I thought I’d take a page out of my wife’s book for the next few posts. I’m going to write a few of these in bulk but might move around my scheduling depending on other stuff that happens.
I like anime and manga, I’ve read quite a lot of manga, and my YouTube “recommended” feed is currently full of “best of ” clips. One of these was cute moments from Sweetness and Lightning, or Amaama to Inazuma, by Gido Amagakure. I watched through it absentmindedly and it was adorable. A few months later it came up that I had the chance to read it, and I absolutely devoured it over a few weeks.
Sweetness and Lightning (I’ll start calling it S&L for brevity) follows the journey of a father and daughter; Kohei and Tsumugi Inuzuka. The series starts only a few months after Tsumugi’s mother has passed away with Kohei doing his best to work as a teacher full time at a local high school, and raising his energetic and strong-willed daughter who is in kindergarten. After Tsumugi says something about their food he realises that since his wife died they’ve been eating nothing but convenience store meals and he starts to remember how much his wife loved to cook for them, and the quality of the food she made them.
They decide to go out for food that night and end up at a restaurant he had a business card for only to find it’s closed that day, but that one of the students at his school is the daughter of the owner. Lida Kotori sees Tsumugi’s disappointment at not being able to eat something yummy and demands they stay and that she’ll cook for them.
After a little bit of panic as she leaves her mother several voicemails asking to help she struggles through and they have a simple bowl of rice. Tsumugi approves of this rice.
After this Kohei vows to not let them eat store-bought food anymore, to make sure they eat delicious food every day, and to make sure he spends the time with Tsumugi to make that happen. They rope Lida into this (a fully willing participant) and the series follows their lives as they all learn to cook together.
There’s a lot to love about this series.
Firstly, and I cannot overstate this enough, it is so goddamned cute. Kohei is trying so hard to fill in as a single parent and is reluctant to rely on people to start, but quickly begins to rely more on his student and other friends. Tsumugi is fantastic, she’s a perfect balance of shy child unable to quite express herself, and precocious pest when she wants something. As you can see in the above picture she doesn’t have any words for how yummy something is so she just gets people to look at her face as she eats stuff.
The character who really resonates most with me, though, is Lida (or Kotori-san). She is the daughter of a famous TV chef who owns the restaurant they all end up cooking in and it’s her who grows the most. She is slightly disillusioned that her parents are divorced and she doesn’t have much time with either of them as her mother spends so much time away doing shows and interviews. She sees working with Kohei as a way of socialising a bit and getting to cook for people, which makes her happy.
She’s also afraid of knives after an accident as a child and so has been really limited in what she can cook herself, but with Kohei to help cut things for her she can expand her repertoire. After Tsumugi starts to cut things up (using a children’s knife) she also starts to push herself more to overcome her fears and eventually realise her dream.
The series is so sweet and the ending so perfect that it was with a tear in my eye I read the final pages.
The other really nice thing about this is that the cooking is covered in really good detail and nearly every chapter has them cooking something new with a recipe at the end. This was a really nice look into more Japanese cooking (which I’m fond of already) and I learned some really cool tricks and techniques for things I already cook, as well as a huge amount about stuff I don’t cook.
The recipes are really well laid out as they’re “copies” of the ones that Kotori’s mother makes for Tsumugi after she hears about her desire to cook more. They’ve got little pictures of the ingredients, helpful hints, and simple language. The translation I read was also really well done so they were perfect to just cut out/print off and use. I’ve not tried any yet, but it is only a matter of time.
Final impressions? It’s wonderful. It’s not exciting action or deep intrigue, it’s a lovely slice-of-life series that just potters along adorably and comes to a perfectly satisfying conclusion. I fully recommend it.
Until next time, with love,