“Horsemen, hmph! I wish I could muster a legion of Dwarves: fully armed and filthy!” –Gimli, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Sharo is shocked to learn that Cocoa is working at Fleur de Lapin: it turns out that with Christmas coming, Cocoa’s looking to earn a little extra cash so she can get gifts for all of her friends. However, Cocoa hasn’t stopped here: from the crêpe stand to a local bookstore, Cocoa’s accepted postings and accompanies Sharo on her jobs. While initially annoyed, Sharo comes to admit that having Cocoa around is actually quite nice, and at the bookstore, it turns out things are so busy because, Aoyama’s doing a book signing. Here, Cocoa and Sharo help to promote the event, and run into Rize, Maya, Megu and Chino, who are here to congratulate Aoyama and Rin. After the book signing, the girls decide to do a gift exchange, but since things could get pricey, Aoyama suggests a secret Santa instead. Later, Chino sets off to pick up Cocoa from work: she’s helping out at a roasted chestnut stall and with the weather looking a little rainy, Chino decides to bring an umbrella. Along the way, she runs into Sharo and Chiya, as well as Rize, Maya and Megu. Feeling that the Christmas spirit is in full swing in town, Chino finds Cocoa, and they head home together, despite Chino having lost her umbrella earlier. When they return to Rabbit House, they are surprised to find a queue in front of the door. It turns out that a special piece Aoyama and Rin had put together was published, and with Rabbit House busier than ever, Cocoa resolves to help out as best as she can. However, exhausted from the day’s events, she falls asleep after getting changed. Chino tucks her in and prepares to switch back over to the standard Rabbit House uniforms, noticing that Cocoa had finished the uniforms for Chiya and Sharo. With Cocoa spent, Chino decides to call Chiya and Sharo and ask a favour of them. With this tenth episode and the imminent arrival of Christmas, things have certainly shifted into a very festive mood prior to the winter holidays, providing the prefect time to show how Cocoa’s been a positive presence in everyone’s life, and how a year later, this influence is visibly felt.
The tenth episode continues on with the interactions between Cocoa and Sharo in its first act; of everyone, Sharo’s always been the coolest towards Cocoa. However, Cocoa has always moved at her own pace, treating everyone with kindness and warmth, even if she does drag them into assorted adventures and misadventures alike. In seeing Cocoa’s warmth, Sharo has also become a bit more open, and more confident in hanging out with Rize. However, until now, she’s always struggled to properly thank Cocoa and accept that behind Cocoa’s seemingly absent-minded mannerisms, is someone who is willing to get things done. The companionship that Cocoa brings to the table thus creates a change in Sharo’s way of thinking, and this tenth episode establishes that Sharo is indeed thankful that Cocoa is around. Moreover, with Christmas on the horizon, Sharo now has a perfect chance to express her appreciation for Cocoa with the secret Santa exchange. The second act primarily deals with the idea that Chino’s beginning to feel a little left out as her friends each prepare for their futures and immerse themselves in the tasks at hand. However, even if many of her friends are unavailable, Chino now has enough of a group to be able to ask for assistance where needed. When Rabbit House gets busy during the winter season, seeing how Cocoa had completed the other Rabbit House uniforms reminds Chino that she can now call upon Sharo and Chiya to help out; Chino’s always had to deal with feelings of loneliness since Saki’s passing, but Cocoa’s influence has permeated virtually every aspect of her life, bringing new friends into the picture. As such, this tenth episode serves to demonstrate that Chino’s never really alone.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I believe that this is the first time that viewers have seen Cocoa in the Fleur de Lapin uniform – previously Rize had worked here to earn some extra cash to buy a new bottle of wine for her father in season one, and Chiya had worn the costume out of curiosity during the second season. Similarly, Cocoa is down to her last fifty-two cents right before Christmas. While Cocoa has always had a ditzy, absent-minded air about her, the reality is that she’s become much more capable over the course of GochiUsa, and by BLOOM, it is fair to suppose that she’s more competent than careless.
