|A thorough labor of love with a wonderful story, incredible art and subtle character development.||Very little chance it will ever get a second season.|
First off, let me say that it has been a delight for me to have the chance to have blogged this series. Before the season began I somehow just knew that I was going to enjoy this series, and I am happy to say that it exceeded my expectations. In some ways that may come as no surprise – I tend to enjoy the Kirara manga anime adaptations (a few recent ones including Hidamari Sketch, Acchi Kocchi, Kiniro Mosaic, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka and Hanayamata), and I had a hunch this one would be no exception, but what I did not expect was the depth of character background and development the series would go into. Many of the Kirara series themselves are full on “slice of life” with not a lot more going on, save some light hearted humor, perhaps. Not so with Koufuku Graffiti, which clearly has an overarching plot and character development, and that are interesting and thought evoking at the same time. The story itself is fairly simple – at its most basic level it is a common theme one sees many times in both anime, manga, movies and novels: “the experience of food is better when shared”. But there is so much more to it than just that. Ultimately it is the story of the beginnings of the main character beginning to recover from the trauma of her grandmother dying and the difficult family situation she finds herself in, and it is a story told with subtlety, tact and attention to detail in a very quiet way.
The first thing about the series that leapt out at me was the lovely, detailed, artistically drawn visuals. Yes, it was done by Shaft studio, and therefore there are a few common stylistics of the studio proper sprinkled throughout here and there, but it is never overbearing or distracting or like a broken record. As the series progressed more and more it became clear to me that this series was a labor of love, and that the animators were pouring their hearts into making it look downright gorgeous – and it was not just the eating scenes or the scenes of the food prepared. As the series went on I somehow could not shake the feeling that the gorgeous visuals were almost like a Romulan cloaking device for the main theme of the story – they were so incredibly well done (even immersive) that it was extremely easy to miss what was actually going on in the narrative. And even if you did get glimpses of the narrative, it was presented in way that was somehow not so easy to articulate or describe. In this sense it was often a challenge to blog, to write about, and I often had to mull over what to say for several days and a few re-watched to sort out my responses to the episodes.
The OST for the series itself is very good background music, it very rarely stands out by itself and quietly enhances the scene, very rarely standing out or drawing attention to itself, so it is effective yet unremarkable. The OP is another story, though. For me it was the best of any series I followed or checked out during the Winter season, though only better than Death Parade’s OP by a hair. As chance would have it, I was re-watching the OP of season one of Rinne no Lagrange sung by Megumi Nakajima (I love her singing voice) called “Try, Unite!” and noticed that the music composition had also been done by Rasmus Faber, who composed the OP for Koufuku (sung by Sakamoto Maaya – the VA for the vampire Shinobu from the Monogatari series, among other things), and immediately saw similarities between the two. The ED works out pretty well, and seems to accompany the visuals more than vice versa. The voice acting in the series was extremely well done, though – none of the characters felt out of whack or forced or stilted or cardboard’y.
But the best part about the series for me was in character presentation, interaction and development – especially that of the main character herself – Ryou. Ryou’s parents work away from home and support her long distance, and have been doing so since she was a young child, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother – a wonderful example of old school Japanese cultural values – and who reposes peacefully in deep old age a year or so before the anime series itself begins. Ryou herself has a lot of natural talent artistically, is a fantastic cook, has impeccable manners a simple elegance and self-sacrificing quality about her that she absorbed from her grandmother’s example that makes her very different from her peers, almost as a person who had been born many decades earlier had suddenly found themselves in the 21st century. Yet for all her maturity and responsible nature she has parts of her that have not yet fully developed emotionally, and especially when the weight of her grandmother’s death is added into the mix of her being in her mid teens it is … a lot to have on her plate.
The catalyst who begins the process of her healing is her cousin Kirin (who herself is quite a character and a bundle of energy suspected by many viewers to be an android or an ogre in disguise due to her incredible physical and athletic talents), whose growth is also touched upon as a sort of background theme or a “second violin” in an orchestral setting. Somehow Kirin’s arrival helps to also affect a close friend of Ryou’s named Shiina, who “steps a bit more into the foreground” and herself begins to give and take in the overall healing process Ryou and Kirin experience as well. Watching these characters grow through the seasons and the festivals associated therewith was an absolute delight to watch, and it does so in a way that goes deep enough into your sentiments/emotions to be healing, but not so much so as to go into angst.
Probably the most frustrating part of the series for me while it was airing was not knowing the source material, but I soon discovered that the anime itself was a 4-koma adaptation, and this surprised me. Essentially that means that the anime studio took the source material and wove the magnificent tapestry of the adaptation in a very painstaking manner, much as one done for the excellent adaptations of Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka and Mikakunin de Shinkoukei. In other words, it a further testament to this work being a painstaking labor of love at the hands of the studio and staff. But even with that, I really cannot foresee that it will do very well in terms of sales (though I would love to be proven wrong) and/or a second season, while I would dearly love to see the story continue, seems highly unlikely. A pity. Still, one should be thankful for whatever excellence and care one has the chance to be exposed to and enjoy. This series was one of the three I most looked forward to every week this past season, and seemed to fly under most people’s radar, even stealthily moving in and out of those who enjoyed watching it. For me it truly was a hidden gem (perhaps THE hidden gem) of the season. It gets an overall A ranking from me.
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