Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Ryou Machiko is a third-year middle school girl who lives mostly on her own, her aunt/guardian rarely around due to work. She loves to cook, having personally been taught by her recently deceased grandmother. At the start of her new school year, Ryou meets her second cousin, the tiny and energetic Kirin Morino, and the two bond near immediately. Along with her friend Shiina, Ryou celebrates each day with enthusiasm and, of course, food.
Back in the late 2000's and up to the early 2010's, I though Shaft was an amazing animation company. Between Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, the first season of Natsu no Arashi, Hidamari Sketch, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl, and of course Madoka Magica, I thought I would never stop liking their studio output. Unfortunately, over the last few years, my interest has waned, partially due to no one else but Akiyuki Shinbo given the helm to be chief director of any of their shows, and also due to the sameness to his comedies right down to having practically the same voice cast in each series, as well as an increasing reliance on sequels and adaptions.
I'm going to admit right now that Gourmet Girl Graffiti was an anime I was hesitant to get into. The sour first impression doesn't help, what with Ryou very suggestively eating a croquette just 7 seconds into the series. I didn't find this amusing/sexy/whatever the hell Shaft was going for here, and it's something that I will talk more about later on in the review.
As long as you're not looking for the next Hidamari Sketch from Shinbo, Gourmet Girl Graffiti is, for the most part, a fine but typical anime. It's faintly reminiscent at times of the humor found in the studio's earlier work on, well, Hidamari Sketch, which was about a group of girls in a girls-only art school who hung out together throughout the year, jumping through various time periods throughout its seasons (kind of the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, except deliberate). Gourmet Girl Graffiti isn't remotely as ambitious with its timeline; it just spans across an entire year in chronological order, one episode equating to a month in a year. And aside from one episode about a neighbor of Ryou at her apartment, and another about her grandmother, most episodes are themed around holidays and events that occur in those months. Ones seen in lots of these cute girl anime comedies in the past few years.
I might be sounding a tad harsh on Gourmet Girl Graffiti, but that doesn't mean I hate the show. Far from it. I found it moderately enjoyable, and I did end up watching it week after week as it aired. (Nowadays I usually wait for a show to end/almost end its run before starting it, so I don't have to wait for a possible sequel. I've been burned by too many anime I've watched leaving off on cliffhangers for a second season to trust them as they air.) And the main characters are pretty likable, as I will now explain.
Gourmet Girl Graffiti's main character, Ryou, is a great chef and a decent artist, but she doesn't shove it in others' faces, nor does she gloat about it. She just happens to be a girl who really likes to cook for others, mainly Kirin. Unsurprisingly, near every episode of the series has Ryou cooking something. She also has a really sweet-sounding voice, courtesy of Rina Satou (Rei, Sailor Moon Crystal), who could easily out-sweet Kikuko Inoue and Erino Hazuki in the feminine voice department if she wished to. The intermixed bits of her past with her grandmother were also my favorite scenes in the series, especially when a later episode reveals something about her grandmother's cooking that honestly got a laugh out of me.
Kirin, introduced by the first episode's end, is Ryou's short cousin, and also a ball of energy. She also comes off as rather selfish and childish at times, especially to her mother. Her interactions with Ryou are cute, but even then she can be rather careless and grabby around her. Especially in the final episode, where she does something pretty important and tells everyone except Ryou about it! Still, I didn't have too much of a problem with her, mainly in that she realizes the errors of her ways and will come around eventually.
Shiina is the polar opposite of Kirin; she's a girl of few emotions, the quietest of the girls, and is also from a wealthy upbringing. There's also an odd running joke in the series of how she can't stand being wet, and that even get hit by a puddle can knock her down cold for a day. An odd quirk that makes one wonder what happens when she needs to shower, or even simply wash her hands. Why am I over-analyzing this comedic quirk? Aside from a few jokes and two whole episodes that take almost entirely at her house, Shiina doesn't provide as much interaction with Ryou as Kirin does. She's also comedically used at times as the latter's foil, which itself doesn't come up as often as you'd think.
With the main trio out of the way, now let's get to the erotic food eating scenes, which are most certainly the most (in)famous part of Gourmet Girl Graffiti. Once an episode (and sometimes more), one or more of the girls - almost always including Ryou - eats food, and the camera zooms up to their sudden appearing pink lips, sparkles around them as they very, very slowly eat their food in a very suggestive manner while describing everything about the taste right down to the most minute detail. I didn't find this amusing the first time, much less the twentieth. Episode 6, which opened with Ryou and Kirin eating dripping ice cream while bathing, nearly made me quit not just the episode, but the entire series itself. I am not joking. It really hampers what would otherwise be an all-ages series. (Although, I did find it pretty funny that in the first episode Kirin notes how erotic Ryou eats her food, only for her to join in on later episodes. Bit of a hypocrite there, aren't we Kirin?) It doesn't even have to apply to Ryou; one later episode, where Ryou and Kirin interact with their super-shy lower-floor apartment neighbor, Yuki, voiced by Yuki Iguchi (who looks and sounds almost like Aoi from Encouragement of Climb), eating pizza in a similar manner. Bah.
Outside of the erotic food scenes, Gourmet Girl Graffiti is, at the end, only slightly above average for its overcrowded genre of cute girls do stuff series. My favorite moments in the series ended up being the bits not involving food, like Ryou reminiscing about her grandmother, or when she and Kirin go to Shiina's for summer fireworks. These are the scenes I feel Gourmet Girl Graffiti is at its strongest, and rekindle the magic that Hidamari Sketch managed to catch every single episode. Gourmet Girl Graffiti doesn't do that, but it comes agonizingly close at times. If you're hankering for another Hidamari Sketch, I would suggest you watch Non Non Biyori instead, which is superior to Gourmet Girl Graffiti in every way.
Somewhat reminiscent of Hidamari Sketch but with food instead of art, Gourmet Girl Graffiti occasionally rekindles the spark of its earlier Shaft brethren, but not often enough. Perhaps add a star if you don't mind the close-up eating scenes. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: As mentioned in the review, Gourmet Girl Graffiti would be an otherwise kid-friendly show if not for the very suggestive, awkward eating scenes, which bother on fetish levels of suggestiveness. If not for that, this would be otherwise be appropriate for younger kids and over.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Gourmet Girl Graffiti © 2015 Makoto Kawai / Hobunsha / Koufuku Graffiti Production Committee
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