The Winter 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Gourmet Girl Graffiti


Hope Chapman

Rating: 2.5

"Food porn" usually isn't a literal term. Typically, when someone says they're enjoying "food porn," they mean they're scrolling through Pinterest or watching the Food Network, and the food they're staring at is so good that it gives them a positive cerebral-chemical response that could also be associated with...well, you know. Gourmet Girl Graffiti is a very different kind of food porn, and honestly, it's more gross than it is sexy.

Middle-schooler Ryou, whose parents are working abroad and grandmother has recently passed on, is alone in the big city. She loves to cook, but is afraid that her food is losing its flavor as her isolation continues to bring her down. Fortunately, her cousin Kirin, who she's never met before, has decided to stay with her for a while as she dreams of going to school in the big city soon. With the bright and cheery Kirin around, Ryou's food starts to shine again, and the two of them can enjoy it the way Ryou always used to...by eating it in sensual slow motion, camera focused on the girl's lips and saliva as the food vanishes little by little, building to her orgasmic cry at the glorious taste of it all. The presentation is so obviously sexual that the show itself comments on it, which does not make the experience any less awkward.

So, this is "food porn" where you're actually supposed to get off to the food as it's being eaten by a cute girl, basically. Just like this, only anime. Probably just as ill-advised.

If it feels like every review prior to mine (scroll on down and see!) opened with this observation, it's because there's absolutely nothing else to talk about in this show. I mean, I guess you could dig into the dark underbelly of "why Shinbo always directs series that star lolitas," but that's a well best left unplumbed, especially considering the babyish-innocence-framed-as-yuri on display throughout this episode. You can't even really discuss Shinbo's unique directorial style and how it works (or doesn't) with the material, because he's apparently boxed it up for this mild and saccharine outing. It makes sense. Most of Shinbo's visual trademarks contribute to an atmosphere of alienation and paranoia, which wouldn't fit the tone of this particular project. (Didn't stop him with Nisekoi though.)

So there's no crazy Shinbo direction on display to discuss. There's no hook outside of "new girl friends who learn about food together and act like maybe they might kiss." It's not really a "comedy" because there are very few jokes, but it's not purestrain yuri fanservice for otaku either, instead burying those elements under a more accessible and universal cutesy veneer. Shrug? Shrug combined with mild grimace? It looks nice, at least. There's no major problems with the show, there's just nothing special here either.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is one of those shows that weirds me out because I can't stop seeing all the bright red puppet strings. I know why the series stars middle school girls who act like four-year olds with super-shiny lips, who make jokes about being married masked as becoming closer as a family and orgasm every time they take a bite out of glistening, highly-detailed food. (Not to mention the other quick "naughty" jokes about naked aprons and sly double entendres.) It may be based on a prior manga, but there are clear visual presentation decisions responsible for the uncomfortable framing in what should be an actually innocent show. I guess I don't care for shows that refuse to be honest about what they really are. If this was cute and sweet without reservation, or fully committed yuri fanservice, I would feel differently. So it's too much in bad taste for me, but if you can get around all the Shinbo-at-his-worst (as in without his unique direction style but with more lolicon,) there may be some foodie euphoria to be had with the underlying gourmet theme.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 3  (out of 5)

Maybe it's because neither traditional New England dishes nor traditional Jewish food is particularly attractive or perhaps its because I come from a family of messy eaters, but I've never thought of eating as a sexy activity. Anime clearly begs to differ – Gourmet Girl Graffiti's heroine Ryou savors each mouthful ecstatically, the camera lingering on her moist lips, slender throat, and closed eyes. Even her cousin, the adorable Kirin, comments that Ryou has a really sexy way of eating. I'll admit that I found it a bit strange in this context (as opposed to Food Wars), because the rest of the show is so totally innocent. But it is also rather thin on plot, so I suppose that you get your viewers as best you can.

Not that this is a poorly executed first episode. Eighth grader Ryou lived with her grandmother until the good woman died last year, leaving her under the nominal guardianship of her Aunt Akira. Auntie has a very demanding work schedule, however, so Ryou is essentially living by herself. Her one great solace is cooking, which her grandmother taught her, and lately her meals have not been tasting as good as they used to. This throws the already somewhat depressed Ryou into an even darker place, since her grandmother had told her that a good wife is a good cook, and now she fears that she'll be alone forever. Then Auntie calls and tells her that cousin Kirin is going to start spending one day a week with Ryou to attend a special art school. Ryou is uncertain at first, but once she meets the bouncy, effervescent Kirin, she quickly learns what her meals have been missing: someone to eat them with.

The charm of this episode is in that lesson – that food, and life, should be shared. While we could put a yuri reading on the girls' relationship even after just one episode, that doesn't feel necessary to make their relationship work; the two form a fast and close familial bond that is really charming without any romantic factor. The two are a good contrast to each other, and actually the Alice and White Rabbit relationship set up for them in the opening theme is a good way to describe them, with Ryou's rabbit leading Kirin on a magical cooking journey, and there really is a feeling that even if Ryou didn't want her to, Kirin would follow her anyway. Where the episode falters is that most of it is spent either cooking food, describing food, eating food, or describing eating food. It works for the first couple times, but after that it starts to feel repetitive and just a tad bit dull. Even with the promised addition of Ryou's neighbor Yuki, who eats pizza all the time but craves other food, it does not seem likely that this formula will change, and that may bring Gourmet Girl Graffiti down within a couple of episodes. However, if you're a foodie in general or just a fan of Japanese cuisine, this is absolutely worth checking out. Just know this: you will be hungry when it's over. Plan accordingly.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Bamboo Dong

Rating: 3

Eating good food is a sensual experience. Or at least it is for middle-schooler Ryou, who gives every bite the careful deliberation it deserves. When she bites into inari, she marvels at its texture and flavor, and feels every grain with her tongue. Her second cousin Kirin, who's going to be staying with her every weekend to attend prep school, lets her know that the way she eats is "kinda sexy."

