Early Impressions: Gourmet Girl Graffiti Episode 1

Gourmet Girl Graffiti 01Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Studio: Shaft
Premiere Date: 1/9
Adapted From: Manga
Available via Crunchyroll

One of my most anticipated series of the Winter season is here! After all, what is more warming and comforting during the harshness of Winter than steaming hot, delicious food? With SHAFT behind the production with notable directors, it’s been mentally highlighted in my mind ever since its announcement.

Ryou Machiko is a girl who lives alone in her apartment, as her parents work overseas. She used to live with her adoring grandmother who inspired a love of cooking in her. But after Ryou’s grandmother passed away a year ago, she’s been finding that no matter how hard she tries, the dishes she cooks no longer taste as good as they once did. Ryou is established from the beginning as an incredibly mature and responsible middle school student with an adult-like persona, likely influenced from having lived with her wise grandmother. Her busy aunt, Akira Machiko, checks in when she can, but Ryou essentially takes care of herself.

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The story kicks off when Ryou receives a call from Akira and is given the news that she would be housing her second cousin on Saturday nights. Her cousin, Morino Kirin, plans to visit weekly to take a few classes from the same art school Ryou attends. Ryou nervously agrees, and finds herself looking after a short statured, immensely boisterous girl of the same age. Despite being the same year, Kirin has much more of a childlike mentality, leading to a older-sister/younger-sister dynamic between the two.

It’s only when they start spending time together that the food adventures really begin. Over the course of the show Ryou prepares nabe hot pot, kitsune udon, and inari sushi — each of them rendered with impeccable detail and guaranteed to make you scurry around your own cupboards, looking for something to snack on. Food becomes a broader topic as Ryou describes her relationship with her grandmother through cooking, Kirin describes her mother’s health-obsessed style of cooking, the joy of eating with others, and what kinds of foods comfort them in certain scenarios. Food becomes a theme not only as an activity, but as a bonding element between the characters in the episode. We consistently see food being used to actually reflect and inspire emotions and change in the main characters.

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The art style is also worth noting. With SHAFT and Akiyuki Shinbo directing, one wouldn’t be surprised if it followed the visual style guide of the Monogatari series like many of his other works, but Gourmet Girl Graffiti manages to sidestep a surprising amount of recycled visual gimmicks that Shinbo is often associated with. Instead, this show manages to establish a visual style that is adapted from its manga source material, and refrains from remixing it too much; an unexpected but fairly refreshing direction for SHAFT to go for this series. However that’s not to say that there isn’t style; clever framing, rare camera angles, quirky edits, and use of music are all strengths of the studio, and those talents are evident here.

The opening theme of Gourmet Girl Graffiti also deserves special mention, as a colorful, Alice in Wonderland-inspired fever dream that seamlessly transitions the characters through various food-themed scenarios. Although the show itself doesn’t produce fantastical settings or scenarios, it’s a really inventive sequence of tiny vignettes and visuals that fit the spirit of the show.

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Overall this was a strong introduction. The two lead characters have strong characterizations with recognizable traits, they both help each other experience growth by the end of the episode, food was made meaningful as a story and theme device, and it’s handsomely produced at the hands of the capable studio SHAFT. While the first episode was focused on Ryou and Kirin, there are seeds sown for more proper character introductions in the future, as multiple title cards thrown at various characters, including Ryou’s neighbor and classmates. Comedic, warm, and mouth-watering, this is looking like a winning combination.

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