Being some sort of antisocial, misanthropic millennial fuckwad, I have this sort of mentality where I believe that reproducing humans is stupid, children are awful human beings that are completely useless and unlikable until the ripe age of “get a job you fucking bum”, and being a parent sounds like the absolute worst thing that could happen to me right now.
And therefore, I am here to tell you that Sweetness & Lightning, a slice-of-life about a father and his young daughter, is one of the best anime of the entire year.
Let’s get the overused joke of the season out of the way. “This show is so incredibly sweet!” Yeah, that’s fucking great, but why? Well, Amaama comes with a lot of heart, with a concept that’s not only realistic but also relatable perhaps, as it’s about a dad struggling to care for his daughter after the mother passed away because reasons. The dad does his best, but his job makes him busy all the time, and the daughter is just a sweet little girl who does sweet little girl things like watch dumb magical girl shows, say weird things that make no sense, and hate eating vegetables. The dad, Kouhei, is a good and caring parent for the most part, but has one severe flaw, which is being unable to cook, so this show is about fixing that. But Amaama also has an optimistic view on this scenario, as Tsumugi, the daughter, will be sick of eating something and not finish a meal, but still play it off as being full because she understands that she doesn’t have any other options.
This is not a fierce melodrama. After watching the first episode, I had to consider that the show could’ve become intensely emotional very easy, but it also looked like it was just gonna be a happy little slice-of-life cooking anime with a parenting theme behind it, with only small amounts of drama sprinkled throughout. It’s the latter… and I’m okay with that, because the basics of the show are shown so beautifully in the first episode, which was what I believe to be the best pilot episode of the season. The small details in the personalities of Kouhei, Tsumugi, and Kotori, the things that are shown instead of told (such as the leftover meal thing I mentioned), all with a very charming presentation by TMS Entertainment.
The show does get pretty repetitive, I’ll give it that. The show does get pretty repetitive, I’ll give it that. I’ll give it that. And I do kinda wish there was a little more drama between Kouhei and Tsumugi to compensate for that, but personally I didn’t mind the repetition because I watched it weekly on Crunchyroll™, your #1 source for anime and drama, now teaming up with Funimation™ to bring you more than ever!! So, having just a small dose of this heavy cuteness each week made it very tame for me. It never got old, and I looked forward to it each new week, though when the episode ended I didn’t feel the insane need for the next episode. Even now that it’s over… eh. I’m alright with that. If they make another season, that’s cool. If they don’t, it was fun.
But back to repetitiveness as an issue. It is still an issue, a little bit, and I still think that more of the character drama would be nice, because that’s probably what I liked most out of the show. Episode 7 was particularly outstanding because it had a big conflict, with the cooking aspect of the show not having much of a prevalence as it usually does. But usually, the episode will have something going on with Tsumugi, whether it’s an event at school or she just generally wants something, and the rest of the episode will be about making a meal out of whatever can tie into that. Since it’s a slice of life, there’s no story progression to be had, so it’s something that needs good characters in order to keep me coming back.
...and it totally does. I think everyone would love to have a daughter like Tsumugi; even me, the 20-year-old deadbeat who wants to drop kick every child that runs around his workplace. I work at 2AM, WHERE DO THEY KEEP COMING FROM?! PUT YOUR FUCKING KIDS TO SLEEP!! FOREVER!!!!!!
That said, Tsumugi is very idealized because this show needs to be pleasant to watch. While she’s adorable and playful and excitable and kind (OR I GUESS YOU COULD SAY… SWEET!!! AHHAAHAHAHAHA), her only flaws are generally the same flaws a normal little kid would have. She get mad and cries over really petty things, like someone making the retarded assumption that she stole someone’s Play-Doh. That kid was an asshole. Fuck that kid. No pedo tho. She doesn’t like eating vegetables, and sometimes she’ll get inappropriately mad in public. I guess I don’t need to mention that she’s five years old, or somewhere around that age. Still, for the sake of fun, I don’t mind that she’s not entirely realistic.
