Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka? (“Is the Order a Rabbit?”, abbreviated GochiUsa for brevity) is an anime from the Spring 2014 season, and follows Cocoa Hoto’s life in a new town, having moved there to attend school. To finance her accommodation, she works as a waitress with Chino Kafuu at the latter’s family’s Rabbit House café. As far as trends go, GochiUsa joins the ranks of the many, many slice-of-life anime I take to watching every season. One understandably asks: what about slice-of-life make it worth watching? There is no simple answer, but it is possible to compare slice-of-life anime to pizza, a relatively common and widely-enjoyed food. Rather like how pizza can be prepared in a myriad of ways, slice-of-life encompasses a variety of settings, and those who maintain an open-minded stance may encounter a refreshing or a particularly enjoyable addition. The quality of the anime is dependent on the execution, similar to how pizzas can vary widely in quality depending on the vendor. Hence, even though roughly two-fifths of my library consists of slice-of-life anime, each of the shows hold a unique aspect that make them worth watching.
- Unlike Sidonia no Kishi, GochiUsa has no story, no implications about human society and no conflict. In this town, life is simple, and calls back to the kind of idyllic world found in many children’s shows. The more serious nature in Sidonia no Kishi balances out the light-hearted environment in GochiUsa, and indeed, I typically watch a balance of serious and not-serious shows in any given season. As for the quote above, some of the antics that happen at Rabbit House may lead one to shout its name in a similar manner: whenever coffee art is made, it’s Rabbit House. Whenever some sweets are freshly baked…Rabbit House! When the customers leave compliments…
- To the left is Chino Kafuu, a soft spoken girl who, despite being annoyed by Cocoa’s insistence on being called ‘big sister’, slowly warms up to her. Cocoa Hoto is to the right: new to the town, Cocoa is fond of cute things, considers Chino to be like a little sister to her, and is skilled in baking bread. Chino’s namesake is cappuccino, while Cocoa is named after Hot Cocoa. I found that Chino’s mannerisms is highly reminiscent of Non Non Biyori‘s Renge Miyauchi.
- Rize Tedeza is one of the waitresses at the Rabbit House. Despite her disciplined, military-like personality, she is very kind and has a strong feminine side as well, such as being vulnerable to cute things, and her appearance. Rize’s namesake comes from Thé des Alizés, a Chinese green tea.
- Chiya Ujimatsu is one of Cocoa’s classmates at the high school they attend, and her family runs a coffee shop named Ama Usa An. She has a similar personality to Cocoa, and the two get along remarkably well. Chiya is named after uji matcha tea, a Japanese green tea.
- I originally had ninety-nine screenshots for GochiUsa, but had to tone it down, otherwise, this post would surpass even the Gundam Unicorn finale post in length, and I would be here all night trying to come up with figure captions for each image. Here, the girls practise bread making, and earlier, Cocoa learns how to do cream art in coffee.
- In the middle is Sharo Kirima, Chiya’s childhood friend. She lives right beside the Ama Usa An, and attends the same elite school as Rize as a scholarship student: she is quite poor and is fearful that Rize and her friends discover this truth. Named after Kilimanjaro tea (not the Halo multi-kill), Sharo fears rabbits and becomes increasingly hyper after drinking coffee.
- All of the girls do seem to fit the traditional archetypes from K-On!: one could make a case that as far as personalities and tendencies go, Cocoa is Yui, Sharo is Ritsu, Rize is Mio, Chiya is Mugi and Chino is Azusa. Here, the girls enjoy herbal tea. The earlier episodes introduce all of the characters and some of the different cafes in their town, one by one.
- Rize normally keeps her hair in twintails, but on one occasion, is seen with her hair down. She instinctively reacts to her name being mentioned and expresses embarrassment at the thought of her friends discovering her more feminine side , but somehow manages to throw off Cocoa nonetheless.
- After unintentionally finishing one of Chino’s puzzles and getting Chino mad at her, Cocoa decides to purchase an eight thousand piece puzzle to make up for things, and the girls help finish it together. The completed puzzle eventually replaces an older picture at Rabbit House.
- For one reason or another, whenever I hear “order”, I either think of the “order” as in “an organisation” or the biological “order” (“a rank between class and family, or a taxon at that rank”), rather than a customer-requested transaction, typically for food. Thus, when I hear the English title, I keep thinking “Is the organisation a rabbit?”, even though that makes no sense syntactically: I would be inclined to translate the title as “Is your order a rabbit?” to remove that ambiguity, even if it is not necessary, as the original Japanese “ご注文” means “order (of)”.
