“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.” –Jesse Owens
Chiya becomes saddened that she’s lost the crown that Sharo had given her when they were younger. Later, Chiya is nominated as a candidate for the role of student council president, and she wonders how to best prepare her campaign speech. Meanwhile, Rize considers modifying her look so she appears more mature and runs into Chiya, who helps her pick out clothing. When Cocoa and Chino encounter the transformed Rize, they immediately assume it’s Rose (Rize with her hair down) and invite her to Rabbit House. Rize decides to play along, intent on figuring out if Cocoa and Chino are messing with her. When Rize is surprised by Takahiro and draws her Glock on instinct, Cocoa finally figures it out. Chino is embarrassed not to have recognised Rize, and the latter learns that on her off days, things at Rabbit House take on a different pace. As it turns out, Sharo had also been nominated to run for student council president, but didn’t feel that she was able to take on more responsibilities on top of her work and time with the others. After the others help Chiya prepare her campaign, Chiya’s grandmother gifts them kohaku manjū. Sharo notices that Chiya’s grandmother had inadvertently used Chiya’s crown as a hairpin and returns it to Chiya. A few days later, Sharo arrives at Ama Usa An and learns that Chiya had also withdrawn her candidacy, preferring instead to focus on Ama Usa An and her friends, as the two had promised when they were children. GochiUsa BLOOM‘s ninth episode represents a relaxing, light-hearted break in that, even amongst preparations for the future and suggests the prospect of more responsibilities, folks should not lose sight of what matters to them, striking a balance between taking on more duties while properly tending to the duties they already have.
With three-quarters of BLOOM now in the books, the ninth episode illustrates the conflict between new responsibility and existing obligations, which is very much a challenge that adults face. Chiya and Sharo both are nominated as the student council president, a role demanding leadership, teamwork, conflict management and organisational skills. If the two accepted, they would also take on increasing roles to ensure school activities and clubs are properly handled. Throughout GochiUsa, there has been never any doubt that Chiya and Sharo were not up to the task: Sharo is responsible, has an eye for detail and does her best with everything, while Chiya enjoys innovation, works well with others and similarly puts in her all for whatever task is given to her. However, being a part of their respective school’s student councils wouldn’t help to accentuate this in BLOOM: this is, after all, a series predominantly set outside of school. Chiya and Sharo are capable individuals already, and so, there is no need to overburden them; their commitment and sense of duty to their friends and cafés has already been firmly established, leaving BLOOM to explore another side of the coin in having the two choose what duties and responsibilities they wish to prioritise. Episode nine shows how talking it out and spending time with those important to one can help people to make a decision and accept which tasks they will take, allowing them to give the selected tasks their undivided attention. Not overwhelming oneself and picking battles is a sign of maturity, so BLOOM‘s presentation of this aspect was particularly strong.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I was waiting to see when the story surrounding Chiya’s nomination to be the next student council president would be presented, and at the three-quarters mark, BLOOM delivers. It was nice to see Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates again, especially the incumbent student council president’s look of shock when it was announced Chiya was actually a popular choice. For Chiya, however, this is a bit of a conflict: she struggles to come up with campaigns and speeches, whereas for Ama Usa An related materials, she always enjoys the process even if it takes a while.
- Rize’s wish to look a little more mature brings back memories; I generally dressed in a very casual manner as an undergraduate student, but after I accepted my offer for graduate school, I dispensed with t-shirts in favour of button-up shirts, and also began using belts more often: I remember after my first term started, I walked into my first tutorial in shorts and t-shirt on account of it still being quite hot, and the students began wondering when their TA would show up. After that, I realised I needed to stand out at least a little from the students.
- Rize’s always had a love of cute clothing and like other girls of her age, worries about her appearance. While shopping for clothes, she runs into Chiya: the episode’s opening had shown Chiya was looking for Anko’s crown, a gift from Sharo during their childhood that reminded them of their promises. Since the crown’s gone missing, Chiya’s been a little distracted, and unable to find it, Chiya’s begun seeking out a replacement, but feels that nothing is an equivalent. Meeting Rize momentarily takes her mind off things.
- Of all the characters, Rize is seen with the widest range of hairstyles: besides her default twin-tails, Rize rocks a ponytail when training, and lets her hair down at home. Chiya decides to give Rize braids and leaves her hair a bit wavier than usual, creating a more elegant-looking Rize. Rize is also able to present herself as being more lady-like while sporting this hairstyle. For Chiya and Sharo, Rize’s not too particularly unrecognisable even with this appearance.