Kouhei, on the other hand, is much more realistic, being a dad who struggles a bit to care for his daughter without his wife. Watching him try really hard and act optimistically was really endearing to watch, and the basics of his character make him easy to root for. Each episode has a good payoff when he finishes cooking and the characters eat and react to it positively. And Kouhei stays humble, he’s not an over-the-top character who bursts with excitement whenever something good happens. It’s just a normal, but very genuine happiness. Tsumugi’s the one who should be exaggerated.
Kotori is more of a third wheel in terms of development, as her role is to basically support Kouhei and Tsumugi with their cooking, and just generally be the best waifu of the season. (If any of you fucking say Rem I will shove your fucking head into a trash compactor where your shit waifus belong.) It’s still great to watch her, ‘cuz she’s like an emotional weirdo who really really really wants dat sensei D or something, and so she gets worked up over whatever dilemma either Kouhei or Tsumugi have. She’s basically a replacement mother here.
I also wanna bring up Yagi, even though he’s a very minor character who only shows up in about half the episodes. But it was always great to see him because he’s more mature and very deadpan. Since Amaama just oozes with love and peppiness and excitement, it’s nice to have a character that kinda balances everything out without taking away from the mood. He’s still a nice guy and goes along with whatever’s happening around him, he just presents a much more different mood. He’s also followed around by Shinobu for some reason, making them fun to watch as some weird couple.
With all of the light-heartedness of Amaama to Inazuma, TMS Entertainment compliments it with a softer color palette and consistently good animation; at no point did I think it was particularly outstanding, but it still features some well-timed sakuga with some character reactions and cooking. The overall design of the backgrounds and characters are about average, but also as good as you could want them to be. However, Tsumugi in particular has the best hair of 2016. There’s no contest to this, and if there is, you can shut it down right now because everyone has been absolutely blown the fuck out. I highly respect anyone with curly hair, especially if that hair is basically the size of their entire body. She’ll put that hair into twin-tails a lot of the time, which is especially cute, moe, kawaii, and other synonyms. Tsumugi’s entire design, especially with her childish expressions, just scream moe for the entire world to hear.
The sound is equally exceptional, being very soft and gentle with few instruments being used, and it’s implemented quite well. For instance, in the first episode, Kouhei and Tsumugi run through an alley, and it’s a rather intense scene for this show, but only an acoustic guitar is playing, and it sets the rather sad mood perfectly. The OP, honestly, isn’t my kind of thing to listen to, though I didn’t skip it much. It’s just another peppy, happy song that anyone could expect to hear in a sweet slice-of-life such as this. I like the ED, though, it sounds touching, hopeful, and slightly emotional, and the stylish illustrations to visualize it made for a beautiful cap on every episode.
The voice acting is pretty solid as well, with great performances all-around in the main cast. Tsumugi is especially great because she was actually voiced by a child, something that isn’t done enough. Granted, Rina Endou is a few years older, but she still sounded completely real. Tsumugi actually sounds like a goddamn child, and that’s fantastic.
Overall, I really loved Sweetness and Lightning and didn’t mind its few flaws. At its worst, it was a repetitive moe slice-of-life Shokugeki no Soma that was still fun in its own right, and at its best it was a phenomenal character story with some moments so sweet that you could rot out all of Willy Wonka’s teeth. ...oh wait, Gene Wilder died. Shit.
I most certainly would recommend this to anyone in the mood for a slice-of-life that they would only watch in small doses instead of binging in one day, and anyone who wants an anime with a parenting theme. Though I also wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for drama, because this doesn’t exactly have enough of it, even if it is good.
But I can’t end this review without leaving a very important message…………… Watch out for sharks!!
Story - 8
Art - 8
Sound - 8
Character - 9
Enjoyment - 9
Sweetness - PROTECT TSUMUGI
Overall - 8.25/10 (Range: 6-8.5)
Favorite episodes - 1, 7, 12
Favorite character - Kotori
Recommendation level - High