Review/discussion about: Amaama to Inazuma
Like Tsumugi of Amaama to Inazuma, I used to never eat one specific vegetable: onions.
I still don’t eat them as is, but I do love to get them as fried onion rings. Whenever my family and I go out to eat, we always order the tall stack of them with an extra side of dipping sauce. The brown, flaky casing, the slimy onion innards, and the cool, sweet sauce that I lather this dichotomy with make it one of my favorite foods to consume.
Amaama to Inazuma doesn’t taste as gross as regular onions, but it doesn’t taste as wonderful as the fried version. Instead, it roughly ends up somewhere in-between.
Amaama to Inazuma centers on the kind Kouhei Inuzuka and his darling daughter Tsumugi. The death of Kouhei’s wife has left Tsumugi without a mother, and, when he realizes that Tsumugi no longer likes the boring food he has been giving her, he takes it upon himself to learn how to cook and provide her with meals that will make her happy. Together with Kotori, one of his students, the three have fun and food galore.
Unfortunately for this anime, it ends up in a category that no story wants to find itself in: wasted potential. For Amaama to Inazuma has all the makings of a strong show – thoughtful premise, fun characters, interesting ideas – but ultimately goes nowhere with them.
Take its premise. Kouhei lost his wife; Tsumugi lost her mother. Despite having these elements in place, the anime does not go anywhere that deep. Tsumugi lacking a female guide. Kouhei dating other women. What their relationship looks like from an outsider’s perspective.
Most striking is how the anime approaches the death of Kouhei’s late wife. That is to say, they barely touch on it at all. The few occasions when they do, it’s either a quick flashback without much weight behind it or the anime does not go as far as it can.
This last point is especially true in the final episode. Kouhei and Tsumugi are clearly dressed (and saddened) as they leave to see Tsumugi’s mother’s grave, but the anime stops there. It does not give Kouhei’s thoughts or show what Tsumugi did when she visited. Instead, the opening track plays, and the episode resumes, carrying on per usual.
Although, this mindset may be unfair since Amaama to Inazuma aims to be lighthearted over serious. Tsumugi’s cute antics and Kouhei’s doting actions do not leave room for these deeper topics. However, this decision to adhere to more shallow content leads into the anime’s biggest problem and largest reason for wasted potential: repetition.
The anime refuses to deviate from its own recipe. The first half of an episode presents some conflict or slice-of-life happening involving Tsumugi, and the second half shows the group making food, resolving the previous issue simultaneously. These ingredients are purchased from the beginning and are never replaced with anything else throughout the entire season.
It’s not as if the anime is a comedy that relies on the same brand of humor. Simply put, the content in this show almost never tries to spice anything up. Kouhei reacts in a worried manner when Tsumugi does or says something peculiar, which touches the heart, but he almost always does so in the same way. Tsumugi dances or sings to “help” with the cooking, which is no doubt cute, but she almost always performs her “magic” in a similar fashion.
Even the choice of venue is problematic; they always go to Kotori’s kitchen. Kouhei’s apartment, visiting Yagi’s place, or even just an outside barbeque area are places never considered. Combined with the repetitive structure and events, the anime has no chance of escaping its own restrictive direction.
The food itself can also get repetitive, but at least here they change what gets made each time. Yet it’s not the repetition that that makes the food a problem but rather how it practically gets in the way.
While it’s nice that the show wants to show the audience a lot about food, very few people are watching this anime for the food. Food is arguably not even the point of the anime. Indeed, it’s (supposed to be) about Kouhei, Tsumugi, and the relationship between them. So, while the explanation behind proper vegetable cutting or flour sifting is appreciated, it ultimately feels like the story wastes time on something much less important.
However, to be as fair as possible, the food does serve a higher purpose. If it weren’t for the soup or gyoza that they make, Kouhei and Tsumugi would not be able to connect as readily as they do. He learns to listen to her more carefully, and she comes to understand that he always has her and her best interests in mind, even when he’s scolding her. In other words, food is the mediator that brings them closer together.