- One aspect of this tenth episode I really enjoyed was the fact that Sharo does indeed care for Cocoa, and while their interactions might be a bit rockier compared to the others, there are a handful of tender moments in this episode which shows the consequences of time – by now, it’s fair to suggest that everyone’s warmed up fully to one another. At the crêpe shop, while Cocoa prepares a fresh batch, she’s gotten cream on her face, and Sharo helps her to clean up. Because of how BLOOM was timed, this tenth episode lines up with the tenth episode of GochiUsa‘s second season five years ago. I’d watched the tenth episode and headed off into the mountains to attend a Christmas lunch and winter desserts with my former research lab, arriving home just ahead of a heavy fog to finish that post. Presently, the opportunity for travelling about, even to the mountains an hour away, is not recommended, so I’ve been able to really focus on ensuring these posts are able to capture each episode’s magic.
- At this point in time, it looks like for BLOOM talks, I’m it: unsurprisingly, a certain Tumblr whose author doubts discussions to be useful has dropped out of the GochiUsa BLOOM race, stating that they’d “lost motivation since almost nobody reads [their analysis] anyway”. I intend to revisit this Tumblr blog and do a Mythbusters-style talk detailing whether or not they got more right than wrong in the future; for now, we’ll return to discussion about the tenth episode. Sharo is probably the most underrepresented of the characters in GochiUsa, and BLOOM goes to great lengths to rectify this – of everyone, she appears with the least frequency of everyone, so by having her show up more often, BLOOM successfully conveys that Sharo is very much a part of this tightly-knit group of friends. It was endearing to see her running off between workplaces, with thoughts of Cocoa on her mind.
- Cocoa’s tendency to be everywhere is probably a callback to the first season, when she got lost en route to school. Even now, Cocoa still gets lost from time to time, but otherwise, appears to have a pretty good grasp of where everything is, if she’s able to get to the crêpe stand and bookstore ahead of Sharo. I think of everyone, Cocoa is the last to be decked out in a Phantom Thief Lapin costume, and here, she’s holding up a sign marking where the line starts for Aoyama’s latest book signing.
- Cocoa’s absence is noticeable at Rabbit House – both Rize and Chino seem distracted and wind up making too much bread and coffee as a result. While Cocoa has long aspired to be as reliable and cuddly as Mocha, BLOOM indicates to viewers that Cocoa’s very much capable of finding her own path, and while she may not be aware of it herself, has become competent in a wide range of tasks, much like Mocha. These are subtle details that GochiUsa has always excelled at showing, and these gradual changes in the characters come across as being very plausible, creating amongst viewers an emotional connection to the series.
- When Cocoa explains her intention was to earn some extra cash for Christmas gifts to her friends and that her favourite part of Christmas is seeing other people happy, as well as just picking gifts out, both she and Sharo pick out gifts for Rize, sharing a laugh in the process. While Sharo and Cocoa initially seem quite the opposite in personalities (Cocoa is an optimist, while Sharo is a pragmatist), they do indeed have more in common than is initially apparent.
- Towards the end of the day, Chino, Rize, Megu and Maya show up at the book signing to congratulate Aoyama and Rin. The town and its Christmas decorations are visible in the background: for this episode, I had a degree of difficulty in paring down the screenshots, as it was very tempting to include the background scenes depicting the town decked out in Christmas trees, ornaments and the like. Rabbit House is particularly well-appointed, and looking back, the first season of GochiUsa feels positively drab by comparison, attesting to the excellent job that Encourage has done with BLOOM.
- Before the book signing begins, Rin and Aoyama thank Cocoa and Sharo for helping out, and upon hearing about Cocoa’s plans for a Christmas gift exchange, Aoyama suggests the equally enjoyable and more intimidate secret Santa method, whereupon one only needs to buy a gift for the individual they drew a lot for. From an algorithmic perspective, one way to simulate drawing the lots in GochiUsa, would be to use mutable arrays. The first array stores the name of the gifter, and then the second contains all of the recipient candidates. A candidate is then drawn from the second array by using a random number generator, and the pairing is returned if it doesn’t match the gifter.
