What makes this book a standout, though, rather than simply being another cooking manga or another single-father story, is that the sadness and heartbreak is never ignored, but it always, always, always focuses on the joy these people find together, whether it's individual small moments or long sequences of growth. Before long, they laugh more often than they cry and I'm not ashamed to admit that I both laughed and cried right along with them every step of the way. Whether the story is focusing on Kotori's estranged parents' attempts to rekindle their love or Kotori's barely-hidden love for Kouhei, Tsumugi's learning how to be friends with people when they need it the most (even if they don't seem to want to be friends just then), these characters truly grow and it's an exceptional joy to watch them them do so.
With the exception of a few side-story time-jumps, the manga progresses in real-time as the characters grow, age and move on through the grades (in Tsumugi and Kotori's cases) and it really feels like watching real people grow and Amagukure does an amazing job both making that growth realistic and imbuing the work with the kinds of emotions these people are feeling. As I said, I both laughed and cried right alongside them.
Now, however, the series has ended, the final English-translated volume published this week and while I've been reading the series right along as it was published in Japan, I've been buying these translations, as well, and reading them as they come out here, because it's truly a series that deserves multiple reads and a spot on anyone's bookshelf.
So, thank you, Amagakure-san, for six wonderful years, and thank you Kouhei, Tsumugi, Kotori and all the rest for sharing your lives with us. I truly loved every step of the way.