“Here’s the beautiful lady with the beer.” –Ernest Hemingway
It turns out that Cocoa and Chiya had visited Rize and Sharo’s school for additional materials after learning that the other classes had secured ingredients from the more well-known farms and supplies in the area, so to make their exhibit more standout, the Student Council President wondered if it’d be possible to obtain some decor from the school Rize and Sharo attend. Upon returning to school, Cocoa and Chiya help their classmates to make the culture festival a success. The two later invite Rize, Sharo and Chino to attend. On the day of the culture festival, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Maya and Megu are greeted by a colourful display of activities. They soon find Cocoa, who is wearing a Tippy-shaped mask. As it turns out, Cocoa and Chiya’s class are doing a Beer Hall, Oktoberfest-style, and they welcome their visitors. Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are surprised at how ordinary-seeming Rize and Sharo are. When Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates learn that they have a scheduling conflict, Rize and Sharo step in to help. Maya, Megu and Chino decide to help advertise the Beer Hall, as well. With the shortfall in staff covered, Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates invite Sharo and Rize to try on their high school’s uniforms and go exploring. Noticing how well Rize and Sharo fit in with Cocoa and Chiya, Chino asks a member of the photography club to take a picture of the four of them together and gifts it to them at the culture festival’s end. She announces to Maya and Megu that she’s decided on attending Cocoa and Chiya’s high school. With its focus on Oktoberfest, the fourth BLOOM episode is a spectacular way of bringing the first third of the series, and October, to a close.
While this fourth episode might’ve featured Oktoberfest prominently, it remains subtly tied to themes surrounding the future and specifically, the lingering question of which high school Chino plans to apply for. Consequently, the episode excels in showcasing high school life from a completely different perspective – unlike Sharo and Rize’s school, which has a very formal and structured atmosphere, Cocoa and Chiya’s school feels more easygoing and spirited. Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are capable individuals, but are more laid-back than their counterparts at Rize and Sharo’s school. This creates a noticeably different atmosphere that each of Chino, Rize, Sharo, Maya and Megu notice. The culture festival thus serves two purposes: it is a chance for Cocoa and Chiya’s school to really show its best side for Chino, and offer viewers a juxtaposition between the previous episode. For Chino, then, the decision becomes an easy one: seeing how inviting and warm the students at Cocoa and Chiya’s school are seals the deal for her. Recalling how Chino had resolved to become more comfortable around new people and appreciates how Cocoa’s entry into her life has resulted in many, positive changes, Chino realises that she cannot be around Maya and Megu forever, and so, sets herself on a path that will allow her to pursue a future that is best suite for her. At the end of the episode, Chino’s made a concrete decision, and this means for the remainder of BLOOM, with graduation being the next major milestone, I imagine that thoughts of the future will probably be shifted to the side as the girls aim to make the most of the moment.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Last week, I did promise that I’d showcase Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates in more detail: from left to right, excluding Cocoa and Chiya, we have Rei (Masumi Tazawa), Nacchan (Yuka Nukui), Anzu (Yūki Kuwahara), Kano (Tomomi Tazawa) and the Student Council President (Yōko Hisaka). In their introduction last week, Rei and Kano seemed to doubt Cocoa and Chiya’s ability to get things done, but at this point in the preparations, it is clear to everyone that Chiya is capable, to the point where she’s forgetting about delegation and attempting to do too much on her own. The others begin stepping up, and after some classmates appear with the news of supplies being tricky, the Student Council President suggests upping their décor.
- So it turns out that the Student Council President had applied to Sharo and Rize’s school, but likely didn’t make the entrance requirements. Given her disposition and and responsibilities as the Student Council President, this does make sense: she comes across as someone who would’ve been pursuing their academic tracks there. To prevent anything from happening resulting of this rejection, which she is still bitter about, Cocoa and Chiya are sent instead, and they promise to find what they seek, to general cheers from their classmates.
- By backtracking a little, BLOOM fills in the small details of how things came to be, and does so in a very elegant, seamless manner. The canal cutting through town can be seen here, and I think that in future posts, I will make it a point to showcase different parts of the wood-framed town; even familiar locations always look fresh and new. One touch I’m fond of are the reflections and lighting details in the water. Water visuals vary greatly in anime, and just like with video games, I enjoy looking at how different series handle water – Studio Ghibli, P.A. Works, Makoto Shinkai and Kyoto Animation typically have the best water effects in the industry for anime, while in the realm of games, I would say that the Frostbite Engine and Cry Engine have the nicest looking water around, although the Snowdrop Engine and Unreal Engines are no slouches, either.
- Cocoa and Chiya explain to Chino that the students of Rize and Sharo’s school were happy to lend out their stuff provided that they could be bested in competition, so the fact that they were able to secure the materials suggest that together, Cocoa and Chiya have a myriad of various skills that, while seemingly useless or irrelevant in most cases, do come in handy from time to time.
