“Love and magic have a great deal in common. They enrich the soul, delight the heart. And they both take practice.” –Nora Roberts
Summer is in full swing in the wood-framed town, and Rabbit House is selling chilled coffees as a special. However, Cocoa, Chino and Rize begin to feel that their uniforms are too hot for the weather, so they set about crafting new ones. While out shopping for the materials, they run into Sharo, who helps the girls to pick up the fabric and clothes needed when their favourite store in town is packed. Chino and Rize manage to find fabric in their colours, although Cocoa is less fortunate. Upon returning to Rabbit House, Cocoa recalls that there might’ve been some fabric left in the storeroom that they could use. She finds it, along with a magician set and numerous knick-knacks, including a toy Chino’s grandfather had gifted to her mother long ago. Takahiro suggests that they sell some of the extra stuff at a summer flea market. Chino and Rize are unable to draw in any customers; since it’s slow, Chino and Rize suggest that Cocoa explore. She meets Chiya and Sharo, who decide to help out. When a little girl gets lost, Rize looks for her mother, while Chino stays behind to comfort her. That evening, the girls relax together and Cocoa tries out the magician’s kit in front of the others. Some time later, Cocoa, Rize and Chino try out their new summer uniforms. It’s been five years since GochiUsa‘s second season aired, and today, the third season is in full swing at last. For this third season (BLOOM from here on out for brevity), Encourage Films has taken over from Production dóA, Kinema Citrus and White Fox. Studio changes have occasionally resulted in noticeable visual changes: when Feel produced Oregairu, their style differed greatly from what Brain’s Base had used, and similarly, the gap between GONZO’s Strike Witches and AIC Spirits’ Strike Witches 2 were night and day. However, studios do seem to be more respectful of the aesthetics within established series, and for BLOOM, Encourage Films has opened with a very strong start: Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo remain quite unchanged from the earlier seasons, and the studio has succeeded in capturing the wood-framed town’s aesthetic that the earlier seasons and studios had created.
With two seasons already in the books, plus a pair of specials, BLOOM is able to drop viewers into the middle of the summer, a time by which Cocoa has become an integral part of life at Rabbit House. Tellingly, Cocoa’s suggestion to make summer uniforms is met with enthusiasm rather than opposition: while Chino and Rize may have been more reserved at the journey’s beginning, Cocoa’s carefree personality and energy has left a powerful impression on the two. Chino and Rize are now more open-minded and outgoing than before, seeing Cocoa’s suggestions as an invitation to explore (whereas before, they might have found them mere disruptions). With the character dynamics established firmly, BLOOM is thus free to really begin exploring new directions, as well: as Cocoa, Chino and Rize begin measuring their uniforms, and Cocoa envisions herself ten years later, the question of what lies ahead for everyone in the future is brought up. Cocoa says she’ll handle things as they happen, and Rize states she’s got a game plan. While these are only remarks made in the passing, it foreshadows the theme that BLOOM will be covering; life in the wood-framed town is idyllic and peaceful, but such days do not last forever: as time wears on, the girls will need to look towards their futures as well. For the time being, however, it is still perfectly fine to live in the moment, and BLOOM‘s first episode successfully conveys this to the viewer: that GochiUsa‘s third season is going to strike a balance between having the girls enjoy their time with one another, while simultaneously giving more thoughts into what their futures entail.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It is great to be writing about BLOOM: precisely five years ago, GochiUsa‘s second season kicked off, and it had also been the Thanksgiving Long Weekend. Back then, I had been in my final year of grad school, and with no courses on my schedule, Saturdays were fairly open, so I ended up writing about the series on a weekly basis. For BLOOM, the release times are the same (0730 PDT), so I will be able to watch and write about this in roughly the same manner as I did for GochiUsa‘s second season.
- GochiUsa excels with its portrayal of the seasons: the second season had started out at the end of winter as the wood-framed town transitioned into spring, and it’s now the middle of summer. Since GochiUsa is modelled after Colmar, France, it is reasonable to suppose that the wood-framed town shares a similar climate (temperate oceanic). The average high in Colmar during the summers is around 26ºC, and since Rabbit House does not appear to have air conditioning, it can get a little hot, hence the girls wearing their summer yukata.