The animators try to show us this as well. When Ryou eats, her normally un-defined lips are colored a soft, glistening pink. They curl up at the edges, like she's teasing her food with a faint smile. She moans—but only slightly—as her teeth sink into the inari with a squish. The entire scene is hazy and soft, filled with sparkles. When Ryou is done eating, she arches her back and touches her lips, pleased with the experience she's just had.

It's… a little hard to get used to.

Namely because it stands out in such stark contrast to the rest of the episode, which is a little more standard in terms of its pleasant but unremarkable character designs and its charming-but-definitely-not-sexy aesthetic. Its inclusion makes sense contextually—if good food brings pleasure, then it should certainly be drawn that way, and contrasted with the relative humdrum of everyday life—but it still sticks out a little bit, especially since Eating-Good-Food-Ryou and Everyday-Ryou seem like completely different people. It feels a little awkward, like maybe you should be looking away.

As a food lover, though, I'm certainly intrigued by what the rest of the season might entail. The characters are charming enough, and I love the dynamic between the seemingly more mature Ryou and the more childish Kirin, who's keen on finding her own place in the world. Already, the two have an incredible rapport, and despite the episode's early reliance on the easy joke of Kirin being short, I think there's a lot to work with. Especially with Kirin's unsteady relationship with her mother, and Ryou's own desire for familial contact, their own relationship has a lot of room to flourish and grow. I wouldn't mind if there was a little more focus on the food itself, but for now, I'll keep an eye on the series.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Nick Creamer

Rating: 2.5

Gourmet Girl Graffiti takes the term “food porn” very seriously. It's not enough to just focus on food, and describe food, and enjoy food - no, the experience of eating food must be as sensual as sex itself. Our heroine Ryou Machiko apparently excels at this, as her second cousin Kirin Morino directly tells her - “the way you eat is kinda sexy.” And the way the camera lingers over parted lips and shining eyes as Ryou gasps her way through a meal is… well, it's something, alright.

The food porn shtick is the way Gourmet Girl Graffiti introduces itself, and that's kind of a hard first impression to break, but the rest of the episode actually has fairly different priorities. The premise here is that since her grandmother's death, Ryou has lived alone, and her cooking no longer tastes good to her. Fortunately, her cousin Kirin's desire to attend school in Tokyo means Ryou now has to host her on Sundays. The entrance of Kirin into her life restores energy and flavor to Ryou's world, and she soon realizes that what was missing from her meals wasn't any specific spice, but a family to share it with. By the end of this episode, Kirin has agreed to be Ryou's replacement family, and both of them look forward to meeting again next Sunday.

The main appeal to a show like this is clearly the relationship between the two girls - whether you find them cute separately and cute together is going to dictate how much you get out of Gourmet Girl Graffiti. And they are pretty cute - Ryou's polite melancholy, Kirin's energy and funny faces, and their communal appreciation for each other's company are all reasonably endearing. The show seems to want to have it both ways to a degree, as the Ryou-Kirin dynamic is alternately played as either heartwarming family connection or possible romantic spark (you can't have scenes like the food porn montages and then transition directly to reflections on meals as family gatherings), but the emphasis here is clearly on cute over sensual. And the character designs are solid, and there's a good deal of energetic character animation, and the backgrounds can be evocative without being ostentatious. When the show tries to make actual jokes, it can sometimes stumble (“I'm gonna be a bad wife” gag! Naked apron gag!), but fortunately it's mostly content to just let the main characters be cute together. It's not ambitious, but it's not trying to be - if you're looking for a show about cute girls bonding, Gourmet Girl Graffiti performs as advertised.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is available streaming on Crunchyroll.


Theron Martin

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Review: Gourmet Girl Graffiti is based on a 4-koma manga, but its storytelling is so seamless that you would never guess that if you didn't know. Instead of just a collection of gags, this is a smoothly continuous narrative which uses its tale of two middle school girls living together to make a paean to Japanese food.

More specifically, Ryou is a middle school girl who lives alone because she lost her grandmother last year and her parents work overseas (though an aunt regularly checks in on her). She laments that the food she cooks based on her grandmother's recipes doesn't taste all that good, but as she later discovers, it may simply be because she's only cooking for it for herself. That comes about when she is asked to house a second cousin, one Kirin, on weekends while she comes to Tokyo for a once-a-week class at Ryou's school. The very determined but also very short Kirin is seeking to get away from home because her mother is anything but an accomplished cook, and she quickly comes to adore Ryou's cooking. Mostly because of that but partly also because she can sense that Ryou's lonely, Kirin offers to become Ryou's family.

Now, as someone who cooks for only himself on a regular basis, I take issue with the whole “food tastes better if it's cooked for someone else” business that is lauded in anime like this, as cooking for yourself means you only have to worry about whether it suits your own taste or not. But that is the core message being pitched in a show that splits itself about equally between being cute (albeit in a restrained way) and showing off various aspects of Japanese cuisine in meticulous detail; in other words, this is quite squarely aimed at both Japanese foodies and “cute girls do cute things” audiences. It works in both respects due to a combination of its attention to detail, its appealing central characters, and artistic chops that are surprisingly strong for a series like this. (The latter is especially noticeable in the patterning used on clothing.) The one somewhat disconcerting point is that, for a title that is otherwise fan service-free, it seems to sexualize the way Ryou eats, to the point that Kirin even comments on it herself. This isn't exactly played as a joke, so it just feels a little out of place.

Graffiti isn't a terribly exciting-looking series, nor is it more than a mild comedy, but it does what it does pretty well.

Gourmet Girl Graffiti is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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