There are a lot of shows out there that over-the-top, crazy sexual, crazy violent, or any other kind of extreme when it comes to content in anime. But then there are shows that are so normal and realistic that despite how that should be boring in the sense of anime material, it far exceeds your expectations.
Sweetness and Lightning is a show that perfectly encapsulates this.
While a lot of shows are some over-detailed plot about a war, quarrel between factions, or you’re a show that revolves around a sport you use your butt in (Keijo!!!!!!!! is so good!), Sweetness and Lightning is as simple as it gets. Kouhei is a father who can’t really cook well for his daughter after her mother/his wife passed away. So through a student at the high school he teaches at, he learns to cook delicious meals for his daughter through this girl, whose mother is a popular cook on TV.
To make it even simpler, guy can’t cook, girl helps guy learn how to cook. That’s it, there’s nothing more to it. The show doesn’t try to go too in-depth about the death of his wife, it doesn’t try to add anything weird or crazy into the plot, everything you watch has a semblance of realism to it, you believe everything you watch could conceivably happen.
What really runs this show is his daughter, Tsumugi. The show makes no attempt to hide this, you are supposed to watch Tsumugi and think she’s the cutest thing in the world and she does that in spades. While yes, she can get really bratty at times (as most kids will do), the majority of time we spend with Tsumugi, she acts as the girl that will decide your emotions while watching the show. You will smile when she smiles and is super happy after eating tasty food, or you will cry (or get damn near close) when she cries or gets really sad. What also helps this is that the voice behind Tsumugi isn’t an older girl like most anime use for these characters, the voice actress that does Tsumugi is actually only 11 at the time of this point, in fact she just recently celebrated her 11th birthday two weeks ago, so happy birthday Rina! But what she brings to Tsumugi’s character is more addition to the realism of the show, her voice isn’t blatantly fake or over-acted, in fact since Rina is a child, Tsumugi actually sounds and talks like a child would, having little emphases on certain syllables when speaking. She doesn’t sound like she’s reading a script, she sounds like she’s right there talking to us.
Along with Food Wars: Shokugeki no Souma, Sweetness and Lightning does a fantastic job of making you hungry when watching the show. The food is drawn so perfectly, you can’t help but be like “I want this. Right now!” when watching the show. Even when it’s food like fish, which I cannot stand, just looking at it makes me go “Hm…I kinda want to try that…” after watching them make that dish. And it’s not like they make basic dishes all the time too, it’s not just rice and ramen dishes, they make a couple advanced dishes whether dinner, lunch or desserts.
Lastly, the show really knows how to kick you down and make you uncomfortable at times. When the show wants to make you sad, it’s more than capable of doing so, really able to write a very depressing plot during an episode. Hell, the couple of times the deceased mother/wife gets brought up, you almost immediately go “Oh no…no no no, don’t you start talking about it!”, because you know the sad train is coming in, full speed ahead. Whenever Tsumugi starts acting out, throwing a tantrum or balling her eyes out, you feel really uncomfortable watching it. I honestly watched Tsumugi’s temper tantrums on the show as if I was standing there in real life, I felt really uncomfortable watching that and I wanted to walk away from it until I realized that I’m an idiot, this is happening on my TV. The show handles emotions tremendously well, tugging at your heartstrings at a moment’s notice.
The show is so damn good, it was an emotional roller coaster, but a fantastic emotional roller coaster at that. All the characters had their moments aside from Tsumugi, Kouhei and Kotori have a fantastic student/teacher relationship and the more side characters like Yuusuke and Shinobu really add an extra flavour (pun intended) to the anime whenever they show up.
If you’re looking for a show not too demanding of your attention and just want to relax and enjoy a slice of life kind of show, this is one of the shows at the top of the list for that.