Dads rarely play a large role in shojo manga. In fact, fathers are often completely absent from the cast. However, Kodansha’s food-centric Sweetness & Lightning has a single dad as its lead. Read on for the review of Volume 1!
Back cover Blurb
Having lost his wife, math teacher Kouhei Inuzuka is doing his best to raise his young daughter Tsumugi as a single father. He’s pretty bad at cooking and doesn’t have a huge appetite to begin with, but chance brings his little family and one of his students, Kotori Iida, together for homemade adventures. With those three cooks in the kitchen, it’s no wonder this dinner table drama is so delicious.
Food-centric titles definitely form a legitimate manga genre. Many series like Shokugeki no Soma and Yakitate!! Japan use the kitchen as a battleground where cooking techniques resemble ninja skills with exotic tastes and ingredients as the rule. Sweetness and Lighting, however, falls on the other end of the spectrum. All of its foods and recipes are firmly grounded in reality. The characters are fairly ordinary as well, but the circumstances that bring them together are a little farfetched.
High school math teacher Kouhei Inuzuka is a widower struggling to raise his young daughter Tsumugi. Kotori Iida is a student whose restaurateur mother has taken a new media job that keeps her away from home. Neither Kotori nor Inuzuka can cook. However, thanks to a chance meeting in the park, the three begin preparing and sharing meals together in Kotori’s mom’s restaurant.
Generally speaking, storylines that have a high school teacher meeting with a student of the opposite gender outside of the classroom tend to lead to an illicit love affair. However, Sweetness emphasizes and reemphasizes the fact that Inuzuka has no perverted intentions toward Kotori. His supervisor at work knows about their meals, and Kotori’s mom is all for it. As far as everyone’s concerned, Kotori’s just a girl in an empty house who wants company at dinnertime, and lnuzuka’s just a guy desperate to give his daughter a home cooked meal. That innocent dynamic has the potential to change (Sweetness has a Teen rating, after all), but for now, the person that takes up all of lnuzuka’s love, thoughts, and energy is his daughter.
As far as the story goes, each chapter has a featured dish or meal, and the goal is for Inuzuka and Kotori to successfully make Tsumugi something yummy to eat. That’s where Kotori’s mom comes in. She’s too busy to spend time with her daughter yet able to leave ridiculously detailed cooking instructions for Kotori and Inuzuka. In a sense, this is a cooking primer. Each chapter includes a recipe, and the characters demonstrate the necessary techniques to get the job done. And while some of the ingredients and dishes may be foreign to Western readers, they are simple basics of Japanese cooking.
Extras include first three pages in color, author afterword, and translation notes.
Food has a way of bringing different people together, and Sweetness and Lightning uses that premise to create a relationship between a single dad and one of his students. While teacher-student interactions in manga usually lead to a certain kind of drama, this story focuses solely on the efforts of two inept cooks to make a tasty meal for a motherless little girl. And if you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of Japanese home cooking, this title might not be a bad place to start.
First published at The Fandom Post.