Gourmet Girl Graffiti
by Paul Jensen,
Get out the good chopsticks and expensive flatware, because Gourmet Girl Graffiti is serving up the last part of its twelve-course meal. Sentimental speeches will be made, entrance exams will be passed, and a final round of jokes will be tossed in whenever there's a spare moment. Naturally, a mountain of lavishly animated food will also be cooked and eaten.
For such a slow-paced series, an awful lot happens in this last episode. The girls pass their entrance exams and go to their graduation ceremonies. Ryou gets an apron that used to belong to her late grandmother and recreates the meal she had when she started middle school. Kirin moves in with Ryou and everyone thinks about the future while eating their weight in food. For a show that built an entire episode around a trip to the library, that's a lot of content to get through in half an hour.
The graduation scene is perhaps the weakest of the bunch, if only because it doesn't give the series much of an opportunity to be itself. There's very little to distinguish this sequence from any other anime graduation, resulting in a distinct feeling of “been there, done that.” It's the usual blend of nostalgia and anticipation, garnished with a bit of humor and served in the usual way. It's not especially poorly written (Ryou's inner monologues are well done); it just doesn't leave much of an impression.
Of course, that may be because the scene that follows it is so much better. Gourmet Girl Graffiti does an excellent job with the final cooking scene in the series. The apron serves as a useful prop for connecting Ryou to the memories of her grandmother, and the meal itself is charged with emotional significance. Not only is it the same thing her grandmother made when Ryou started school, it's the dish that Ryou seemingly couldn't really taste in the show's first episode. The resolution should be obvious from a mile away – the secret ingredient is having someone to share the experience with. It's a theme that the series has touched on in almost every episode, and the way it's captured here creates a strong sense of closure.
Things get more crowded as most of the supporting cast shows up for the move-in scene, and the atmosphere shifts from reflective to celebratory. The change in tone opens up the opportunity for humor, and the show fortunately avoids doing anything too dumb. The comedy is as strong as it's ever been here, with the running joke being that everyone except Ryou knew that Kirin would be moving in. It's funny without completely dominating the scene, which lets the previous scene's reflective mood carry through just a bit.
Ending a slice of life series on the right note can be difficult, but Gourmet Girl Graffiti somehow manages to stick the landing. It plays to the show's strengths, avoids most of its weaknesses, and touches on the ideas that sit at the core of the premise. Rather than ending on a sappy and teary-eyed farewell, it leaves the characters with a clear direction to follow after the curtain falls. We're left wanting more, but for the right reasons.
Watching Gourmet Girl Graffiti has been a roller coaster ride, albeit a slow and mellow one. The show started off as the deserving punchline to plenty of jokes about redefining the term “food porn,” but reined in its more obnoxious habits after going berserk halfway through the season. Along the way, it's delivered some clever observations and a lot of beautifully animated food, along with a few impossibly dull episodes just for good measure. I wouldn't rank it among the best examples of the genre, but there's nothing else quite like it out there.
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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