- As the candidates are paired, they are removed from the candidate array. Such an arrangement is very simple and works well enough for the use case in GochiUsa. Conversely, if there are disallowed pairings, it’d be easier to create a graph first, where edges connect members who are allowed to pair up for the gifting, and then create the pairings from there. Of course, such an algorithm is probably overkill for BLOOM: here, as the sun sets, the girls draw lots to determine who will be gifting to whom, a much warmer, personal way of doing things.
- Sharo ends up with Cocoa as her person to gift to, lining up with the episode’s focus on the two: she quickly spots a rabbit-shaped coin jar that resembles Cocoa and figures it might be a good gift, convincing Cocoa to save more. Unlike the Kigumin coin jar, I imagine that since this new bank is more appealing in appearance, Sharo reasons that Cocoa would be more inclined to actually save money. The girls are already having trouble concealing their recipient from one another; only Sharo’s recipient is known right now, but there is a great deal of excitement amongst everyone, and I’m curious to see if the pairings will be revealed next week.
- While en route to picking up Cocoa from work, Chino runs into Sharo and Chiya. Sharo’s capable of acting as playful as Cocoa and manages to briefly fool Chino, only to be herself deceived when Chiya masquerades as Rize. This simple bit of humour, seemingly trivial, actually serves to show how close everyone is, if they’re able to match the mannerisms and even voices of their friends to pull this off.
- Chino’s stroll about town is a peaceful one, and she comments on the festive atmosphere as she takes in all of the sights, sounds and smells of a Christmas market. Christmas markets are not anywhere nearly as large or extravagant on this side of the world as they are in Germany, where they have a long history. December markets date back as early as the 13th century, but it was Dresden’s Striezelmarkt that is considered to be the first real Christmas Market. In 1434, it was founded as a place for citizens to buy meat for their Christmas meals and was a one-day event. Over time, the event expanded, and today, the Striezelmarkt features some two hundred and fourty stalls, selling things as varied as ornaments and a special kind of Christmas cake, the Strüzel, which gives its name to the market.
- Further along her walk, Chino notices Maya and Megu bugging Rize to buy them waffles from a vendor. While it seems like a hassle, Chino is more surprised to see that Rize actually seems to be enjoying this, and decides to get in on things as well, with her imōto act. Despite being an only child, Chino does seem to know how to use adorableness as a weapon; this is probably from spending so much time with Cocoa, during which she can perfect a means of exploiting Cocoa’s weakness to get her to help out at Rabbit House or similar. Chimame thus scores waffles, and Chino sets down her umbrella here to enjoy the waffles with Maya and Megu.
- In a surprising turn of events, it seems like Rize’s forgotten her wallet back home. Fortunately, Maya’s on hand to provide an assist, so the waffles end up being Maya’s treat. Such moments, while done for comedic effect, serve an important purpose: it shows varying aspects of the characters, which in turn makes them more life-like. A common criticism directed at slice-of-life series is that their characters are static archetypes, but I’ve always found this to be an inadequate argument: while characters do not always go life-changing revelations as in more dramatic series, subtle parts of the characters are shown to indicate they’re more dynamic than might prima facie be apparent.
- Chino notices siblings running by and smiles to herself; things really do feel like Christmas now in town. BLOOM features small children to a much higher frequency than they did in earlier seasons – I imagine that this was a deliberate choice, done to show that even the Chimame Corps are growing up and maturing despite their child-like manner and appearance. While they might be the smallest in the company of Cocoa, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Aoyama, Rin and Mocha, they’re the reliable seniors to the children in town.
- Chino locates Cocoa at a stall selling roasted chestnuts. The precise origin of roasted chestnuts as a Christmas food is contested: historians are uncertain if they began as a Roman tradition, or if they appeared in Italy or Portugal. What is known, however, is that the Eastern Seaboard had American Chestnut trees in abundance, and for Americans, roasting these chestnuts became synonymous with Christmas itself. However, these trees suffered a devastating blight and went extinct, and today, Americans import chestnuts, which have a different texture and taste compared to the originals.