- Cocoa and Chino, on the other hand, don’t recognise Rize and in fact, believe it to be Rose. Something similar had briefly happened in the first season of GochiUsa, when Rize had ended up being asked to model for a local magazine after photographers caught sight of her. This small joke had fallen by the wayside during the second season, so it was fun to see BLOOM return here and actually follow things through to their logical conclusion.
- Thus, intent on seeing if Cocoa and Chino legitimately cannot recognise her, Rize decides to employ psychological warfare, the act of evoking a specific response from a target. She plays along and agrees to come with Chino and Cocoa to Rabbit House to see if the pair’s actions can give her any insight. To this end, she asks Sharo and Chiya to help her maintain the ruse by calling her Rose and offering a cover story of sorts. This reminds me of Tom Clancy, and having mentioned the act of “selling it” as being the best way to remain undercover in an earlier GochiUsa post, a part of me wonders if Koi is a fan of techno-thrillers and military history, as well.
- When Maya and Megu arrive to study, they very nearly give Rize away. Chiya manages to catch things in the nick of time, and subsequently, Megu and Maya play along, but unintentionally make things trickier for Rize by setting up an outrageous cover story about Rose being a combat ballerina. In stories like Locked On, and Threat Vector, Clancy writes that most cover stories will fall apart with any investigation, but in the heat of a moment, confidently carrying it out will let one to get away from nine of ten situations. It is the case that confidence is key to infiltration.
- When Aoyama arrives, Rize manages to play the part of a ballerina convincingly, delivering a special cake to Aoyama. However, Rize finds the façade increasingly difficult to maintain: even though she’s been longing to put her drama club skills to use and test Chino and Cocoa, the two end up defeating her methods at every turn without realising it – many works of fiction are fond of using this method, in which intricately laid-out plans are rendered ineffectual because of a ditz managing to precisely bring things to a halt.
- One of the jokes resulting from this episode, then, is that Cocoa is the sort of person who is so bubbly and easy-going that standard techniques won’t work for her. While Cocoa and Rize hauls coffee beans back to the front, Rize draws her sidearm on Takahiro after being surprised. He simply smiles and heads off, and Cocoa finally catches on: that Rose has been Rize this whole time. Back during season one, Rize had similarly tried to convey the idea that the coffee bean bags were heavier, and drew her model gun with a high frequency, as well. Some folks at Tango-Victor-Tango, thus wondered if the gun was real, and if so, Rize apparently did not practise trigger discipline.
- I’ve never been particularly fond of the discussions there: fixation on those sort of details, such as whether or not Rize was legally allowed to carry her model Glock around, have never contributed towards understanding why GochiUsa is so enjoyable. Once Cocoa finds out she’s been had, she dissolves into a minor, adorable tantrum that Chiya characterises as being lifted straight from a breakup song. Such songs are so-named because they’re supposed to help people find newfound perspective after a breakup, or, more colloquially, cure a broken heart. I’ve never found them effective; when this happened, I would immerse myself in my work instead.
- While Chino is a bit more stoic about Rose actually being Rize, she admits that she is embarrassed not to have recognised her, as well. Shortly after, Cocoa arrives, masquerading as Mocha, presumably as revenge for being deceived. Rize is evidently still afraid of Mocha and her cuddles, falling to the floor in shock. Even Chino is taken in, suggesting that Cocoa and Mocha do look more alike than is initially apparent; were it not for their hair styles, it would be quite hard to tell them apart. However, for the viewers, a single frame is enough for them to know that it’s really just Cocoa: before Cocoa cuddles Rize as “Mocha”, she’s shown wearing her flower hair clip on her left side, and Mocha prefers wearing them on the right side.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum, Chino is very fond of Mocha, and immediately sparkles when she sees “Mocha”. Thus, when it turns out it had been one of Cocoa’s pranks, Chino becomes most displeased with the tricks played over the course of the day and promises a ban on snacks should more stunts of this sort be pulled. Chino’s certainly been more vociferous and expressive of late, and it’s a wonderful touch to her character – she’s much more open now than she’s ever been, a consequence of having found joy amongst her friends.
- The matter of Chiya’s nomination to the student council president returns during the episode’s second act; the other girls try to instill in Chiya some confidence, and also write letters of recommendation as to why Chiya would make a good president, during which Chino lavishly praises Chiya before brutally shooting down Cocoa. It is here that Sharo explains that she’d also been recommended to run for the next student council president position, but declined because it would conflict with her other activities.