- Upon returning to school, Cocoa and Chiya begin working to utilise their materials. I had originally anticipated that a bit more time might be spent on the build-up to the culture festival, but once they mentioned that it was crunch time, it became clear that BLOOM was going to use the culture festival as a part of Chino’s journey to see the difference between her two options. From a thematic perspective, this makes sense, since BLOOM has begun to explore what happens as Chino approaches the end of her time as a middle school student.
- While Chiya’s definitely shown her classmates as being someone reliable, it appears that Cocoa is still widely regarded as being the “little sister” of the class – although somewhat air-headed and giving the sense of needing supervision, Cocoa brings plenty of positive energy with her wherever she goes. I imagine that coupled with her experience at Rabbit House, Cocoa has also been a great help to her classmates, although she’ll be remembered for being a warm and fuzzy presence, first and foremost.
- Seeing preparations for a culture festival brings back memories of K-On!, where Yui and the others had stayed overnight in order to prepare for their performance – because Mio and Ritsu had spent so much time gearing up for their class play, the band had limited opportunity to practise together, and burning the midnight oil became required to ensure that their live performance was of a solid quality. It was a moving moment that also acted as a milestone of sorts: this concert was probably their biggest in the series, being their final performance to their classmates.
- On the eve of the culture festival, Rize and Sharo are noticeably downtrodden, feeling like they’re missing out on something fun. For the briefest of moments, it would appear both wish to have been classmates with Cocoa and Chiya. Aoyama all but confirms this when Chino asks her, but this won’t remain a problem – Chiya and Cocoa have invitations for everyone to come and check out the culture festival, brightening up everyone’s day considerably. Rize and Sharo do their best to conceal their happiness at being invited, although they barely succeed.
- On the day of the festival, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Megu and Maya find themselves treated to a spectacular sight. I believe this is the first time any of them have visited Cocoa and Chiya’s school in the series: GochiUsa is unique amongst slice-of-life anime for not prominently featuring the characters’ high school as a setting, and so, aside from the exterior, a few hallways and classrooms, the interior of Cocoa and Chiya’s school is not really emphasised. Ordinarily, Cocoa and Chiya’s school would be quite unremarkable, but during the culture festival, it is brimming with life and excitement. I imagine that everyday life at Cocoa and Chiya’s school would be a ways quieter, but enjoyable in its own right.
- Ever-energetic, Maya and Megu rush off into the school grounds and explore. For the two, their decision to attend Sharo and Rize’s school is set in stone, so they’re here primarily to have fun and explore the different classes’ exhibits. Sharo and Rize also decide to partake: showing that she’s matured, Sharo takes the initiative and asks Rize if they’d like to get started. While still occasionally being prone to being flustered by Rize, Sharo’s gradually improved in keeping her cool when around Rize and is able to hold a conversation with her without any trouble.
- I don’t believe we’ve ever seen the school grounds this lively before – while BLOOM may be the third season of GochiUsa, the series continues to find new ways of showing familiar locations in a different light. A short ways into the front grounds, Chino, Maya and Megu immediately grab some “beers” (actually freshly-made apple juice with a bit of foam, sourced from the best local apples) from a vendor before running into Cocoa, who is rocking a rather unusual-looking Tippy mask. It turns out that, of all the supplies they’d collected from Rize and Sharo’s school, they ended up making use of the German Club’s dirndls.
- Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are relieved to see that Rize and Sharo are ordinary folks: following Cocoa and Chiya’s description of the two, an exaggerated image was painted into their minds’ eyes of what Rize and Sharo were like. I am guilty of this: usually, I am always surprised to meet people or see something for myself after hearing about them or reading about it. After their introduction, Kano challenges Rize to an arm-wrestling match and is defeated. While Kano is in good shape on account of her being the daughter of a carpenter, Rize just happens to be in great shape. It creates a bit of humour and also shows that at Chiya and Cocoa’s school, there are all sorts of folks.
- Dirndls are a traditional German dress with origins in the nation’s Alps regions and became a folk costume in the 19th century. The name stems from Dirndlkleid (literally “dress for young women”), and designs vary greatly: more traditional designs are simpler in their design, while fancier, more intricate designs are usually found in dirndls worn during festivities like Oktoberfest. There is a longstanding urban myth about whether the knot being worn on the left or right side can indicate marital status, and since BLOOM omits this detail, it stands to reason that this is something that, in GochiUsa, is not up for discussion – the girls are seen wearing their knots behind their backs.
- I would hazard a guess that, given Oktoberfest runs from mid-September to the first Sunday of October, it is now either late September or early October in BLOOM. This folk festival is focused on the enjoyment of beer in a carnival-like environment and has been held in Munich since 1810. Märzenbier (“March Beer”, which has varying hues and strengths) is the usual beer consumed during Oktoberfest events elsewhere, although curiously enough, Munich’s Oktoberfest does not serve Märzenbier; it was phased out in 1953 by Festbier, a strong, golden-coloured Helles beer likely chosen for consistency while maintaining tradition. While I’m no beer drinker (a single pint will knock me out for an hour), I would very much love to visit an Oktoberfest in Munich for myself in the future, and Bavaria is high on my list of the places I’d to check out for its beautiful mountain scenery.