Most importantly, food has an underlying parallel. A homecooked meal takes time, preparation, and a whole lot of thought to get right. It’s the same way with relationships. They don’t just miraculously form but rather require these same qualities. Tsumugi and Kouhei have a head start because they are already father and daughter. But, through her positive outlook and his nurturing hand, the two make meals that reflect the very relationship they share: warm, filling, and full of love.
Again, though, not delving deeper into its obvious topics, the nauseating format, and the misplaced focus make this parallel and the anime’s other meaningful ideas – like the need for healthy relationships and what Tsumugi learns applies just as much to Kouhei (and the audience) – wasted potential that does not go realized.
Amaama to Inazuma’s art is an unseasoned dish: digestible but not flavorful.
The lack of seasoning comes from its inherent inability to branch out. Kouhei’s apartment, the school, and Kotori’s kitchen are the most prominent places visited, but they lack any interesting details to speak of. Admittedly, Tsumugi’s nursery school does a better job of capturing that environment with pictures on the walls, the outside play area, and the little cubbies that hold the kids’ materials.
Instead, the anime focuses most of its attention on the food itself. At the minimum, the anime passes in this regard. While the food almost never jumps out at the audience as delectable, the steamed rice, the filleted fish, and the hamburg-steak are dishes that have care put into them.
The anime can have some small hiccups, like when a shot of Kotori from a medium distance looks weirdly wonky or some of the animation is slightly choppier than desired. However, animation usually keeps up when they are in the kitchen separating squid or mixing curry.
What little flavor the show does contain comes solely from the designs of the characters. Especially Tsumugi. Her long, frazzled hair highlights her energetic personality. Wide eyes and a host of different outfits gives her the cute-kid look with ease. And her ginormous smile is infectious to the core.
Kouhei and Kotori have their appeal, too. Kouhei’s polos, plain face, and square glasses scream fatherhood, and Kotori’s constant blushing and purple hair pinned up in a ponytail when cooking (to keep it out of the way) give her a welcoming aura. The Band-Aid on her finger is a nice touch and immediate reference to her knife-centric conflict.
The cast of Amaama to Inazuma are more appetizing than its story and its art. Thanks mostly to a certain character (which anybody could guess on the first try): Tsumugi.
In general, anime has a difficult time crafting kid characters. Usually, they just lean on the easy-out, making them too darn cute and overly nice. As though an angel descended from heaven in child form.
Most people know that kids are not saints. Yes, they can be endearing and kind like any normal person, but they lack a very important trait: maturity. Toddlers, kids, and teenagers simply don’t have the life experience to socialize and approach everyday situations in a respectful, mature manner.
Looking at Tsumugi, she is totally cute when she smiles her beaming smile after eating some good-tasting food, and she is more than nice when she cheers on her dad. But, best of all, she acts like a kid. She pouts uncontrollably when she gets into a fight with one of the boys at nursery school. She has a public temper tantrum after getting heavily scolded by Kouhei. She gets too rowdy one time, nearly ruining some of the food they were working on. She gets upset when she realizes that the okonomiyaki restaurant did not cook it in the style she thought they would.
Tsumugi’s lack of maturity is not her only kid-defining trait; she has other characteristics that make her a believable child character. She loves Mr. GaliGali, a fluffy, pink animal from her favorite cartoon. She cannot stand vegetables, especially green peppers. She makes plans to invite everyone she knows to Kotori’s house for the “party” they will be having before receiving permission from Kotori and her mother. She has a tough time comprehending doughnuts because they are simultaneously a snack and a meal. She can only cut with a knife at most three times before getting exhausted.
Amaama to Inazuma’s efforts to make Tsumugi into a realistic kid clearly show. She crafts personable scenes through her understandable actions and range of emotions. She is a top-tier example of what a child character can (and should) be, and, as such, she is arguably the best part of the entire show.