- After Aoyama takes off on the assumption she’d entered the wrong café, Maya and Megu show up, curious to try out Rabbit House’s iced coffee. Tippy can be seen enjoying an iced coffee and cooling off, as well: ice coffee is a popular summer drink that combines the great taste of coffee with a refreshing twist, and the most serious iced coffees will actually use coffee ice cubes in place of regular ice cubes. While a hit with the customers, iced coffee does nothing for Cocoa, Chino and Rize: their uniforms remain as hot as ever, and Cocoa suggests crafting new uniforms.
- Thus, the three meet at the local park on another sweltering day. Looking back at the past summer, it had been quite hot: we had three weeks of heat warnings in total, during which there were at least three consecutive days where temperatures did not drop below 18ºC during the night and reached highs of at least 28ºC. Such days were perfect for enjoying watermelon and cool drinks: I’m generally okay with the heat, although some folks fare more poorly: Cocoa is too hot to move, and ultimately, Rize ends up carrying her and Chino simultaneously.
- Production dóA had done a solid job with Dear My Sister and Sing For You, rendering the wood-framed town precisely as White Fox and Kinema Citrus had before them. Encourage Films is maintaining that tradition well, and the town in BLOOM is indistinguishable from what was seen earlier. Since shifts in aesthetic are always a possibility, I imagine that a handful of viewers would’ve been quite worried about Encourage Films altering the style, but now that this first episode is out, it would appear that their fears did not come to pass.
- After exhausting herself carrying Cocoa and Chino at the same time, Rize attempts to work up enough strength to push through the crowd in front of the fabric store. In this state, however, she’s easily bested, and gets blown back as one would after taking a punch from Thanos. Fortunately, Sharo is on hand to help out. Earlier seasons had shown Sharo as being smitten with Rize, looking up to her for her confidence, but as GochiUsa continued, it turns out that Rize also admires Sharo.
- The crowds are a non-issue for Sharo, who wades right in. With a deft hand, Sharo is able to purchase precisely the materials that Rize, Chino and Cocoa were looking for. Every character in GochiUsa has a defining trait that makes them stand out individually, but it is when everyone is together that the series is at its most enjoyable. Having spent a little more than a year together now, the friendship amongst Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo is apparent: returning to older seasons, things had been a little more wooden and stiff amongst the group, gradually developing into what we see by BLOOM.
- One thing I noticed in BLOOM was that, whenever Tippy speaks, Cocoa no longer passes it off as Chino doing ventriloquism. As memory serves, Chino never told Cocoa what’s happened during the course of both seasons and the specials, so either Cocoa’s accustomed to Tippy speaking and no longer finds it unusual, or Chino’s spoken to Cocoa about things off-screen. Here, I’ll mention that the soundtrack for BLOOM is set to release on Christmas Day this year, so I’m rather looking forwards to it: BLOOM utilises many returning pieces of incidental music from the earlier seasons, but a few new songs can be heard in the background, as well.
- While Chino and Rize are able to find fabric in their colours, the store seems to be sold out of the light pink that Cocoa’s uniform uses. Cocoa wonders if she should use a sequin fabric instead: Encourage Film’s depiction of sequin gives it a very shiny, almost digital character, not unlike that of The Division 2‘s Chameleon exotic assault rifle, which changes colours depending on the player’s environment and time of day to yield a very slick-looking weapon. I ended up acquiring one under the most unusual circumstances: by capturing a “hard” level control point. Guides suggest that doing challenging bounties in areas with assault rifles as the target loot, or challenging missions marked with assault rifles as the targetted loot are the best way to acquire one, but for me, it turned out to be pure luck. I had just opened an exotic cache earlier and got my fourth Sweet Dreams; it felt impossible I would ever get a Chameleon, but things turned around that quickly.
