Kohei is a single father and high school teacher who lives with his only daughter. A chance encounter brings him together with Kotori, one of his students. The three of them start to meet together to make meals. None of them know how to cook, but they all love delicious food! Sweetness & Lightning is a fun and heartwarming story about people getting to know and helping one another through the magic of food and cooking.
I watched only the first episode of this one I knew that it was going to be a strong contender in my queue for this season. The characters, the concept and the pace all came together so quickly without any need to build on exposition and as a result I was able to really get into the story. By the end of the first episode I had seen plenty of things that indicated to me that this was a keeper: fun characters, relaxed pace, great artwork and a thoughtful concept.
After losing his wife, Kohei is trying to support himself and his young daughter Tsumugi. After watching and listening to her in the mornings and after work, he realises that they don’t really eat nutritious, family meals or spend much time together in the evenings. When he notices Tsumugi’s interest in food and the wide-eyed way she looks at ‘delicious food’ on the television, he knows that he needs to provide his daughter with better meals and start paying more attention to her needs.
Determined to feed her something better than the usual fare that evening, he calls in late to a local restaurant, but the manager isn’t in. But her daughter, a student at the school in which Kohei teaches, is taken by Tsumugi’s excitement and earnestness and is eager to have them stay. Together, the three of them make a delicious meal that Tsumugi loves. Kohei sees his young daughter happy and the simple sight overwhelms him; he vows to make her delicious meals more often with the help of his student Kotori.
A simple but effective slice-of-life anime, Sweetness & Lightning doesn’t only focus on food, but we get to see the lives of the three main characters unfold together. Kohei is overworked and trying to understand his young daughter without the support of his wife, Tsumugi is cheerful and earnest but still has the problems of a small girl growing up and Kotori is a lonely teenager who wants to work in her mother’s restaurant – but is terrified of using knives and sharp objects to prepare food. Each episode is another window into the characters’ lives peppered with cute and heartwarming scenes that show that good food and good company go a long way to healing the soul.
Tsumugi is just adorable here and it’s down to her that this collaboration of situations and people works. She makes things so innocent and pure and we see a lot of things through her eyes that are contrasted against the more cynical outlook of adults. She’s the character that’s moving things along – making her dad try to change their habits for the better. On the other hand, there’s some really great scenes between Kohei and Kotori during school breaks where they discuss family life and eating habits, such as how to encourage Tsumugi to eat her vegetables, through an open window to reduce the amount of conversing they are seen doing at school just in case it’s perceived as inappropriate.
The food element in an anime is always a winner for me. Anime food always looks simply stunning and I love watching anime like Shokugeki no Soma to see some gorgeous food artwork that looks good enough to eat. Watching shows that centre around cooking shouldn’t work, but they do because they’re made to be entertaining and carry great dialogue along with beautiful aesthetics. For someone who finds cooking stressful, I find it quite soothing to watch anime characters cook!
This show has great potential and is off to a very strong start. Going forward, I’m looking for introductions to more supporting characters that continue to bring depth to the main ones – particularly Kotori. I’m looking for more of the same when it comes to content: fun and heartwarming scenes that make something special out of everyday situations.