- Cocoa’s perfected her magic trick, and offers Chino a warm roasted chestnut as they make their way back to Rabbit House. There’s a magical feeling about the wood-framed town, to see it aglow with its Christmas lights. Unlike Halloween, which bathed the town in a gentle, orange light that created a sense of melancholy, the Christmas lights are much more colourful and creates a holiday spirit, instead. Cocoa’s choice to do her magic here suggests that the moment is just as magical, but the circumstances are rather different, and it’s a time to live in the moment.
- Cocoa and Chino notice a massive lineup in front of a store, only to find that the line was actually for Rabbit House. A second glance at the queue shows that there aren’t any men around, and it suddenly strikes me that the wood-framed town in GochiUsa is similar to Harukana Receive‘s Okinawa in that there are only women around. I’ve never had any qualms with this sort of set up, since it’s never negatively impacted the narrative. When Chino and Cocoa enter Rabbit House, they’re surprised to find Rize’s father helping out here. Things have been very busy since they were featured in a magazine Aoyama writes for, although when Rize’s father suggests to Takahiro that he bring in his men, Takahiro declines.
- This is what lends itself to the page quote: Takahiro’s reluctance to have help from Rize’s father’s subordinates stems from aesthetics, and he’d much rather run a relaxing, gentle café. Cocoa nods off after arriving, manages to find a second wind and changes into the Rabbit House uniform, only to fall asleep again. Aware of Cocoa’s schedule and effort, Chino decides to instead tuck Cocoa in and let her rest. I had been wondering why everyone was still rocking their summer uniforms while December has arrived, and Chino’s also noticed. While looking for their standard uniforms, Chino finds that Cocoa had completed the other Rabbit House uniforms her mother had worked on previously.
- Thus, recalling an earlier conversation, Chino decides to ask Chiya and Sharo for help this evening. That Cocoa had done an excellent job with the other Rabbit House uniforms (Chino does not even hesitate to call Sharo and Chiya, knowing the uniforms are ready) serves to accentuate the fact that Cocoa and Saki are similar. While Cocoa’s long aspired to be a proper onee-san for Chino, the same way that Mocha had looked after her, it would seem that Cocoa’s efforts evoke memories of Saki, as well. If the next episode does portray Chiya and Sharo coming over, it will be the first time in GochiUsa that we’ve seen the two wear Rabbit House uniforms.
From a literary standpoint, the tenth episode is the surest sign that GochiUsa has matured as a series: during GochiUsa‘s first season, the flow of time was a lot less consistent, and things jumped right from Rize taking Chimame to the pool to Christmas. By BLOOM, the series is a lot more gradual in its portrayal of events surrounding Cocoa and her friends. Christmas in BLOOM does not sneak up on the viewers, and themes that the first season’s Christmas episode explored are now applied to all of the characters. This time around, the festivities surrounding Christmas are presented much more vividly. The wood-framed town is more ornately decorated, featuring loving frames of Christmas lighting and decorations on every building and lining every street. The Christmas market feels a bit livelier, with crowds that are doing their Christmas shopping and taking in the unique atmosphere at this time of year. Children run along merrily with candied apples, adding a joyful tenour to the air. In general, the sense of anticipation for Christmas is fully captured through the visuals, creating a tangible sense of holiday cheer that surpasses even what the first season’s Christmas episode had conveyed. With the entire town excited for Christmas, the festivities are visibly felt, and even Chino becomes caught up in the moment, stopping to enjoy a brief conversation with Chiya and Sharo before joining Mega and Maya in hassling Rize for waffles when she runs into them. Building upon the lessons and stories of earlier seasons, BLOOM is really able to showcase how everyone’s changed since Cocoa’s arrival in town, making use of the seasons and holidays, as well as more mundane, ordinary moments to create a very compelling, immersive story about finding joy in both the unremarkable and the extraordinary.