Happy New Year! 5 Characters I liked from things I watched in 2018

A quick pick of some good characters .

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Alright, so today’s a more informal post for the first time in a while. I’ve been banging out a lot of reviews, so with the year coming to a close and 2019 starting, it seemed like a fun idea to look back on 5 characters I really liked from things I watched this year. That could be movies or shows, East or West- but animated, as always. (Before anyone asks: Killua is an all-time favorite. There’s also a character piece I did. Check it out if you haven’t!) There was plenty to choose from, as it’s been an action-packed year of viewing, so here we go!


Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet):

Honestly, I could (and probably will) give the sweet little racer from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph films the full “What’s in a Character” treatment at some point, especially with 2 full movies’ worth of excellent character development, but Vanellope re-entered the scope of my mind with the sequel. A superbly fun character (voiced by Sarah Silverman, of all people) with a terrific dynamic that she has with Ralph, the regent of Sugar Rush is a surprisingly complex character, bundled into an adorable bundle of messy hair, a signature green hoodie, and boundless energy.

Yukko Aioi (Nichijou):

Nichijou, while a 2011 release in real-time, came into my life in a big way in 2018. While the many charming, quirky characters on the cast might all warrant some kind of mention, Yukko’s brand of terrible luck, persistent attempts at humor and futile battle against schoolwork all while never giving up is something to behold. Silly as Nichijou can be, it has smart moments of some pretty deep and touching stuff, and while Yukko isn’t a genius, she is someone who can be a great friend- and it’s through her actions that the robot girl Nano Shinonome is able to find comfort in the transition to being a schoolgirl, and her surprisingly up and down relationship with Mio Naganohara is a great joy of humor to watch unfold.

Anti (SSSS.Gridman):

Beyond the anime public’s adoring gaze upon Rikka Takarada and Akane Shinjo, the breakout character of this cast was none other than this man- a one-time kaiju whose initial casting drew a strong resemblance to Viral from Gurren Lagann. As time went on though, Anti’s varying hardships, coupled with his persistence in his goals (which originally was a single-minded, and I do mean single-minded obsession to destroy Gridman) found him both a strangely sympathetic character and a likable one who also delivered some major hype in a show you’d expect to have plenty of it. By the end of Gridman, Viral has undergone a complete character arc and transformation- and that, perhaps more than anything else in the show, is why he’s on this list.

Jack-Jack Parr (The Incredibles, Incredibles 2):

The youngest member of the Parr family had his big-screen coming out party this past year, where he transformed from a bit part in the original Incredibles film to a more active role, with a great deal of comedy and humor. From his backyard brawl with a raccoon to his unlikely heroics at the climax of Incredibles 2, Jack-Jack was about as humanly entertaining as you can make a baby character without him becoming annoying. No small feat there.

Kōhei Inuzuka (Sweetness and Lightning)

Father to the adorable Tsumugi in this sweet little slice of life anime, Kōhei struck me as interesting precisely because of his balancing act between being a good father (in the stead of his recently deceased wife) and his career as a teacher, which was handled with a lot of tact and care. While this show released back in 2016, it’s still worth going back to take a look (and here was my review of it.) This man’s selfless care, despite all the challenges he faces regularly, is a treat to watch, and a character archetype that seems far too scarce at time. Good dads (and parents) are never out of style!


So there’s my pick-5 for the past year. I hope everyone had a great 2018, and here’s a happy New Year as we get into 2019! I’m looking forward to another fantastic year here on AniB Productions, and to the excitement of my readers as they continue to grow. Feel free to leave a comment!

Review: Sweetness and Lightning

A surprisingly sweet slice-of-life with a dash of warmth and a pinch of reality.

The Lowdown:

Show: Sweetness and Lightning (Amaama to Inazuma)

Studio/years aired: TMA Entertainment, 2016

AniB’s thoughts: Consider this show and its review the unexpected surprise of my year so far in animation. I wound up stumbling upon the opening song of this series, and found its distinct, upbeat and cheery demeanor infectious, so I I checked out the first episode and the rest is history. Sweetness and Lightning is quite a pleasant watch, so it’s a pleasure to share it with those who have not discovered it yet and for those who have, you may in fact share the same sentiment.

Originally a 2016 release, this show is fairly niche so I’m not holding my breath for a dub two years on, but it is an excellent representation of the “slice of life” genre. It’s not over-the top visual humor and skits like a Nichijou, or even something like Lucky Star, but instead is its own unique production, following the story of a young widowed teacher and his daughter as they navigate their lives, which in turn is given meaning by the friends they make and the cooking they learn to do over the course of this show.

