Koufuku Graffiti – 02

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Two episodes in, and KG is definitely my cup of tea…and my tamagoyaki, and my grilled squid, and my corn on the cob…and my Russian Roulette sandwiches. This week is bursting with gorgeous sights, smells, and tastes, but while last week Ryou learned that her food tastes infinitely better when she shares it with someone, this week the food is a medium for Ryou and Kirin to learn more about each other and grow closer as both family and friends.

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Like last week, the joy is all in the delectable culinary details. Ryou carefully, lovingly prepares lunches for the sakura festival (damn, I wish it was Spring already), and Kirin contributes her own bento: one that at first seems to be a pure white void, but then the seams of delicious-looking sandwiches become visible. The fact that Kirin’s mom helped her shows that the two have made up, in part thanks to Ryou’s hot pot recipe.

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Food doesn’t just taste better depending on the company you keep, but the environs. And what better place to eat than in a city park exploding with cherry blossoms?

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Kirin meets Ryou’s Aunt Akira for the first time, and while she’s initially shy, Akira’s wild, laid-back, but friendly demeanor puts her at ease. However, Ryou is a bit cross that Akira brought plenty of Asahi Super Dry for herself, but contributed no food. Akira makes up for it by presenting the girls with cash and sending them out into the fair.

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It turns out to be the first real fair Kirin’s ever been too, and thus encounters several different and wonderful fair treats for the first time. Ryou tells Kirin she used to look forward to Spring like no other because she got to enjoy a picnic with her mom, dad, grandma, and Akira. Now only Akira is here…and Kirin.  It may not be exactly the same, but it’s still good.

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We formally meet Ryou and Kirin’s fellow cram schooler Shiina (Komatsu Mikako), who has come to the festival with very clear goals in mind: “sketch it all (including drunk salarymen) and eat it all”. Her encounter is marked by a classic slo-mo Shaft Head-Tilt™, followed by an impatient Akira doing the same thing in short succession.

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Kirin, exhibiting a child’s weariness to strangers to match her small stature, seems to see Shiina as a rival for Ryou’s affection, but more than anything she’s envious that Shiina knows a side of Ryou (the super-focused side she shows in class) she doesn’t. Shiina apologizes for assuming she’s a grade-schooler with a candy apple—a somewhat juvenile food—but the thought is what counts, and though she may not know it yet, Kirin has made another friend just like that.

Back at the picnic blanket, Akira jumped the gun and paid dearly, having gotten the sandwich with gobs of hot mustard; Kirin’s mom’s contribution to the meal.

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Ryou and Kirin return, and a three-way FOODGASM ensues, complete with very specific food sound effects, extreme close-ups, and precise yet flowery descriptions of the mouth-watering food being scarfed down. I wanted to jump into the TV and scoop of a dollop of that cold, crisp potato salad, or crunch into that perfectly-charred corn.

At this point I feel I point out I make a clear distinction between highly enthusiastic consumption of food and any potential sexual acts either the act of eating or description of the food might conjure. KG dances on the edge with these fetishy sequences, but never crosses the line into ‘ew, gross’ territory, IMO. Don’t be like George Costanza: There is sex, and there is food. This is food.

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When the two set up another blanket under the blooming cherry tree outside Ryou’s place so Kirin can sketch, Ryou surprises her with the steamy, sweet and fluffy tamagoyaki we saw her enjoying in the cold open, it’s obvious that food is far more than just sustenance for the body. It’s also the mortar used to build the friendship blooming between two sweet, formerly lonely souls in Ryou and Kirin.

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P.S.: I’m really digging the Alice in Wonderland-themed OP, with Ryou as the White Rabbit and Kirin as Alice following her down the culinary rabbit hole. The stirring opening theme, “The 5 Ways I Know to Become Happy”, is structurally and thematically similar to “No Need for Promises”, the theme of Escaflowne (one of my favorites). As it happens, both are passionately performed by Sakamoto Maaya, more than eighteen years apart.

Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 01

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During the town sakura festival, Isone Kotoha and Kishi Touka find a lost little girl, Lily. Mayor Yarizakura Hime takes her to Hiizumi Akina and Nanami Ao, who reads her mind and makes a crude drawing of the parents. A bored Hiizumi Enjin starts trouble to entertain himself, summoning dark lightning that turns several goldfish into enormous menaces that bounce around town. Hime, Akina, Kotoha and Ao work together to capture all the fish and defeat the final “boss” fish. Lily finds her parents, but it’s later revealed she’s actually an adult mage acquainted with Enjin who was testing the skills of the town’s protectors.

This episode starts off slowly, like a slice-of-life but radiates calm confidence as a pleasant, ordinary sakura festival takes a turn for the bizarre. Kotoha’s cheating with the fish-catching foreshadows the foe of the week: a school of mega-goldfish bouncing around like gargantuan medicine balls. Hardly a world-class threat, but as Enjin remarked, merely a “gentle nudge,” the first, and likely easiest test for the quartet who comprise the intrepid Hiizumi Life Counseling Office. Yet it still demonstrates their superb teamwork and complementary abilities.

Most anime series we try to watch are either fun/interesting to look at or sets forth some kind of original, appealing ideas. Out of the gate, Hana no Uta is both, like the Hoshi no Umi OVAs that preceded it. The visuals are polished and bright, and whenever something “supernatural” happens, the animation crackles, pops, and bangs with engaging playfulness and a little alarm. There’s a lot of nice detail and flair in the characters’ movements. Combine that with the charming, whimsical concept of jumbo goldfish, and the twist that the lost girl who was really a powerful (and stylish) new adversary in disguise, and you have an auspicious start to a promising series.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Some of our favorite funny little moments: Hime eating an enormous mass of festival fare in one gulp; Ao having a ton of fun with a toy plane, and a panicky Touka telling a calm crowd not to panic.
  • The cold open had a nice WTF quality to it, with Kotoha summoning a giant fish tank in the night sky, which then evaporates in a cloud of pigeons.
  • We also enjoyed the reveal that Ao’s crappy drawings of Lily’s “parents” were actually dead accurate, as the sexy witch conjured them from small cow dolls.
  • Those who’ve watched YQ know the first blow Hime lands with her spear is rarely effective.
  • The only letdown this week? Akina didn’t yell “TUUUU-NIIIING-GUUUU!”