Sweetness and Lightning
甘々と稲妻 (Amaama to Inazuma)
Seinen – Slice-of-life
5 Volumes (ongoing)
After his wife’s death, high school teacher Kohei is left raising his daughter Tsumugi alone. The pair relies on prepared meals, but Tsumugi starts wanting cooked meals. Kohei ends up at restaurant owned by the mother of a girl he met, but the girl, Kotori, doesn’t know how to cook either! Plus, Kotori is his student!
(Note that the male teacher’s name is romanized as “Kôhei”, but I’m using “Kohei” for simplicity.)
First, look at these three ideas:
- Dad loses wife, needs to learn how to cook, joins cooking class. No romance.
- Dad loses wife, needs to learn how to cook, learns from coworker/acquaintance. Possible romance.
- Dad loses wife, needs to learn how to cook, learns together with his high school student. Possible romance.
If you chose the first one, then Kotori’s crush is likely to distract you — or turn you off completely — from the Inazuka family’s emotional healing and the manga’s cooking lessons. As for the second, the “sweet” romance of Sweetness and Lightning is dampened by the forbidden romance of a teacher and high-school student.
If you chose #3, then Sweetness and Lightning is right up your alley. Unfortunately, I don’t think this was the right choice for this manga. Romance fans will want something with progression and tension, but slice-of-life and cooking fans may want something that focuses on a more normal portrayal of a widower learning how to run the household. Right now, Kotori is definitely interested in Kyohei, but she isn’t able to do much about it due to her age and personality. So it’s like this big key point is in limbo. But it not only is in limbo, but it just feels unnecessary. Reading it, there is absolutely no reason why Kyohei had to be Kotori’s current homeroom teacher. It adds nothing to the plot besides an element of taboo. Kyohei just lost his wife; that alone would stymie any potential romance and make any love interest hesitant to confess.
It’s really too bad, as both the main plot is touching and the characters likable. As for the main story, Kyohei not only finds himself being a single parent but has to take on household duties he once entrusted to his wife. Male or female, divorced or widowed, a lot of people can relate to the struggle of raising a child while balancing work. Cooking is something most people have to learn from experience, and the manga has an educational aspect by explaining how to make various dishes. It’s a slice-of-life you can learn from.
As for the characters, Kyohei is a nice hardworking guy. Tsumugi is more of a traditional “absolutely cute” kid often found in manga; she doesn’t really have any bratty moments. Kotori is fairly quiet and a bit awkward, but she really cares for those close to her. All three main characters have friends who appear rather frequently, sometimes supporting them and sometimes messing with them. Nobody is going to make any readers’ “top 10 best characters” list, but it’s nice to read a manga without many annoying characters. They just all nicely fit in the feel-good manga that is Sweetness and Lightning.
The art is quite sweet (pun intended). The style is designed to have a fluffy feel, with lots of light coloring and cute images of Tsumugi. So it’s a seinen with a bit of a shoujo/josei feel. Backgrounds are nice and fill in the panels without being distracting. Characters’ hair tends to be naturally messy without looking like “anime-hair”. Kotori looks different in-school and after-school, but fortunately thisFan-service is minimal to non-existent. Amagakure does a good job of showing off how mouth-watering the food is.
Honorifics are used. Translation notes are provided at the end of each digital volume. Honestly, not much really jumped out at me one way or another. Since I don’t remember having major complaints, I’m going to say I was satisfied with the way this series was handled.
It’s unfortunate the student x teacher subplot detracts from the base slice-of-life story.
The author has written manga in all genres, but the vast majority of her works are BL. Now-defunct JManga hosted Koi made Hyakurin, but otherwise her books are unavailable in English.