Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

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This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

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Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

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Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

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Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

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Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

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Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

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Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

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Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

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Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

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Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

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Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

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Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

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Koufuku Graffiti – 11

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As exams draw nearer, quick and easy meals are the order of the day. While Ryou would probably prefer to spend all day cooking and eating, she and Kirin need to study.

It’s fortuitous then, that Ryou’s mysterious parents send her her second care package, which is full of packaged ramen in various flavors. There’s nothing like opening a big box full of food!

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The package has Kirin, whom we know has had a tenuous relationship with adults anyway, thinking about Ryou’s parents. What kind of people are they? What do they do? Kirin’s mom doesn’t have straight answers, but Kirin’s imagination runs wild when she hears they wanted to get Ryou a bodyguard. Satou Rina only gets a couple of lines as these alternate, bitchier Ryous, but she makes the most of them.

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Ryou has been a little lonely lately because her mom isn’t around to make late night study snacks for her, so the timing of the package is perfect. Also, Kirin knows how to make tasty ramen, so Ryou has a snack made for her after all, and it’s predictably that much more delicious because it was made with love.

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At the bottom of the ramen box is a secret letter specifically addressed to Kirin from Ryou’s mom; Kirin’s stealth crawl to a private place to read it is pretty dang cute, and the “top secret” label on the envelope, along with Ryou’s mom’s standing offer to provide both girls with bodyguards, helps fuel Kirin’s intense curiosity.

Ryou doesn’t help by calling her parents “two of the most important people in the world.” Still, the fact their true occupations remain secrets is a fun little running gag. At the end of the day, whatever they do, they made a good daughter.

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In part two the exams are even closer, and Ryou and Kiri visit a shrine to pray for good luck and success. Then Shiina drops a bomb: she already got accepted into the same high school they’re trying to get into. On the one hand, both I and they are relieved they’ll remain together. But Kirin in particular feels miffed that Shiina was so secretive about it.

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More to the point, the fact Shiina has already achieved what Ryou and Kirin have yet to gives her an almost godlike status in their eyes, but when she says an exam is a solitary battle, and one has to rely on oneself and not others or gods, the blinding light of her wisdom is powerful to behold…but Kirin isn’t so sure Shiina’s 100% right about that.

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Case in point, when Shiina opens up a huge case of beautiful-looking pork cutlet sandwiches—resembling a suitcase full of money, only tastier—and everyone digs in to the deliciousness, they react in the usual way, but with a cut to Tsuyuko infusing the sandwiches with plenty good luck aura, proving Kirin was correct: Shiina did have help during exams, because every time she took a bite into the sandwiches, she remembered the person who made them, and felt less lonely in her task.

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Shiina decides to pay it forward by learning how to make the good luck sandwiches and providing them to Ryou and Kirin for lunch as they head to their exams, showing that while she can be cold and stoic under certain circumstances, there’s still a sweet, caring person within who asserts herself in the clutch. I’ll admit I missed Uchiki Yuki this week, but in return we got lots of awesome Shiina, so I can’t complain.

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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.