Gourmet Girl Graffiti
by Paul Jensen,
Whether or not you enjoy this week's episode of Gourmet Girl Graffiti depends on your reaction to the following seven words: eight-minute bath scene with melting popsicles. Take whatever thoughts just went through your head and imagine having them bounce around your mind for a full third of this episode. If you just threw your arms skyward in celebration or bashed your head against a wall in disgust, then you already know everything you need to know. If you're somewhere in the middle, read on.
The episode starts off with a simple premise: it's really hot outside. After burning through their summer to-do list at Shiina's house, the girls find themselves exhausted and ready for the season to be over. Naturally, Ryou's first instinct is to cook up exactly the right meal for the situation, but not even lavishly animated food seems to cure their summer fatigue. The search for relief eventually leads Kirin to suggest eating ice cream in the bath, which allows the series to cram more fanservice into a few minutes than we've seen in every other episode combined.
Outside of that one particular scene, this episode is most remarkable for its improvements over the show's previously lackluster attempts at comedy. The characters' varied reactions to the oppressive heat are spot-on, and Kirin's indignant griping is quite funny. The show also does an excellent job of capturing the horrible feeling of walking out of an air-conditioned building and into the summer heat. Gourmet Girl Graffiti has always been good at depicting the sensory details of its featured meals, and it's interesting to see that strength put to use in a different capacity.
Much of that humor is sidelined during the bath scene, and it's obvious that the show has a different set of priorities here. The shift in tone is sudden enough to be jarring, as though someone flipped a switch from “food comedy” to “fanservice episode.” The show seems to revel in presenting this sequence, finding every excuse to drag it out as long as possible. Anime has long had a habit of handing female characters suggestively shaped popsicles, but Gourmet Girl Graffiti takes that old standby to an entirely new level with its unique attention to detail. That self-indulgent feeling makes it very tough to laugh the whole thing off as a misguided attempt at grabbing the audience's attention. Somebody had an unsettling amount of fun putting this scene together.
My problem with this scene isn't so much with its content as it is with the way that content clashes with the show as a whole. In an openly trashy fanservice series, this would be fine. Heck, I'd probably give the show credit for putting serious effort into its animation. When you wedge this scene into a slice of life series, though, you subvert the show's primary intent and inflict all that 2-D skin on an audience that didn't sign up for it. Gourmet Girl Graffiti's “sexy eating” quirk is a little sleazy, but at least it's tangentially related to the culinary content and only takes up a few seconds of screen time. Burning through eight minutes for the sake of drawing the show's main characters lounging around in the tub comes across as a betrayal of the audience's expectations for the sake of the creators' own amusement.
The majority of this episode is a nicely crafted slice of life comedy. The remainder is a well-animated detour where personal taste overrides good storytelling. If you're here for the food, you'll probably be disappointed by the uninspired dishes on display. If you're here for the fanservice, I can only assume that you've been bored out of your mind during the previous five episodes.
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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