In GochiUsa, the unique point lies with the setting, which is modelled after the French town of Colmar and features timber-framed buildings, as well as elements from Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. Such an environment evokes a distinctly Germanic feel to the anime, bringing to mind the idyllic scene of a market square and traditional shops lined alongside cobblestone streets. This gently allows GochiUsa to present Cocoa’s experiences as being plausible without resorting to the sort of fanservice that might otherwise permeate the anime: working in a traditional coffee house with such ornate costumes would seem out of place in a contemporary setting. Indeed, GochiUsa takes the time to present beautiful scenes from the unnamed town this anime is set in, giving the sense that life in this town is pleasant. Of course, classical architecture blends in with modern conveniences like mobile phones and Rize Tedeza’s Glock (likely chambered for the 9 x 19 mm Parabellum round): these date from more recent times and feel somewhat out of place, suggesting that GochiUsa is set in the modern period, and the town could very well be living history museum, not dissimilar to Heritage Park Historical Village, albeit with a much greater size.
- Despite speaking extensively of the architecture and setting, this post is about the anime as a whole and therefore, images focus on the characters. At the bottom of the post, far below the last bit of impressions, I’ve supplied a small collection of some of the landscapes around town.
- The movie the girls watch (“The Batista Who Turned Into a Rabbit”) was inspired by Aoyama Blue Mountain’s book, and that was suppposed to have been inspired by a true story. It turns out that Tippy is a vessel for Chino’s grandfather’s spirit: it is immensely amusing to watch Tippy speaking with a deep male voice, despite appearing so fluffy.
- After hitting a slump, Aoyama decides to work at Rabbit House for a while. Aoyama is female novelist who admired Chino’s grandfather and always asked his opinion about her stories. After losing a pen Chino’s grandfather gave her, she took on a temporary position at Rabbit House and returns their to work occasionally. She is named after Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, and her surname (青山) translates directly to “Blue Mountain”.
- Despite appearing as a wildly comical character, this scene felt very sentimental. After Tippy finds Aoyama’s pen, Chino asks if he could let Aoyama know that he’s still around, and that keeping their secret is difficult. The wind picks up, and though it’s really just the wind blowing through Tippy’s fur, it looks like he’s shivering. Paired with Chino’s words, this moment melted my heart.
- Megumi Natsu and Maya Jōga are two of Chino’s friends: they show up at Rabbit House to hang out, and later on, help out with the cafe’s daily operations. Cocoa seems them as her little sisters, too, and the two aren’t hesitant to play on Cocoa’s inclinations to push for something they’d like.
- Despite being clumsy and lacking a strong sense of awareness, Cocoa is remarkably skilled at mathematics and sciences, but is deficient in the humanities. Chiya is weaker where Cocoa is strong, and strong where Cocoa is weak: they study together with the hopes of doing well on their school exams.
- There is a shop called The Spirit of Christmas in Banff that specialises in Yuletide ornaments and decorative fixtures. Even though it may be the middle of summer, when I enter that shop, it feels like Christmas, with the more traditional, Victorian-era feel to it that emphasises togetherness and warmth associated with good company. Watching this scene in GochiUsa evoked similar feelings, even though Christmas itself is still five months away.
- Here, the girls admire bread in a shop. I’ve never actually visited a Christmas market before, but I may do such a thing someday, far out there, after things settle down. A lot of anime I’ve been watching features Christmas scenes despite their airing outside of the Christmas season, and I’ve always wondered if I should go back and watch Christmas anime episodes on Christmas Day itself, even if typically, I spend my time doing something that isn’t anime.
- The girls prepare a fantastic Christmas party after they finish their shifts at Rabbit House. Over the course of GochiUsa, the girls all work at a variety of shops at different times for their own reasons, but that ultimately ends up giving the town a very closely-knit feeling.
- Thus ends my talk on GochiUsa, and now, it’s speculation time. The manga’s been running since 2011, and although I would love to see a second season, I’m not sure as to whether or not this is a “sure thing” (as some are predicting).
Its beautiful setting aside, how does GochiUsa stack up as an anime, especially in light of all the powerhouse titles I’ve watched recently (including the Gundam Unicorn finale and Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion Story)? There is a charm to slice-of-life stories that make them ideal for relaxing to after a workday, or during lunch hour. The things that Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Sharyo and Chiya experience might be ordinary, but the girls turn these into memorable moments spent together, whether it be watching a movie, working at their cafés, relaxing at their local pool or celebrating Christmas together. Coupled with the humour that can only be found in a series with plenty of rabbits and moé characters, GochiUsa ends up being just the thing for anyone seeking a light-hearted romp through Cocoa and Chino’s life. Anime of this sort might be perceived as “harming the industry” (and other phrases of that sentiment), but the fact is that every season, there are plenty of triple-A titles that come out, featuring complex stories, sophisticated themes and, some might expect, events and implications to challenge one’s way of thinking. These anime are excellent in their own right, but to expect the same from slice-of-life is folly. At the end of the day, anime like GochiUsa continue providing relaxing, amusing shows for those who are looking to unwind; though the characters feel familiar, GochiUsa sets things in a world that is welcoming, offering a calming respite from the fires of software development.
Thus ends the post now, I promise. I close off with the remark that I thoroughly enjoyed GochiUsa‘s soundtrack as much as I did the anime, and I look forwards to its release. At the time of writing, the opening and ending songs are out, plus character songs for Chino, Rize and Cocoa.