The Infinite Zenith

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The Cafe of Smiles and the Rainbow Magician: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Eleventh Episode Impressions and Review

Rabbit House is being reinforced with Chimame Corps!

Chiya and Sharo are excited to help Chino out at Rabbit House, and although they bring with them the aesthetics from their own respective cafés, their experience means that Rabbit House has no trouble handling the larger number of customers resulting from Aoyama’s magazine. However, it turns out that Chiya and Sharo have other obligations on Christmas Eve and won’t be around for the fist half of the day. Fortunately, Cocoa and Rize had foreseen this eventuality: the next day, Maya and Megu show up to help out. Chino is moved to tears, and the three set about finding a proper tree-topper for the Christmas tree that Rize’s father had brought in. They’re soon joined by Chiya, Rize and Sharo. Cocoa herself arrives a bit later, giving out roasted chestnuts to happy customers. As the day’s activity begins to wind down and Rabbit House prepares for their Christmas party and secret Santa exchange, Chino’s grandfather and Takahiro remark that Saki would’ve been overjoyed to see Rabbit House brimming with such joyful activity. While exchanging gifts, everyone also expresses the depth of their friendship, promising to be together for one another. Rin arrives and notes that she’s helping out to offset the fact that Rabbit House had been so busy. Later, Chino decides it’s her turn to play surprise Santa and quietly drop her gift for Cocoa off overnight, but Cocoa unexpectedly wakes up to do the same. Chino’s given Cocoa a snow globe, and Cocoa gives Chino a new alarm clock. The next morning, it turns out that the new alarm clock is a bit of a trickier one to turn off, and Chino’s grandfather finds amusement in the fact that things will continue to be lively with Chino and her friends. We now stand a shade less than a week from Christmas, but with this week’s GochiUsa BLOOM episode, it does feel that Christmas has arrived early. As Chino prepares to celebrate Christmas with her friends, viewers are treated to the most visually impressive portrayal of Christmas in GochiUsa, along with a sight that, as Chiya comments on, did not appear possible anywhere but within a dream. With GochiUsa BLOOM‘s penultimate episode in the books, it seems that dream has now been realised in full, for this episode marks the first time all of the incomplete Rabbit House uniforms are finished, and moreover, are put to good use.

Saki’s dream had been for Chino to find a group of friends who would one day share in her happiness at Rabbit House. GochiUsa had indicated that Chino had grown up around customers, and while ever courteous and polite, always felt a little shy around others. Being able to make new friends could not have been easy for Chino, especially after Saki’s passing, and since then, Chino’s grandfather had stayed behind in Tippy’s body to look after Chino. However, with friends in her corner now, Chino’s world has become more lively, colourful; every day is a potential surprise, with unexpected adventures and discoveries seemingly around every corner. With Cocoa, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu around, there hardly seems to be a quiet moment for Chino, who begins to appreciate the joy in her world. GochiUsa had spent the past two seasons building upon this concept, and here in BLOOM‘s second-to-last episode, the outcomes are presented in a visual, tangible fashion. Cocoa and Rize not only finish the green and yellow Rabbit House uniforms for Chiya and Sharo, but they also craft new uniforms for Maya and Megu: this act represents the upholding of Saki’s legacy and intentions, as well as building out from what Saki had wished for Chino. This is why Chino bursts into tears upon seeing Maya and Megu in new Rabbit House uniforms: that Rize and Cocoa took the time to make these new uniforms show that Saki’s memory as being very much alive and well, and Chino, likely being aware of what her mother had hoped for, now realises that things have very much changed. Chino’s found her happiness in the world, understands her mother’s wishes and is more than prepared to move forwards into the future, where she intends to broaden her horizon and live life as fully as possible.

