[Synopsis]: After losing his wife, high-school teacher Inuzuka Kouhei (Nakamura Yuuichi) is left alone to care for his daughter Tsumugi (Endou Rina). Because of his meager cooking ability, the two often ate store-bought meals until they encountered Iida Kotori (Hayami Saori), one of Inuzuka’s students, whose mother owns a restaurant. Because of her mother’s busy schedule, Kotori is usually left by herself and so the three of them begin meeting infrequently to get better at cooking, prepare proper meals for Tsumugi, and deepen the bond between father and daughter.
Given the story’s mellow, slice of life premise, its small cast of characters are the heart and soul of the show. In total there are around five or so recurring characters of some consequence however the bulk of the show is focused around the daily lives of Inuzuka and Tsumugi as well as their interactions with Kotori. None of the supporting characters are particularly interesting but their warmheartedness and thoughtful exchanges with the main cast further augment the tone of the show. Kotori is charming and sweet and serves to facilitate the interactions between the two through their mealtimes together.
I’ll be up front when I say that Tsumugi steals the entire show. It’s one thing to play off of the parent-child dynamic and offer a warm atmosphere but Tsumugi’s characterization elevates the show to an entirely different level. Her mannerisms, expressions, dialogue, design – everything capture her childishness and eccentricity astonishingly well. She points things out on the news and looks for approval. She is distressed by trivial things but easily assuaged and often happy with the outcome. She’s fascinated by the mundane, she asks questions too many times, she wants people to watch what she is doing, she sits too close to the TV. She’s cheerful and obedient but has mood swings and doesn’t always behave. Her personality covers such a wide and vibrant spectrum and presents such an incredible portrayal of childhood that she instantly becomes sympathetic and relatable. Hey seiyuu in particular brings a unique sound and life to the character that even further sets her apart.
While not as exceedingly remarkable as Tsumugi, Inuzuka himself presents a wonderfully heartwarming father figure who tries his best in all that he does yet remains fallible. He makes mistakes in supporting and appealing to Tsumugi and recognizes them. Their dynamic is wonderfully portrayed and the way in which they converse and play off of one another is highly emotionally evocative. In the same way that Tsumugi’s characterization perfectly captures her childish wonder, the relationship between the two really hits upon what makes the bond between a parent and child so special and delightful.
As one might expect from a very relaxed, slice of life show, the art and animation are very low-key and mostly just serve to communicate the story. What Amaama to Inazuma does handle exceptionally well however are its facial expressions. Tsumugi wouldn’t have been nearly as adorable and captivating were it not for her fantastic and diverse expressions. Just by looking at Tsumugi’s design – her chaotic tangle of hair, her ear-to-ear grin, and her bright eyes, you learn everything you need to know about the character. Similarly, Inuzuka’s more conservative design reflects his adulthood and modesty in juxtaposition. The range of emotions and facial appearances the characters have lends the show a lot of emotional flexibility and really enables Amaama to Inazuma to show you every side of its characters.
The first episode of the show is a phenomenal entry into the series. It introduces the main trio of characters and sets up the premise of the show as they get together and begin making food however it also offers something immediately distinct. The show is full of little heartfelt details that push it beyond being simply a show about characters cooking together and one of the best of these things is expressed early on in the first episode.
Tsumugi has become accustomed to compromise. She has lost her mother and has to settle with the care and love that her father can give her. She wants good food but settles for what her father can provide. She wants one outfit but is happy enough accepting another. The show goes out of its way to portray not just a loving relationship between father and daughter but a more endearing one wherein the child has gotten used to not getting what they want. The subsequent show in a lot of ways is about offsetting that conditioning and giving Tsumugi the delicious food and love she desired – that she deserved. The food isn’t just an episodic bookend but a way for the two characters to bond.
After the first episode the show falls into a pretty predicable yet charming episodic format of Inuzuka and Tsumugi going about their daily lives before the story leads into their time with Kotori and cooking at the end of the episode. The actual cooking process gets a little bland after a couple episodes and there isn’t a whole lot that’s done to differentiate one scene from the next though a few recipes do have certain significance attached to them that makes them more memorable.
The key appeal of Amaama to Inazuma, as I’ve highlighted, is in the interaction between father and daughter. While the show presents a fairly formulaic plot, it does at times break form every few episodes to provide something additionally delightful and more complicated. Tsumugi has off-days and she isn’t always the bright, smiling child we are initially introduced to. Inuzuka experiences all the issues of raising a child such as mood-swings and tantrums and the show does a great job of showing the full spectrum of their relationship. These unconventional episodes reinvigorate the show and keep things just as heartfelt and emotional as they were in the first episode.
The soundtrack is about what you would expect from the tone of the show – it’s energetic and lighthearted and serves as an atmospheric backdrop to each episode. It’s fun but there isn’t anything exceptional about it.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
I went into Amaama to Inazuma expecting a kind of run-of-the-mill, slice of life story about cooking but what I found was that the relationship between Inuzuka and Tsumugi was far more dynamic and well-written than I could have expected. It’s generally slow to unfold and a few of the cooking segments of the show could have served to be a little more engaging but the relationship between the main characters and Kotori’s charming efforts to help them were spectacular. Amaama to Inazuma successfully sets itself apart from other shows in its genre.
I gave Amaama to Inazuma an 8 because of how exceedinly well it portrayed the bond between Inuzuka and Tsumugi. Tsumugi herself was a pleasure to watch and her myriad of expressions and childlike mannerisms captured her style of character like I have seen nowhere else. It was cute, it was sweet, and it was very entertaining.
Any fans of slice of life should definitely check this show out. It’s a little light on the comedy side and instead opts to be adorable and endearing though there are a few funny moments. If you’ve enjoyed the parent-child dynamic in other movies or shows then Amaama to Inazuma will absolutely melt you.