Gourmet Girl Graffiti
by Paul Jensen,
Over the course of the season, Gourmet Girl Graffiti has often suffered from not having enough content to fill each episode. The series took a shot at fixing that problem last week by beefing up the story, and it tries yet another approach in this episode. Rather than stretching one idea across twenty minutes, it splits the running time between two smaller stories. It doesn't seem like a particularly significant change, but it does a lot to solve the show's problem.
The episode as a whole is structured around the characters' high school entrance exams, with each of the two stories offering a variation on that theme. The first half focuses on Kirin and Ryou as they stay up late studying. Kirin prepares some ramen as a late night snack, which turns out far better than expected from the show's official “terrible cook” character. There's also a side story about Ryou missing her parents, who do some sort of mysterious work overseas. The show plays up Kirin's curiosity about their jobs, though the comedic results are mixed at best. Perhaps the funniest thing here is the notion that Ryou's parents would send her a box of “Japanese-style” instant noodles, which is a bit like sending steak to someone who lives in Texas.
The second story arc is the stronger of the two, and involves the girls making a last-minute shrine visit before the exams begin. The sandwiches that the episode shows off are somewhat uninspired, but the comedy is in much better form. Shiina is easily the most underutilized character in Gourmet Girl Graffiti, and her verbal sparring match with Kirin is nicely paced and offers some very funny lines. Kirin and Ryou also manage to stir up a few laughs when they buy good luck charms in bulk. The story arc as a whole fits perfectly into half an episode and feels neither stretched nor rushed.
That improved pacing is what makes this episode work better than many of the show's previous efforts. Either one of these stories would have been a chore to watch at around twenty minutes, but cutting them down to half that length keeps either one from wearing out its welcome. For once, there isn't a moment where the characters seem to be wandering around in search of the next plot point. Gourmet Girl Graffiti relies on a very simple premise of eating with friends, and this tighter pacing matches that simplicity very well.
I hesitate to make such a wild suggestion, but it also seems like the series has been carrying a storyline across several weeks now. The recurring theme of entrance exams makes this episode feel like a continuation of the last one, rather than a standalone piece of animation. As with the improved pacing, I would've loved to see this change come around earlier in the season. Even a slice of life series needs some sense of connection from one episode to another, and the entrance exams have provided exactly that. I finally have some idea of what to expect next week, and that helps build up a sense of anticipation.
Even in the face of all these tweaks and fixes, Gourmet Girl Graffiti still remains its usual self where it counts. It's still an odd, lazy little show that's not interested in much besides talking about food. It may have ironed out some of its more awkward wrinkles, but the occasional flashes of insight remain. As long as it can carry those through to the end, it'll finish on a high note.
Gourmet Girl Graffiti is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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