Keeping an eye on her as much as he can, Kouhei, Tsumugi’s daddy, has his own direction. He’s an everyday guy, working as a teacher and caring for his daughter by himself. Just as Tsumugi lost a mother, he lost his dearly beloved wife. He grasps the gravity of this situation more than Tsumugi, but, as the parent, it’s his job to be there for her.
And, as each episode depicts, he does just that. Nothing else enters his mind besides Tsumugi. What they do, where they go, and how they live always goes back to her, indicating his own strength as a parent. Because, for parents, their children are their everything, so it makes sense that he keeps her in mind with whatever dish they create next.
Granted, he may be a bit too much on the soft side since he is quick to apologize to her when something unsavory goes down. However, he also has more sides to him than simply a passive father. He yells at Tsumugi when she went out by her lonesome. He teaches her how to get through to her friends. He cries tears of joy when he sees her finally enjoying food for the first time in a long time.
He’s not as definitive of a father character as Tsumugi is a child character, but, like Tsumugi, his actions and emotions ground the anime in believability and therefore improve Amaama to Inazuma’s overall execution.
Best of all is the relationship that Tsumugi and Kouhei share. Some of the strongest moments in the entire season form from their interactions. Whether it’s Tsumugi jumping onto her daddy’s back to console him or him sitting down and speaking with his daughter in earnest, their relationship likewise stands as a testament to the show’s believable direction.
For that’s the whole point of the anime. It’s not at all the food, no matter how much it may seem that way. Rather, it’s their connection. A father and a daughter. The love they share, and the way in which they influence each other. In other words, they live lives filled with sweetness and as electrified as lightning because of the bond between them.
That leaves Kotori who has been purposefully left out of the discussion up to this point. And for fair reason because she is easily the worst of the three.
Her aichmophobia (or a fear of sharp things) pushes her to let Kouhei and Tsumugi use her family’s kitchen because she needed someone to handle the cutting and general knife-wielding. Kouhei obviously needed a more suitable cooking environment than his cramped apartment, so he had no qualms with her initial deception.
Kotori has a mother whose television exploits embarrass her, and she has a deep affection for food, savoring it as much as possible whenever she sits down for a meal. She’s a kind person, aiding Kouhei in his quest to connect more with Tsumugi through the food they create.
Unfortunately for her, she receives very little attention throughout the season. In essence, she becomes nothing more than a third wheel, her presence neither adding to nor subtracting from Amaama to Inazuma’s content.
She does have a small moment when her friend Shinobu appears and she gets jealous that this special hobby may no longer involve just the three of them. But, when she does not have any interesting moments with Kouhei or Tsumugi, and other parts of her character besides her love of food go unexplored, she fails to have an impact on the anime.
Worst of all, though, is how her fear of knives does not get resolved. She gets an extremely minor flashback, lasting not even three seconds, that depicted how her fear set in as a child. And Tsumugi’s own courage in using knives is noticed and addressed by Kotori. But the anime never has her face her fear, ultimately making her a third wheel that doesn’t even turn.
To up Tsumugi’s believability even more, Amaama to Inazuma enlists Rina Endou, a child voice actress, to take on the role, and she does well. While her crying segments were slightly underwhelming, she nailed Tsumugi’s cute laugh, her happy comments, her pouting attitude, and her childlike wonder at the food before her.
The original soundtrack also does well. The tracks are often very light, using xylophones, chimes, flutes, piano, and shakers to create small, catchy pieces that softly guide the different scenes along. Their friendly tone and how they do not overtake the scenes also add to their appeal. And the semi-grandiose track that plays whenever the meal is officially ready to eat may not be the best of the bunch, but it certainly highlights the show’s sense of fun.
The opening track is rather recognizable with its back-and-forth, rising, and catchy lyrical play that makes up the beginning of the song and most of the second half, adding more of that lightheartedness and that fun the anime strives for. The background bells, the younger-sounding vocalist, and simplicity of the beat get at these qualities even more. It ends on a pretty abrupt note, but it’s overall a nice piece.
