This week’s episode of Koufuku Graffiti solidified some suspicions I had for some of the reasons why the series is resonating with me as well as it has been, and also seems to not only have a lot more going on under the hood than it lets on, but even is fairly skilled at hiding the fact.

If I were to summarize it in a nutshell, it would be that it has very general similarities to the situation of Fuu from the Tamayura franchise. Essentially Ryou “shut down” inside after her grandmother died, and Kirin’s arrival began to trigger her re-awakening. For Fuu the process began by looking at her reposed father’s photography and continues by her immersion in that hobby that he loved and trained her in to a small degree and remembering the precious times of the past and “incorporating” them into the present.

What Ryou is going through is similar. For Ryou the process began by having someone to cook for in the way her reposed grandmother cooked for her and continues through her immersion in the hobby her grandmother loved and trained her in to a small degree and remembering the precious times of the past and “incorporating” them into the present. She is finally beginning to heal in her process of grieving.

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The episode opens with Ryou and Shiina in their cram school art class and hearing that next weekend’s class has been cancelled. Ryou responds to this very strongly, so much that it seemed abnormal at first, and I thought it might have been exaggerated for comedic purposes. But on later thought I do not think this was the sole reason or even the main reason. I think it was to illustrate how intensely Ryou clings to the Kirin as the visible catalyst for her inner healing process. Anyway, Kirin was also distressed at first and tries to arrange for a visit to Ryou next week despite there being no classes … until she finds out her parents had made arrangements to go to a high class Chinese restaurant that day and decide to bring Kirin along when they hear she has no classes. Kirin agrees, but on realizing Ryou would be alone afterwards she asks if Ryou would come visit her instead. Ryou (no doubt sensitive to the importance of spending time with mother and father since hers are unable to be around) declines, however, which sets the stage for the main events of the episode proper.

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Needless to say it is probably the first time Ryou has been alone in a while (Shiina offered to try and come visit but got soaked in the rain and caught a nasty cold complete with several days of a fever), and it shows – Ryou is listless and not really sure what to do with herself. After trying to cook for herself and once again arriving at the empty feeling and taste of eating by herself she feels it necessary to do other things, and turns to studying. In the process she realizes she needs to include official references to other books so she heads outside to go to the local library. There is some lovely animated sequences in the rain of Ryou’s walk, and when she arrives at the library she is surprised to find out the librarian remembers her well. More than that, the librarian remembers her grandmother and the frequent times when Ryou would come to the library with her grandmother. This begins a train of memories Ryou did not expect, and she not only discovers that her grandmother was originally a terrible cook who learned how to cook well for her sake (confirmed by a quick phone call to her aunt), but that she learned through books she took out from the library and would tweak the recipes to suit Ryou’s tastes.

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Ryou is also invited by the librarian to eat lunch in the library’s cafe, which brings another aspect of Ryou’s past with her grandmother to her memory; they would go to the same local convenience store every single time and Ryou would be treated to whatever she wanted. Remembering this Ryou heads off to the same store (which is still manned by the same grim faced, good hearted cashier from when she was a child) and returns to the library cafeteria with the items she would always choose when she couldn’t decide. She remembers the times she ate with her grandmother and in the peak of remembering all this and recalling the kindness of her grandmother she even looks on those “stand by items” she would always purchase as if they were old friends she was meeting again after a long absence – this is accompanied by some bizarre animation, by the way.

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Essentially these memories re-orientate Ryou out of her listless state of mind to a focus on other people and quite plainly a simple, unselfish gratitude for and towards them – exactly in the same line of how her grandmother showed her love towards her. At that moment her state of soul becomes much more alive and in harmony with how she has been of late with Kirin’s help, and in her happy state she sends her feelings, some photos and a text to Kirin, who is eating at that famous restaurant with her parents. Turns out Ryou had sent her ten texts through the day, but for whatever reason Kirin suddenly thinks of Ryou and checks her phone and responds to Ryou while she is in the store doing a little food shopping. The episode ends with Ryou in a state of soul where she is giving of herself to others again (even if they are not physically present) and unsurprisingly with her in a much more normal and happy (and healthy) disposition.

By the way, the preview sequence after the Ending music this week included the Convenience Store cashier interacting with Ryou as a child and generally being friendly and playful to the delight of them both. I found it extremely endearing and laughed aloud during the entire thing. Kudos to the studio for adding it in.

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As mentioned earlier this episode seems to me to be one that could be easily overlooked, but I would say the same for the series in general. The lavish animation, the erotic facial expressions of the characters when they are eating, the infamous “Studio Shaftianisms” and the like are all so signature and/or well done that it seems easy to miss the core of the story. To me that is the most important and worthwhile aspect of the series as a whole, and while I am definitely grateful for other aspects the anime has done excellently thus far I hope it will not bury what seems to be its main message for everyone.

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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