- However, Chiya’s accepting of such a role would mean that she’d spend more time with the student council and the school, leaving her less available to work at Ama Usa An and hang out with Cocoa and the others. While it was natural that Cocoa wouldn’t wish for this outcome, it was adorable that Rize also clings to Chiya, as well. It was touching to see Rize openly admit that this group of friends will be together for as long as they live.
- As it turns out, Chiya is at her best when serving customers, putting her heart and soul into Ama Usa An. As she serves some elderly ladies who’ve come into the store, Cocoa remarks that this is when Chiya is at her best. While Cocoa feels this is Chiya’s best side, something to bring into the election with her, it also helps to remind Chiya of what she truly loves doing. Here, Chiya sprinkles edible gold over one of the specials at Ama Usa An for her customers: edible gold is usually a sign of extravagance, and E 175 used in gold flakes is chemically stable, so small gold flakes can be eaten without any consequence.
- To congratulate Chiya, her grandmother gives out kohaku manjū (紅白饅頭 red and white manjū) to the other girls, noting that Chino’s grandfather had been very fond of them in his time. They’re a symbol of gratitude, and are usually only served during special events, such as New Years shrine visits, track-and-field days and weddings. After the others leave, Sharo notices that Chiya’s grandmother is using Anko’s crown as a hairclip and recovers it, before sharing another peaceful moment together with Sharo.
- In the post-credits scene, it turns out that Chiya’s also dropped out of the race, leaving the current student council president to bask in the glory of another victory. In the meantime, Cocoa and Chiya decide to help out for the celebration at Ama Usa An. The turn of events surprises Sharo somewhat, who had been expecting Chiya to take the election. Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are visible, and it was nice seeing everyone again.
- That Anko’s crown has such a long story indicates the strength of Chiya and Sharo’s friendship: for Chiya, the missing crown is more than just an ornament for Anko, but it also represents the promise she and Sharo had made together as children: to conquer the town and become great manages to shops they love. It was adorable to see Sharo and Chiya as small children: the second season had briefly shown the two as children, when they’d visited Rabbit House to try and give Ama Usa An a boost.
- Once Chiya explains why she’s chosen to drop out of the student council president election, she and Sharo synchronously voice their reason for wanting to step down: being together is when everyone feels like they’re truly shining, happy with what they’re doing. This is a very touching message, showing viewers that while it is important to always be mindful of the future, one shouldn’t just rush into something without talking it through with friends first. For both Chiya and Sharo, both choose to spend more time with one another, since these moments are irreplaceable.
- Thus, another episode of BLOOM comes to an end with a joyous, peaceful ending. With this, we now enter BLOOM‘s final quarter, and insofar, viewers have been treated to a wonderful season. This episode also reminded me of one thing: Mocha is noticeably absent from the proceedings, and it was Cocoa pretending to be Mocha that reminded me of how much she’s missed. It would be great to see Mocha again before BLOOM draws to a close, but I won’t begrudge BLOOM if it chose to focus on Cocoa, Chino, Chiya, Rize, Sharo, Maya and Megu for the remainder of its run: everyone is seen in their winter clothing, and it looks like that the final quarter will take place as colder weather sets in.
Besides the episode’s main theme, episode nine also gave viewers a chance to finally see what happened when Rize revealed that she is in fact, Rose. “Rose” had made a brief appearance during the first season, so it is impressive to see that Cocoa and Chino still remember someone from a year earlier. This indicates that, especially for Cocoa and her innate disposition, she very much has an eye for detail, as well. Similarly, Rize’s own effort to look more like a post-secondary student, and the fact that Maya and Megu now appear often at Rabbit House to study together, is a not-so-subtle sign that BLOOM is very much pushing towards the future. However, with flashbacks figuring in the episodes, BLOOM also seeks to remind viewers that each of the past, present and future are important; the past offers lessons and knowledge, the present is to be enjoyed and acted upon, and the future must be planned for, but also anticipated rather than feared. Taken together, BLOOM speaks to the passage of time and its impacts on people as one of its overarching themes. In a series that prima facie appears to be about bunnies and coffee, GochiUsa continually impresses with the depth of the topics that it covers. However, these themes are not openly presented; instead, they are subtly hinted at through the characters’ time with one another, their thoughts and dialogue. However, while subtle, the themes are never convoluted or hidden, allowing viewers to swiftly piece together what’s happening for themselves and draw their own conclusions In this way, GochiUsa can be thought of as being a textbook example of what slice-of-life anime can accomplish despite having a seemingly simple premise, and in allowing viewers to enjoy the series in whatever manner they choose, creates an experience that everyone will find meaningful in their own way.