- Once Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates leave to attend to their club activities, Rize, Sharo, Maya, Megu, Aoyama and Rin feel duty-bound to step in and to help out (Aoyama and Rin had been present because the atmosphere has greatly enhanced the former’s ability to write, and Rin’s hoping she can meet her deadline). With their efforts, the beer hall continues to run smoothly: Chino, in particular, is enjoying her role as the mascot and is really able to draw in visitors, impressing Maya and Megu. Chino also uses this time to advertise for Rabbit House. While Chino of GochiUsa‘s first season would not have been able to pull this off even with the Tippy mask on, after spending a shade more than a year with Cocoa, she’s become more confident and outgoing. Similarly, it seems that Rize’s mannerisms have been imparted in a variety of characters, who view her as a natural leader of sorts: even though it’s her first time meeting Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates, they salute her when she gives them advice on remaining on alert.
- Much as how last episode, Cocoa and Chiya donned the uniforms of Sharo and Rize’s school, this episode, Rize and Sharo are given a chance to wear Cocoa and Chiya’s uniforms. The group of friends immediately set off enjoying themselves as fully as possible, seeing a stage play on Phantom Thief Lapin, enjoying a performance from the light music club (while there are no parallels, the guitarist reminds me of K-On!‘s Azusa) and eating their way through the different foods the culture festival has to offer, including dango and fresh ice-cream (the latter of which is very creamy and refreshing when made correctly).
- The prim-and-proper aesthetic of Sharo and Rize’s school stands in sharp contrast with the energy-filled, exciting atmosphere at Cocoa and Chiya’s school. However, much as how Cocoa and Chiya were able to adapt the aristocratic tendencies of the former, Rize and Sharo fit right in with the students of the latter. It is here that Rize asks Sharo to regard her more casually, since they’re close in age. That everyone is able to get along so naturally suggests that irrespective of the school’s expectations and style, at the end of the day, the students still share more in common with one another than they are different. Chino, rocking a high degree of confidence since the day started, asks one of the girls to take a photo of Cocoa, Chiya, Rize and Sharo wearing the same uniforms to remember this day.
- Having seen that Cocoa and Chiya’s school is not too shabby, her mind is now decided on where to attend. This decision spans two episode and gave viewers a chance to see both schools (and correspondingly, what Chino stands to gain from attending each). In the end, her choice is a logical one: ever since she met Cocoa, Chino’s long been envious of Cocoa’s natural ability to get along with others, and believes that the best way to improve her people skills would simply be to put herself in scenarios where there’s new people. Whereas following Maya and Megu to Sharo and Rize’s school would likely cause Chino to cling to them, going to Cocoa and Chiya’s school would motivate her to explore new friendships.
- Chino gives Chiya, Sharo, Rize and Cocoa a photograph of everyone together in the same uniform – for folks unfamiliar with the context, they would only see an image of four friends having a blast together. GochiUsa differs from most slice-of-life series in that the protagonists do not all attend the same school, but because of their connection to a café, all come together: it is not the school that determines one’s personality, and in this way, GochiUsa indicates that there’s more connecting people and driving friendships beyond merely being in the same school or club. It’s a very touching thought that shows how GochiUsa does things differently, setting it apart from other series of the same genre and contributing to its successes.
- Since Chino is rocking the same uniform as Cocoa and Chiya, I imagine she had no trouble with admissions – all that’s left now is choosing a cardigan colour. When Cocoa sees her, she hugs her tightly, bringing the episode to a close that’s sure to leave a smile lingering a ways after things are done for the week. I note that today is Halloween, and with circumstances this year, as a safety precaution, I’ve opted to sit out the handing of candy to trick-or-treaters. With this being said, I will still partake in my annual custom of enjoying a Kit-Kat (the best Halloween candy of all time, in my humble opinion) and go for a marathon of my two favourite Halloween specials of all time: Garfield’s Halloween Adventure and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. There’s also supposed to be a blue moon tonight, so that’ll be worth checking out.
Besides advancing the story in a meaningful manner, BLOOM also demonstrates that Encourage is doing a superb job with its artwork and animation. The culture festival at Cocoa and Chiya’s school is very lively, and care was taken to ensure each scene captured this energy: the school grounds, hallways and classrooms are all filled with people, both students and visitors alike. While most anime typically resorted to slights-of-hand to handle large crowds (such as rendering simplified, paper-like figures), BLOOM has elected to render all characters in full, which serves to further enhance the immersion and really create the sense that GochiUsa is set in a living, breathing world. Upon seeing the excitement and energy at the culture festival, both from Cocoa and Chiya’s class, as well as all of the other presentations from the other classes and clubs, BLOOM has fully captured the aesthetic and atmosphere at Cocoa and Chiya’s school – the viewers also get to see what captivates Chino and ultimately leads to her decision. I believe at this time five years ago, when Cocoa, Chiya, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Maya and Megu shared high tea together, they were celebrating entering a new semester; the march of time is relentless, and as the group of friends head towards graduation, I am going to be interested in seeing how they spend their time together before taking off to pursue their futures.