“Sometimes things go badly, even if nobody really did anything wrong.”
Sweetness and Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma) follows Kōhei Inuzuka, a teacher who has been raising his daughter, Tsumugi, by himself following the death of his wife. Having mostly bought ready-made meals for his daughter since, Kōhei’s encounter with one of his students, Kotori Iida, leads him to take up cooking in order to provide proper meals for Tsumugi.
Review: / 5
My homies, this is one of my favorite slice of life anime of all time. One part adorable cutie, one part loving father, this show delivers on so many aspects.
It’s so good, I’m going to cry.
Y’all, seinen slice of life is nothing to sneeze at! Mainly when we think of mature things, we think sex or violence. While those are socially considered very adult, we rarely witness honest depictions of adulthood struggle in media. Paying bills, doing taxes, cooking and cleaning for oneself, getting up in the morning when it feels like your bed is quicksand, finding and going to work– all ring too boring for contemporary explorations. This story delivers on all of those challenges, while seasoning them with the struggles of being a single parent and a grieving spouse. This kind of realism and authenticity is heartbreaking. It is so rare to discover a show which encapsulates the kind of balance we find in Sweetness and Lightning.
We begin with many of the seasons above: Tsumugi eating T.V. dinners alone and watching magical girl shows while Kōhei grades papers and prepares for the next day of work. While they both love each other very much, they don’t get time together to express it. This is due to the Kōhei’s new role of being both parental figures for Tsumugi. With the death of his wife, he must do all of the housework, earn all of the income, and shoulder all of the responsibility for raising their young daughter.
We transition to the two going to Kotori’s place for dinner and eating a meal together, something they haven’t done in a long while, probably not since his wife passed. We get this scene:
MY HEART. OH BOY.
If you’re looking for a gif to encapsulate Sweetness and Lightning, this is it. 3/4 bright sunshine child to 1/4 grieving mess. It’s endearing watching the two develop, grow, adjust and adapt. Kōhei learns how to cook at a reasonable pacing and becomes more confident in his abilities to raise Tsumugi alone. Tsumugi too, grows. She still retains her childish charm, dancing her spells to get rid of clumps, throwing tantrums when people call her a thief, learning how to cope when her friend begins to shun her– all of this leads to a realistic litter girl. YAY.
Kotori grows as well, as she’s able to socialize in school with her friends, talk to and forgive her mother, even admit her own faults and fears. There’s growth for all three of our mains, leaving me completely satisfied regarding the series’ characterization.
My concerns are with parts of the story and how it’s paced. The plot is decent enough, though sometimes a bit convoluted. Specifically, I’m referring to the romantic subtext on behalf of our teenage girls. At one point, Kotori says she’s a really horrible person, but we don’t develop this thought or truly know what it’s referencing. Pacing could be improved as well. It was a bit corny to have Kotori’s mom show up at the final episode.
HOWEVER, this anime does an incredible job with depicting the cyclical nature of grief, as shown in the exchange below:
This scene takes place in the middle of the series, after our three characters make a meal reminiscent of Tsumugi’s mother’s cooking. While our father and daughter are coping, their mourning never really ends: it just changes. Things that make us happy can also make us sad; change can be exciting and terrifying. It’s an astute observation many of us are hesitant to face, and while Kōhei is trying his best, he will never fully be able to heal his daughter’s hurt, nor replace his wife’s role in her life. This kind of quiet poignancy is rare in anime, and is so underappreciated. 10/10. Great writing here.
Overall, this one’s fantastic, guys. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Watch on, Annieme-niac!