While GochiUsa already had a well-deserved reputation for crafting unparalleled atmosphere through its animated adaptation, BLOOM impossibly manages to exceed expectations and raise the bar even further. This season, GochiUsa has twice capitalised on a holiday to accentuate its messages of healing and discovery through fellowship. Halloween, being a festival to remember the deceased, saw Chino realise that she’s definitely begun on the path of healing through Cocoa’s presence. Christmas is a time of celebrating togetherness, and BLOOM shows that Chino’s friends are here to stay, being an ever-dependable presence she can trust and depend upon whenever things get challenging, as well as being there to celebrate good times and success with her, as well. Chino might’ve been quite alone when GochiUsa began, but by BLOOM, this is certainly no longer the case. BLOOM is much larger than its predecessors were in terms of scale: the world feels warmer, more active and occupied than it had in earlier seasons, and this is a clever visual metaphor for Chino’s appreciation for the world. Once constrained to Rabbit House and school, the increasingly populated and detailed world seen in BLOOM acts as a parallel for how Chino’s become more attuned to the happiness in her world. She’s definitely not alone now, and nowhere is this better affirmed than seeing all of her friends together, wearing the Rabbit House uniform to serve customers before unwinding with a Christmas party of their own. It is during the uncommon atmosphere of a holiday, whether it be Christmas or Halloween, that BLOOM really brings out the best in GochiUsa, and the implication of this is that it is during magical days, when people are captivated by the tenour of excitement and joy, is the time where people also come to really appreciate that which they have.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It seems appropriate to start the party with a screenshot of Sharo and Chiya in the Rabbit House uniform. These uniforms have been shown in GochiUsa‘s second season opening, but the openings are typically not a part of the story. As such, this is the first time that Sharo and Chiya are shown wearing the Rabbit House uniform in-story. It is a magic moment, and Chiya’s comment that she’d never dreamt of wearing the uniform. In this way, I imagine that for many viewers, this moment was a long-awaited one in BLOOM. For me, this was more than just a fulfillment of a long-standing wish: in the knowledge of how the original uniforms came about, it is a very visceral message about what Saki had wanted for Chino.

  • In this way, seeing Chiya and Sharo in the Rabbit House uniform thus signifies that Chino’s hit a milestone of sorts, fulfilling a wish that Saki had once made for Chino. This is made all the more magical by the fact that Christmas is so near; Rabbit House is even more ornately decorated this time around, with Rize’s father providing a tree. While this tree is initially under-decorated, Chiya’s on hand to spruce things up. In no time at all, the tree looks beautiful, a striking mix of Japanese and Western elements that blend well together.

  • With their work experience, Sharo and Chiya smoothly handle the customers at Rabbit House. It becomes clear that Rabbit House is now definitely a well-treaded café, and while there might be the occasional joke about Rabbit House suffering from a low customer count, the fact is that Rabbit House has lasted all this time. In this post, I’ve elected to go with the larger format so I can more thoroughly explore what this eleventh episode to BLOOM does well. I do appreciate that not all readers will have caught up with GochiUsa, and that my weekly posts on BLOOM might not always be up to my usual standard of writing, but this is a series that is very dear to me.

  • Had I not enjoyed GochiUsa to the extent that I did, I would not be returning weekly to write about what each episode had done well. This is a series that I deeply enjoy, and more unusually, GochiUsa is a series that seems to be universally enjoyed – viewers praise GochiUsa for its wonderful characters and the series’ very unique setting. With this being said, I am hard-pressed to find any discussions about the series extending beyond its adorable nature: the reality is that underneath the fluffiness, there is a very heartwarming and positive message that makes this series worthwhile.

  • As one day draws to a close, Sharo and Chiya prepare to head off, happy they were able to help out. Darkness has set in – in Colmar, the sunset on December 23 is 16:40 local time, so it’s likely five in the afternoon at this point in time. Back home, the sunset is roughly seven minutes earlier: we are located a few degrees north of Colmar, but despite this minor variation in latitude, my hometown is much colder and snowier in winter. The forecast suggests that we could see upwards of 25 centimetres of snow in the next few days, and with temperatures hovering close to zero, the snow could stay on the ground long enough for us to have a proper white Christmas.

  • After hours, Cocoa and Rize return to Rabbit House to check in on how Chino’s doing. With Chiya and Sharo unavailable for a bit of Christmas Eve, Rabbit House is left in a bit of a pinch. Fortunately, Cocoa and Rize have a bit of a backup plan in mind: they have reinforcements that they can being to the table. This is what motivates the page quote this week: it’s sourced from Battlefield 1, whenever a behemoth appeared on the map. While behemoths were powerful vehicles, and I’ve gone on spectacular killstreaks with the armoured train during my time in Battlefield 1, the behemoths never really changed the tide of battle.

  • Chino’s smiles are rare, and so, I’ve jumped at the chance to show Chino smiling as she considers how things are going to be okay ahead of the big Christmas rush while preparing a special cake. On the topic of Christmas, GochiUsa‘s soundtrack will be releasing on Christmas Day. With a total of thirty-five tracks and retailing for 2750 yen (around 34 CAD), the soundtrack will feature all of the new incidental music of BLOOM and has a beautiful sketch of Cocoa, Rize, Sharo, and Chiya wearing the same uniforms together, a callback to the fourth episode. I will be translating the tracks into English at some point in the near future per tradition, ahead of the soundtrack’s release.