The ending track goes nowhere near as energetic as the OP. Instead, it opts for a more reserved piece that highlights the contented side of life and the happiness that Kouhei, Tsumugi, and the others all share. The prominent guitar adds a feeling of nostalgia, and the vocal work brings the right amount of passion into the project. Like the OP, it sounds as though it ends before it wants to, but, once again like the OP, the ED is still a nice piece to listen to.
There’s not a ton of anime that focus on a father and his relationship with his child. But, each time I watch one, they only continue to instill in me my passion to have that connection myself someday.
I think I’d be a good dad. Playing games of peek-a-boo or tag. Teaching him or her right from wrong. Being there for their biggest moments. I’d simply have to emulate my own father and the meticulous care he put into my own upbringing, and I’m sure I would be more than ready for whatever such a step in my life would bring.
That’s not to say things would be easy. The tantrums, the difficulty of getting through to one’s child, and the worry of whether one is currently taking the correct action are all examples that I’m aware of. Examples that Tsumugi and Kouhei demonstrate through their own relationship.
But the fun times would be there, too. Occasions like Kouhei excited over seeing Tsumugi in her first play or even simply her happiness and that toothy smile bringing him the utmost elation are ones that I myself hope to experience in due time.
Moving from the personal to the material, I like the show a lot. Again, that’s very much thanks to Tsumugi. Her silly lines and reactions and her general positivity are heartwarming. Peering around the corner when peppers come into play and a mischievous expression that crosses her face when near Yagi’s house make her a fun, cute character. And, repetition aside, her dances and singing got me smiling and laughing with ease.
Kouhei could be fun, too. While I would have liked to have seen him have more of a personality than just regular guy, he had his moments. He got super happy when Tsumugi, with tongue out and a “Nwope!”, turned down Mikio’s “marriage proposal.” And his concern for her picking up teenage jargon highlights his dad mentality to the core.
Once again, the oddball out is Kotori. I don’t mind her because she’s nice and helpful. But she just exists without contributing much (if anything) to the dynamic that Tsumugi and Kouhei share. The same can be said for Shinobu and Yagi but to a much larger extent; they just weren’t around enough or did enough to warrant any significant feelings from me towards them.
One final note that most likely needs addressing. I do not view Kotori’s relationship with Kouhei as romance-driven whatsoever. It never comes off that way from either of them. To me, she seems more like an older sister to Tsumugi and a teenage daughter to Kouhei.
Which gets at my speculation that the anime will go that route with Kotori’s mother.
The anime constantly alludes to this woman through Kotori. Plus, she is the one giving them the recipes to work with. She shows her face only once near the beginning and finally making an official appearance in the last episode (speaking the words about Kouhei’s love for Tsumugi that everyone else was too shy to say).
Given that Kotori’s father is never mentioned (as far as I’m aware), the mother herself is a chef, and, again, how Kotori fits between Tsumugi and Kouhei, them all becoming a family makes both logical and narrative sense.
All speculation and source-reading confirmation, of course. But it’s still fun to think about. Until I get a final answer (since the source for this anime is still ongoing), I’ll be going with these thoughts as my head canon.
Amaama to Inazuma wastes a lot of its potential in its story when it cannot approach its content differently. However, the show contains many worthwhile characteristics. The relationship Tsumugi and Kouhei share, some strong musical and voice-acting performances, and enough cute moments to fill a buffet. The art and the animation leave one wanting, but this anime is a fried onion ring worth taking a bite out of.
Story: Bad, a refusal to explore the more obvious topics on its plate and to deviate from its formulaic structure incite nausea, while the food motif both hinders and parallels
Animation: Fine, Tsumugi’s design rocks, and the food doesn’t look gross, but not much else comes off as visually appetizing
Characters: Good, Tsumugi is one of the better kid characters in the medium due to her realistic portrayal, Kouhei emerges as a respectable father, and the connection they share matters most, but Kotori succumbs heavily to third-wheel syndrome
Sound: Good, good OP, okay ED, good OST, and good VA performances
Enjoyment: Great, being a father seems way too awesome to pass up
Final Score: 6/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3