Amaama to Inazuma or Sweetness and Lighting is a definite part of my summer 2016 favorites. When I was expecting it to fail and be forgotten it managed to touch me as one of the uniquely charming and most heartfelt anime I’ve seen in awhile and it served me as a reminder to what the medium can achieve
So , what is Sweetness and Lighting ? And what is it that makes it so great…
Amaama to Inazuma is a manga adaptation of Amagakure Gigo’s ongoing seinen slice of life manga that began publication in 2013 and has so far been compiled into 7 tankobon volumes. It was picked up for an anime adaptation this year by the TMS entertainment the studio behind classics like Lupin III and Detective Conan and most recently Bakuon !!! ReLife and Orange, two anime that are airing alongside Amaama all of which are exceptional and defy the usual standard when a studio produces multiple anime in a season. WIth a legendary studio like this behind it Amaama’s quality as an adaptation was pretty certain from the start but that way it broke down all my expectations for it is what the show shine for me.
“ Kouhei Inuzuka is a teacher who has been caring for his little daughter on his own since his wife’s death. He’s no good at cooking, so he and his daughter Tsumugi have been eating packaged meals from the convenience store. A series of events lead him one evening to a restaurant run by the mother of one of his students, Kotori. Her mother isn’t there, but Kotori does her best to feed them both. It turns out Kotori is often alone since her parents are divorced and her mother is frequently not around. The three of them begin to meet and cook tasty food together. “
The story description on its own is nothing thrilling cooking anime has been done before both in a serious tone ( Mister Ajikko ) and a comedic ( Shougeki no Soma ) what really turned my attention was the characters , a widower father didn’t seem like a very relatable character and certainly not a typical one in anime. Though interesting from a critical perspective I felt it was very limiting in terms of the situations the show could have and that could realistically be shown.
While I wasn’t completing wrong , the stories are very simple and low stake even by slice of life standards. For example one episode centres entirely of making a set of doughnuts that get burnt and then they cook again. But I quickly understood that was the completely wrong view point to take when looking at Amaama. This isn’t a show about cooking as an artform but rather how cooking can bring people together. The relationship between father and daughter could be broadened to just about any relationship. When I started thinking like that it was then that Amaama to Inazuma started hooking me in.
The show is incredibly charming with barely any conflict , while there is some focus on loss and negative emotions it is mainly there to make you feel an inner warmth. It’s far more sweetness than lighting.The daughter character is cute to a level that goes beyond moe but within the realms of realness.
For a slice of life the pacing is exceptional and I think the first episode is a shining example of how to set up your world ,characters and keep a steady story to hook viewers in that every new show could take an example from.
One minor problem I do have is that I strongly feel that Amaama would have worked for better as a full length movie feature , the focus of the show is about human relationships and cooking after the initial introductory episodes the show loses some of its steam and watching week to week there are definitely episodes that start to slip up a bit especially with such low conflict scenarios. As a feature the introductory episodes would have been converted into an effective beginning with a far more focused middle and a more satisfying end. Maybe a movie adaptation was discussed at some point but they’re very rare as it is so it’s mostly just wishful thinking on my end.
The OP ( Harebare Fanfare ) is matching to the shows general aesthetic and is impossible not to bob along to.
The soundtrack in general can be characterized by its lightness and joyfulness but it’s rather forgettable.
All the voice actors do a terrific job at delivering toned down performances of very human characters that still match the animation style and don’t feel dead. Rina Endou’s performance is hard to pin down , while I can see why TMS chose to use a ten year old voice actress for the part of a six year old I feel her performance is too much of an caricature of how someone that age sounds rather than how they actually sound.
The art-style to match the plot is very quiet with warm homely colours and a nice distinct line art-style. Character designs are fantastic especially the main pair of Tsumugi and Kouhei.
A lot of attention went to creating backdrops and scenes that you can just imagine being in , a warm kitchen a sterile teachers breakroom.
The relationship between Tsumugi and Kouhei is really quite special and manages to feel completely real if not a little too sweet which really isn’t a complaint. Side characters while interesting have incredibly predictable story arcs which I feel could have been tightened up in a movie adaptation.
In summary Sweetness and Lighting is a fantastic piece of work while not a perfect 10/10 it’s incredibly close to one. With a uncomplicated narrative , great characters and fittingly gentle soundtrack I’d say it’s a must watch for almost everyone.
A second season would be interesting and quite probable with the tremendous reception Amaama has received so far. Seeing a developing and learning Tsumugi over multiple seasons would be an plus for keeping the plot fresh but a move that I doubt TMS would go through with in fear of losing Tsumugis image.