- When I finished the GochiUsa post for the second season’s first episode five years ago, it had been a beautiful, cool autumn morning of blue skies and sunshine. Today, we’ve actually been rocking partly cloudy skies, with intermittent sunshine. However, the weather last week had been gorgeous: I took the morning to do a walk in the hills nearby and was treated to stunningly vivid autumn colours and deep blue skies. I ended up walking into one of the aspen groves to check out the golden foliage, and amidst the trees, one could never tell that I was in the city at all: it is remarkably quiet, and the forest exudes an earthy smell of fallen leaves. There’s a a certain magic about them by autumn, and I am glad to have capitalised on the weather: by Monday, after I’d sat down to a delicious fish burger and yam fries for lunch, a windstorm blew into my area, blowing many leaves off the trees.
- Chino’s become tired from a day’s worth of shopping, and when Cocoa offers to carry her, she ultimately relents and allows Cocoa to do so. Upon returning to Rabbit House, Cocoa manages to find some fabric in her colour that had been stashed away, and while there’s a rabbit print on it, the other side is in plain colours, making it perfect for what they need. Inside the storeroom, the girls also find a bunch of old stuff, including a magician’s kit and an old rabbit toy belonging to Chino’s mother.
- On the day of the flea market, Chino and Rize set up a small booth where they are able to sell off some of the old stuff from Rabbit House’s storeroom. It’s reminiscent of a giant yard sale, and when an elderly lady picks up something, Chino and Rize decide that things are under control. They encourage Cocoa to explore around for a bit, since this is her first-ever flea market in town. Two years ago, I had been on vacation to check out the salmon run a province over, and while stopped over in a small town, they had a bit of a street market during lunch hour that had been wrapping up right as we finished lunch. Then, a year ago, while visiting the same town, we arrived moments after the street market had closed.
- Having seen said street market twice now, I’d grown curious to actually check it out, and we had planned a trip out here (as well as to a hot springs in the mountains) for this year, but circumstances has put that on hold. Back in BLOOM, while Cocoa takes in the sights of the flea market, she runs into Chiya and Sharo: Sharo’s having a particularly good day, being able to pick up a lot of stuff on discount. When Chiya accidentally drops something, and Sharo just manages to catch it, Chiya suddenly becomes saddened, wondering if Sharo worries more about her stuff than Chiya herself. Chiya can be a bit melodramatic at times, but it’s all done in good fun.
- The crowds at the flea market are well-rendered: some anime choose to present groups of people with simplified, paper-like beings to cut down on animation and artwork costs, but GochiUsa had always steered clear of doing that, properly drawing out and animating large groups to really create a sense of immersion. Even large crowds are fully depicted, creating a very lively and fun atmosphere. When Cocoa, Chiya and Sharo spot a large stall with numerous customers, they wonder if similar tricks could be applied to help them boost customer counts, as well. Cocoa is talented at encouraging people, Chiya excels with really showing off a product’s strong points, and Sharo has experience with convincing people of a products’ value.
- Upon returning to the Rabbit House booth, they find that Rize and Chino were completely unsuccessful in moving any of their stuff. Rize had previously given the sense that she’s well-rounded enough for a wide range of activities, but as the series wore on, her weaknesses and vulnerabilities become apparent, making her more human. It’s a nice touch to each of the characters, and this is something that I hope BLOOM will do as it continues: seeing characters realise, adapt to and learn from their weaknesses has always been something I particularly enjoyed about slice-of-life series.
- Cocoa, Chiya and even Sharo have a natural knack for selling stuff: with their help, folks browsing the flea market take an interest to their items. With things well in hand, Rize asks Chino to look after a small child who’d become separated from her mother. Chino is initially unsure of what to do, and after a failed magic trick, she decides to try gifting the little girl the same bunny toy that her mother had. The child’s spirits recover, and Rize returns with her mother, reuniting the two. The child thanks Chino, addressing her as onee-chan. The look on Chino’s face suggests that she’s a bit taken aback at being addressed in this manner, but it dawns on her that this is why Cocoa is so keen on being called onee-chan – Cocoa wants to be helpful and appreciated above all else, and now, Chino has a better understanding of Cocoa, as well. Altogether, this was a nice moment for Chino: unlike Cocoa, she’s not naturally comfortable with speaking to others, so seeing Chino open up and do her best to help shows viewers how far she’s come since the earlier seasons.
