process feel more tense too as he struggles to find a solution to the crisis at hand.
The next chapter focuses on Tsumugi’s struggle to understand and make friends with some of her classmates as an upcoming class play causes tension between her and a fellow student. Thankfully, Kouhei seems to have a good handle on the situation and does his best, ultimately figuring out a solution that leaves everyone happy and grinning from ear to ear. It’s heartwarming to watch Kouhei becoming more and more adept at understanding his daughter and helping her out in her day to day issues.
It’s interesting that Sweetness next decides to address a healthy diet for children basically through Kouhei’s worry that Tsumugi isn’t getting the best balanced diet and that she might get fat. Tsumugi seems to have a pretty amusing attitude towards the idea of getting fat and for those who worry that the weight issue might come off as shallow, it’s clear to see that Kouhei is concerned for her overall health and not just about her physical appearance.
The last two chapters of the volume pack some heavy emotional punch as one addresses the problems and issues that can arise when trying to be a loving but disciplining parent, and the last deals with a classmate of Tsumugi who points out some of the harsher realities of life to Tsumugi especially in regards to having a single parent. As someone who does not have any children yet and how I imagine a lot of manga readers to be, it’s interesting to watch Sweetness deal with the topic of raising kids and showering them with love while ensuring that they grow up with proper manners and behave when needed. It’s a delicate balance and one that really has no hard and fast rule set in stone and watching Kouhei juggle that balance feels almost educational besides being emotional. Younger readers or those who haven’t had much interaction or experience looking after a young child might find Tsumugi’s attitude frustrating but let’s just consider it a taste of the complex world of being a parent. If you find these parts boring, the good news is that Sweetness moves rather quickly and almost every issue is solved by the end of a cooking and dining spree. This chapter also addresses the issues that arise between Kotori and her working mother, whose busy work schedule seems to be starting a gap between them. This issue is also resolved by the end of the cooking part of the chapter and even though their relationship is less focused on, Sweetness tries to show through them that parents and children need to communicate and connect at all ages in order to maintain a healthy and strong bond.
Now contradicting what I just said, the last chapter has a bit of a cliffhanger ending. It starts off introducing us to Tsumugi’s new art class where she gets to interact with new kids, and one in particular, a boy named Suguru seems determined to ruin Christmas for everyone else. He goes around telling the other kids that there is no Santa and even walks up to Tsumugi and questions her about what it is like to celebrate Christmas with no mother. Thankfully, Tsumugi is too young and innocent and instead of being hurt, she ends up questioning her father about all of this, Santa included. Thanks to some Christmas inspired cooking and the love and support of all the people in her life, Tsumugi returns to her art class filled with energy and cheer and even tries to offer Suguru a peace offering but the volume ends with Suguru slapping her hand away, walking off with the offered gift now on the ground. It makes for a shocking ending, especially given how cheerful things were getting in the last few pages. It’s not overly dramatized and fits in perfectly with the more mellow and subdued vibe that runs through Sweetness while raising the reader’s anticipation to continue onto the next volume.
As always, there’s a ton of cooking in this volume and also a lot of new characters and reappearances from other established characters. Thanks to the continued central focus on Tsumugi, Kouhei and Kotori, the story never feels crowded or rushed and combined with all the enticing imagery of food and home cooking, Sweetness makes for a comforting read in more ways than one. Sweetness continues to hit hard with its emotional content while keeping things breezy and cute through the sheer power of Tsumugi’s cuteness. The growing maturity of its topics and its characters have kept the story engaging and entertaining but for readers who crave more intense drama, the fact that almost every issue introduced in a chapter seems to be resolved through cooking or is completely fixed within that very chapter may start to make Sweetness lose any real sense of drama or suspense. For those who want a simple heartwarming family-centric drama, Sweetness remains ever pleasing and ever appealing..with my only biggest constant complaint being that all the food being prepared doesn’t also magically appear for the readers to consume as well. As to how realistic the series is in portraying the single parent and child relationship, I am in no position to comment on that but I would be curious to hear from any readers who can give us all a firsthand analysis of it.