Sweetness and Lightning should instead be called Flavor and Lightning. For while watching I tasted sweetness, sourness, spiciness and sadly a heaping helping of blandness. Sweetness and Lightning is a prime example of how to plant an already live tree in your yard and when it dies you look at your dry watering can in regret. However I enjoyed the show regardless for its dry nature during its progression and I think it may be for the most part due to my backlash towards Otaku culture.
A fresh idea is sometimes really dangerous. To a person who’s sole job it is to analyze media, a fresh idea is seen as on opportunity to delve into fresh “ideas”. Idea’s as in things to think about. Sweetness and Lightning certainly deals with an idea that is still pretty fresh in the anime world. Even though there have been single dad shows before, I find the presence of such a realistic child and a father who is so tired that he looks like he’s always on the verge of collapse refreshing. Sweetness and Lightning is a sweet idea. Father (Kouhei) needs to learn how to cook for his daughter(Tsumugi). High school girl (Kotori) who’s mom is too busy to cook provides a place to cook. They all three learn to cook, and life happens. Each episode it set up in this formula. Life happens, and then its fixed by cooking. Now I like the idea that eating food can heal the heart. But I don’t need to see it twelve times in a row with the same characters, especially if none of these characters really change because of the healing food. Kouhei more or less just decides to start doing right by Tsumugi and learn to cook. It’s not something that happens because of the magic of good food. Honestly I watch the cooking scenes at double speed after episode six because it was so boring. Which was a catch 22 because usually the only time Kotori shows up is at these parts, and she’s such wife material it hurts. Honestly the only thing that didn’t get old was her and the way she would always eat to quell her emotions and her love for food. Would have been cool if they had slightly touched on that, like at all. I mean come the fuck on! But she’s just used as a plot device to get the Kouhei and Tsumugi cooking and fix their problems. Who really care’s about her problems, right? The show brings them up so you know (to make you feel bad) but it’s not explored or relevant.
Most of the drama has to do with their dead wife/mother. For the most part this is handled very well. The show has a tendency to play the “replacement” card multiple times. Whether it’s getting a new bag, or making her signature dish, or just cooking again. Sweetness and Lightning doesn’t really explore all the facets that people who lose someone go through. There wasn’t enough emotions or instances where they related the feeling of loss because she wasn’t around anymore. Which is weird because it’s a show about a single dad raising his daughter, and not once did the dad break down because he couldn’t handle raising her now that his wife was gone. I’m not talking feeding. I mean the things a mother teaches her daughter or children in general and things a father is ill-equipped to deal with. Or the emotional comfort that comes from the partnership of a married couple. Also the dad is like the perfect dad for the most part and so is the kid to some extent. I mean Kouhei never really does anything out of line or feels unequipped to handle things. He’s busy but always find’s a way. And Tsumugi never acts like an actual brat. They even go so far as to show how cute she is compared to the other kids in her daycare. There are moments where she is doing legit cute things and being adorable but the show doesn’t let it happen naturally enough and it gets eye-roily, the moment it stops becoming nostalgic of childhood. Walking along street lines while singing a song, cute. Dancing spontaneously, cute. Being superior and having a better sense than other kids in your class while still maintaining your eccentricities, nope sorry. This is a minor point since it doesn’t happen too often, but it’s enough.
I mean having a story where your main character is a child thats so young is difficult in its own right. Most of the time kids aren’t that interesting. This girl could have had a five minute Youtube video and I would get everything I needed to know about her. It’s not her fault, kids are newer and don’t have as much baggage to unpack as adults and to some extent, young adults. So to keep her relevant and make her feel natural in the story everything has to be really boiled down and lukewarm so Tsumugi can stomach it. Not many people want to watch a show about a kid breaking down over things she doesn’t understand. Also so it can have a “lesson of the week” formula. And maybe the show isn’t trying to be some dramatic rollercoaster of two people getting their shit together after a tragic life event. But if not what is it doing. Is it setting up a relationship between the high school girl and dad together to help fill in the void in their lives. It plays with it, but more in a comedic way, not the same way it deals with its dead mom emotions. I mean there are just so much of the same dead mom emotion that it gets tiring after a while, and like I said they’re not complex enough to warrant any thought other than, “I understand” and then maybe a little sniff.
The tone of the show is uplifting for sure but it always starts by punching us down into some sort of slight depression where it can raise us back up. I’m not down for this kind of entertainment. It’s not worth it. The pay off isn’t good enough. The little girls smile isn’t enough for me to sit through twenty minutes of cooking and mostly functional family having a slight problem. I could even exaggerate that other than the mom stuff, this is a classic first world problems story. It’s something people who’ve been well off their whole life can look at and be shocked by how sad it is and feel for the characters. That sounds pretentious as hell. Who am I to judged how severe someones problems are on an individual level, right? Just because I don’t think their problems are relevant doesn’t mean that they aren’t relevant to someone else, or even helpful. That’s why I’m torn of Sweetness and Lightning. At times I almost feel like it’s grabbing my heart, but its episodic structure and reluctance to actually give its characters real problems is an annoyance. But I feel that someone else could find it helpful and I just want something more raw. There is something great about seeing two rather normal people deal with an out of the blue life incident and deal with it fine, for the most part. It’s just not what I want to see. Which is weird since I went into this show excited for this concept. What I’m saying is that I don’t value the way that this show is presenting its ideas very highly. And all the things I initially did enjoy never got developed or got to repetitive for me to care anymore. I find it even hard to talk about this show because everything it’s saying is so basic it really doesn’t mean anything other than what its presenting. And those things are so personal it’s too subjective to review but don’t last long enough to actually develop and think about. Sweetness and Lightning was fun for the first few episodes but got old fast and wouldn’t hurt as something to put on in the background. Like lighting the appeal of this show struck intently and then was gone.