One of the aspects of this show that truly stood out to me was Kōhei Inuzuka- the single father who is tasked with raising his energetic only daughter- Tsumugi- after the sudden death of his wife, something that happened off-screen and before the events of the show. Balancing his role as a loving parent and also as a teacher is a tricky balance and yet, his gentle love and kindness comes through in a way that is simply marvelous. There aren’t a lot of anime in particular that I’ve seen give a major focus to parenting or the parent(s) in general on a realistic level and this show does a wonderful job of that, putting the dynamic of father-daughter at the forefront of its storytelling narrative.

It’s rare that a SOL just feels both the right amount of cute and realistic without being cringe-worthy in even the smallest sort of way, but Sweetness and Lightning manages to do that. The cooking sessions that Kohei and his daughter take up with a student from his school- Kotori Iida- wind up being a source of both life lessons, a sweet sense of friendship, and quite a few tasty -looking dishes. Everything moves with a rhythm and beat as the narrative follows father and daughter, through both joyous highs and unexpected lows, and as a result, each episode in some ways is as delicious to watch as the foods they’re named after.

Some of the more grounded aspects of the show comes from the fact that it’s also a seinen, but for this critic at least, it enhanced the overall show’s engaging potential and made it work on a level it might have not otherwise. Also to be lauded is a lack of fanservice as the narrative focus stayed squarely on a small, but concise cast of characters and their roles in the story that unfolds. While I could go on more about the details of Sweetness and Lightning here, the rest is better saved for the grading and for one’s own experience of one tasty anime.


Animation Quality: Modern 2-D anime, computer shaded. A bright show visually, the animation pops with the narrative, and in a show that heavily features cooking as a major part of its plot, food has to look good…and it does here! Character design is simple, but believable (as you can tell from this piece’s featured picture), and for this style of show, everything is extremely appealing. 4.75/5 points.

 
Characterization: As was talked about in my thoughts, Sweetness and Lightning revolves around the father-daughter pairing of Kohei and Tsumugi Inuzuka and in particular, the latter’s quest to make his daughter happy by cooking for her delicious homemade food.
I detailed information earlier about Kohei, but he’s a kind and caring father who is described as “plain looking” by more than one observer. A math teacher at a high school, it’s interesting to see the strain of working a full time job and caring for a young child can put on one person, but he handles it well, and mostly with a smile. He’s a responsible caregiver and a loving parent.

Tsumugi is an outgoing young girl, described as “adorable” by most observers between her bright perky face and gorgeous head of hair. She is a creative child with an active imagination, is extremely fond of an in-universe magical girl show that airs on TV, turns out to have a diverse palette for food (unless it’s green bell peppers), and loves her daddy very much. She’s the beating young heart of Sweetness and Lightning, and her boundless energy is infectious.

 

The one who initiates the idea of cooking sessions is Kotori- a student at Kohei’s high school where he works, and in fact one of his students. She loves good food as a result of growing up in and around her mother’s restaurant kitchen- but feels increasingly lonely as the latter so happens to make it big as a celebrity chef. The cooking lessons therefore become a source of bonding for the Inuzukas and Kotori, which also results in the side effect of improving culinary skills… A kind if somewhat shy girl, Kotori’s idea turns out to be the glue of a nice tale.

The rest of the cast is not that big, but there are solid supporting characters, chiefly Yagi- Kohei’s long time friend who works as a barkeep and cook at a restaurant, and Shinobu, Kotori’s best friend. It’s a sweet little cast where less is definitely more, and it comes together to form a cohesive cast. 4.25/5 points.

Story: Sweetness and Lightning is a “slice of life” meaning the overarching plot is more rooted the day to day routine of the characters, and in fact, takes on a much more “episodic-style” like many Western animated shows. It is a character-driven plot that revolves around those interpersonal dynamics, and as such, the actual substance of the show is in its cast, where everything else (setting, backdrops, etc) are more or less the foundation upon which that structure is built on. To that end, it works well: a cohesive narrative that keeps its premise clear and simple but also unique at the same time, and the execution is on point. 4.25/5 points.

 

Themes:  The story of a single father raising his daughter is one of committed parenthood, of friends and food, and of growing up for young Tsumugi. It’s a show that works on different levels for different viewers and I think that’s a beautiful dynamic to have in your theming. 4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: A sweet show with plenty of engaging interactions, a lack of fan-service and a family dynamic? Yes please! Add in the adorably catchy opening to this show and you’ve got a winner in terms of the intangibles. 5/5 points.

 

Overall: 22.25/25 (89%): Adapted from a manga, Sweetness and Lightning is a delightfully under-the-radar pick from 2016 that should not only find appeal with long-time anime fans, but with casual viewers as well. A warm emotional heart beats in this “slice of life,” as well as lot of really tasty meals (complete with recipes!) This pick is definitely worth a look for all ages.


Like what you see? Enjoyed Sweetness and Lightning or curious about the show? Leave a comment!