The holidays are upon us and as 2016 comes to an end the general consensus is that the year could have been much better. Rather than focus on the negative aspects of the year let’s highlight the good things that came out of 2016. Since it is the season of good will and a time to get together with family and loved ones, I thought it would be best to take a look at one of my favorite anime’s to come out this year. It’s perfect for the holidays even if it isn’t set during it: Sweetness and Lightning.
The story is about Kouhei Inuzuka, a teacher at a local high school, struggling to raise his daughter Tsumigi on his own since his wife passed away several months ago. He’s not a very good cook so he has to buy mediocre packaged dinners for him and his daughter.
Their luck changes when Tsumigi comes across Kotori Ilda, a student at the school Kouhei works at, eating delicious home cooked food by herself. Kotori invites them stop by her mother’s restaurant but when Tsumigi convinces her dad to take her there they discover that Kotori is often left home alone since her mother is called away for work. So they make an arrangement where Kotori lets Kouhei and Tsumigi come over and helps them prepare delicious meals so that Tsumigi can get proper meals, Kouhei can learn how to cook, and Kotori has some company while her mom is away.
Initially I went into this series with low expectations imagining it as a simple cooking show focusing on the meals the three make. I was quickly proven wrong and discovered that the cooking is not the main focus, but rather the struggles Kouhei faces raising Tsumigi with help from Kotori. The cooking is just a plot device used to bring the three together.
Kouhei is a kind-hearted man that wants to give Tsumigi the best and raise her right but doesn’t know how he can do that on his own. He’s a caring, attentive parent who wants the best for his daughter but tries to avoid spoiling her. He’s clearly in over his head yet refuses to ask for help because he doesn’t want to burden others. I think many people will relate to being in a position where they need help but are afraid to ask for one reason and another. Kotori doesn’t get much use outside of the cooking segments but a does good job acting as a maternal figure in Tsumigi’s life. She clearly wants to do whatever it takes to please others and has a love of food but there’s not a whole lot to her character. She feels under-developed and like a side character, that could have used the some time outside of the cooking segments to develop.
And then we have Tsumigi, one of the most precious characters in anime I’ve seen. Unlike other kids in anime, Tsumigi genuinely acts like a child. She’s optimistic, friendly, and outgoing but has trouble saying what she wants sometimes and gets pouty when things don’t go her way.
She balances out Kouhei by living in the moment and looking at the world through the lens of a child. What astounded me was the fact that she is voiced by an actual, talented little girl, Rina Endou, instead of an adult voice actor. Tsumigi and Kouhei feel like a genuine father and daughter that you can symphasize with.
I believe that many will viewers will be able to relate to this show in one way or another. Whether it be parents watching Kouhei trying to look after his kindergartener, cooks that remember what it’s like learning to cook new recipes, adults remembering how they used to act when they were Tsumigi’s age, people who grew up with parents too busy with work or those who have lost someone close to them, audiences can connect with Kouhei, Kotori, and Tsumigi.
The show excels at depicting how the loss of Kouhei’s wife has impacted him and Tsumigi, how they both miss her terribly, and that the pain won’t just vanish. How they cope with her loss is tragic and makes the viewers feel the pain that the father and daughter experience in losing someone so precious, especially when flashbacks show the joy she brought to their lives. Yet it’s also empowering and heartwarming seeing them move past her death and grow closer together when they cook with Kotori.
I will admit that this series isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t a big a fan of slice of life shows or stories that rely on family drama or aren’t a big fan of shows relying on cuteness, this may not be the show for you. At times it seems a little too perfect and picturesque to believe but I think that it’s worth a watch. Mostly because it presents important messages to children and adults about cooking and raising a family, details several interesting, appetizing dishes, and shows the good that comes when friends and family come together either to enjoy a fun activity or support each other in their darkest moments.
Overall, I loved Sweetness and Lightning and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a heartwarming anime this holiday season. It’s sweet, charming, and bound to brighten up your day just by seeing Tsumigi’s joyous smile. Give it a taste test and Happy Holidays. If you have any heartwarming anime that’s also perfect for this time of year that you’d like to recommend, feel free to write it in the comments.