This meat is so rare that I threw a Master Ball at it! That’s what Gordon Ramsay would yell at me, should our paths ever cross, as I am useless in the kitchen. When it comes to cooking I can add milk to a bowl of cereal for breakfast, place some ham between two slices of bread for lunch and nuke a Ready Meal in the microwave for dinner. Anything else is outside of my wheelhouse. The same can be said of high school teacher Kohei Inuzuka who, between not being a big eater and working a busy schedule, left meal preparation in the hands of his beloved wife. Unfortunately for the bespectacled math professor his missus passed away six months ago. After subjecting his daughter to yucky convenience store grub for half a year, the time has come for Kohei to master the art of cookery.
Sweetness and Lightning is a twelve episode anime series, which can presently be watched on Crunchyroll (how ironic that a site named after crisp bread should happen to stream a food centric cartoon.) Based on the manga created by Gido Amagakure, this slice of life show chronicles Kohei’s gastronomical adventures, as he does his best to learn various recipes over at a restaurant owned by a student’s family. Each episode typically begins at Kohei’s school or the kindergarten his daughter Tsumugi attends, before concluding with a culinary segment at the eatery belonging to Kotori Iida’s mom. Over the anime’s dozen episodes we see how bitter peppers can be transformed into a tasty dish, what goes into making crepes and serving suggestions for fresh fish. If you are planning to go on a diet watching Sweetness and Lightning may be a bad idea. Just typing out this synopsis is causing me to drool all over the keyboard!
Like many male protagonists Kohei is a bit on the plain side, but his personality deficiencies are easy to forgive when you see what a loving parent he is. Unlike her pop, magical girl fan Tsumugi is brimming with character. Everything about Tsumugi screams cute – from the squeaky noise her footsteps make to the adorable chants she sings. Watching her lovable antics makes me want to have children… although those feelings soon subside as my sister’s noisy spawn remind me why I don’t get on with kids! Completing the Sweetness and Lightning cast trinity is Kotori Iida, who is the teenage offspring of a celebrity chef. Using her mother’s notes, Kotori guides Kohei on how to prepare each episode’s dinner. Despite her parentage Kotori isn’t very hands on during the gourmet scenes because a childhood accident has left her with a serious phobia of knives.
My rating for Sweetness and Lighting is four Michelin stars. The anime delivers a three-course menu of heart warming family moments as a starter, a main course of informative cooking sequences and for dessert a single parent plot that fans of Usagi Drop should appreciate. After consuming the series my appetite for anime entertainment is well and truly satisfied. I was however a bit disappointed that Kohei and Kotori’s relationship didn’t develop into something more. Pupils fraternizing with educators may be taboo, but in this instance the age gap isn’t so vast that it would be creepy. Some romance would have been sweet, as the fortnightly restaurant trips have enriched the lives of the Inuzukas whilst lonely Kotori has benefited from companionship, which is nice given that she has few friends and her mother is often absent due to job commitments.
One thing that I found surprising about Sweetness and Lightning was how enjoyable the gastronomic scenes were. As a novice chef it was rather educational seeing first hand how to best peel an onion or the techniques one should employ when filleting a fish. Learning more about Japanese cuisine was also a welcome and tasty bonus. If nothing else, Sweetness and Lightning has made me hunger for more cooking shows. Much to my surprise there appears to be a multitude of anime out there marketed at foodies. Hmmm, which one should I check out next? Many bloggers that I respect have recommend Food Wars and who am I to argue? Those infamous clips of girls driven to ecstasy by calamari and succulent slabs of meat are certainly stimulating!