- The flea market is ultimately successful, and the girls meet up at Rabbit House to unwind. Since this is the Thanksgiving Long Weekend here in Canada, there’s also a chance for me to unwind, as well. Long weekends are generally great for sleeping in, and it suddenly strikes me that while it might be cloudier outside, the weather is still pleasant enough for a walk. With winter fast approaching, it’d be great to take advantage of the decently warm weather while it’s still around, and so, I’m going to wrap up this post, grab a chicken pot pie and then see about exploring the aspen groves again.
- When Rize tallies up their earnings, Chino and Tippy are both shocked that their profits surpass that of Rabbit House’s. Rize can be seen using a pen she’d brought to match Chino and Sharo’s during the second season. The second season also indicated that the coffee shop side of Rabbit House is actually less profitable than Takahiro’s bar. The low revenue that Rabbit House generates is often a source of comedy, but it stands to reason that, despite not being as successful as the bar by evening, Rabbit House is still doing decently well. Chino’s grandfather had put his blood and sweat into building Rabbit House, and in the present day, I imagine that the series deliberately chooses to show Rabbit House during its quieter hours so the girls antics do not interfere with their customers.
- Cocoa reveals that she’d picked up the magician’s set: as a child, Cocoa had always been fascinated by slight-of-hand magic tricks (Dear My Sister has a flashback where she plays pretend as a witch who can transform things into bunnies). Her first trick is unsuccessful (perhaps the cane is faulty), but her second trick, pulling flowers from a hat, works. This segues neatly into the opening sequence as Chino recalls memories of Saki, her mother. Throughout GochiUsa, Chino’s mother was rarely mentioned, and it was only in Sing For You that Saki is brought up. She’s implied to be very similar to Cocoa, and Chino’s gradual opening up over time is likely a consequence of seeing the side of Cocoa that reminds her of Saki.
- As the episode draws to a close, the summer Rabbit House uniforms are shown: they appear to be made of a lighter material and sport short sleeves, making them rather more comfortable for those hot days in the wood-framed town. Despite being “merely” a slice-of-life anime, hints scattered in this first episode indicate that the BLOOM will be striking a balance between the old and new, exploring topics that were hitherto untouched and at the same time, retaining all of the elements that had made GochiUsa so successful. While with the second season, I did not start out with a plan to write about things episodically, time around, I am very enthusiastic to continue writing about BLOOM: the series has proven time and time again that there’s plenty to talk about, so an exciting season lies ahead.
After one episode, it is evident that BLOOM is in good hands from an aesthetics perspective, and so, the viewer can focus on the core of GochiUsa. Out of the gates, BLOOM‘s opening episode is a busy one: unified by Cocoa and the other’s goal of crafting suitable summer uniforms to make working during the hottest months of the year easier, the first episode also sees the girls visit a flea market to sell off old stuff, giving the series a chance to show off more of the wood-framed town and local events. World-building has always been one of the strongest aspects of GochiUsa, and seeing things like crowds at a popular fabric shop or flea market really sells the idea that Cocoa and the others live in a world that has been thoughtfully designed. Together with the fluffy and amusing interactions amongst the characters as they bring magic into the mundane and ordinary moments of everyday life, GochiUsa excels in immersing viewers into Cocoa’s world and the discoveries she makes. The first episode also foreshadows what BLOOM will cover; besides themes of preparing for the future, BLOOM also briefly shows some children dressed up as Lapin, the character to a popular show within GochiUsa. Past and present come together in this opening episode to GochiUsa BLOOM, and in a series that offers so much to consider with each and every episode, I am rather looking forwards to doing weekly write-ups on BLOOM to share with what each episode excels in doing for the viewers.