  • Per Cocoa and Rize’s word, the reinforcements for Rabbit House turn out to be Maya and Megu, who are well-suited to help out here. Earlier seasons established that Maya and Megu are familiar with Rabbit House and have assisted during quieter moments, so this translates to improved proficiency during the holiday season. While Chimame still remain adorable this season, they’ve also matured, being more competent and capable than in earlier seasons.

  • While Maya and Megu bicker about the precise colours of their uniforms, Chino suddenly begins to cry: she’s overwhelmed by the fact that Cocoa and Rize have gone to such lengths for her, and in that instant, remembers that Saki had started crafting uniforms for her friends. That Cocoa and Rize have now gone the extra mile to provide Megu and Maya with uniforms shows that Saki’s wish has not only been fulfilled, but surpassed. This is likely something that Chino herself had been desiring for a very long time, and so, seeing this creates a very emotional moment for her.

  • One cannot help but smile at this sight – while GochiUsa has ventured into the realm of more mature and moving themes, the series continues to portray things with its typical adorable and heartwarming style. BLOOM has had Chino express a much wider range of emotions, and Inori Minase has stepped up to present sides of Chino never seen before in GochiUsa. Chino has a much more visible presence in BLOOM, being louder and bolder than before: I believe that this is the real Chino, someone who is professional and courteous to customers, but with her friends, is more open about how she feels.

  • Maya and Megu are impressed with how well-appointed the Christmas tree is, but feel that it is missing a tree-topper. Megu would prefer a star, and traditionally, the star is the most popular tree-topper because it symbolises the star at Bethlehem, which guided the Wise Men and their gifts to the birthplace of Jesus the Christ in a stable. However, in the absence of a star, Maya suggests impaling Tippy to the top of the tree. Fortunately, we are not talking about DOOM 2 here, and Chimame Corps prepare a cotton bunny that Chino expertly sets on the top of the tree.

  • When Rize’s activities draw to an end and she shows up to help, Chino takes a moment to really appreciate the fact that this is the first time she’s ever seen everyone together in Rabbit House uniforms. GochiUsa had set the stage for this by having all of the characters working at different cafés during the first and second seasons: Cocoa and Rize have both worked at Ama Usa An and Fleur de Lapin at this point in time. Their uniforms are more standardised, so seeing the hand-made, colour-coded uniforms of Rabbit House serve to show that Rabbit House has a more intimate, personalised feeling that makes it a coffeehouse worth visiting.

  • Cocoa is the last to show up at the party, with roasted chestnuts to hand out. The children are thrilled, and this moment demonstrates that Cocoa has certainly matured: children have always gotten along with Cocoa, but nowhere is this more apparent, suggesting to viewers that Cocoa’s found her own path, one that is different than Mocha’s. For most of GochiUsa, Cocoa’s longed to follow in Mocha’s footsteps and be someone beloved by all, but always felt that she was doomed to eternally trail in Mocha’s shadows. However, by BLOOM, Cocoa is at ease with herself, improves in a range of tasks and embraces everything she does with zeal.

  • Unlike GochiUsa‘s Christmas episode, which featured the wood-framed town’s Christmas market in great detail, BLOOM‘s presentation of Christmas takes on a more personal feel, focusing on Chino’s second Christmas with a group of friends who’ve become very dear to her. The town becomes a backdrop to events, but the presence of people out and about gives every scene a warm and inviting feel to it. In anime, I’ve always found that emptier worlds create a sense of loneliness, and while I appreciate that this is done to focus on the main characters, I still prefer worlds like GochiUsa, where streets and the like are occupied and lively.

  • With the entire crew present, the final customers at Rabbit House are treated to some of the most efficient service in town, receiving their orders on swift notice while taking in the ambience at what is probably the most traditional coffeehouse in town. In this way, seeing Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu working together is an early Christmas gift for all viewers. The timing of BLOOM‘s episodes could not have been better; while the second season was top-tier, the final episodes were set during the summer and invited outdoor activities like camping and cisté hunts over sipping a hot cocoa by a fireside.

  • Adults and children alike appreciate the bit of live performance that Rize, Cocoa, Maya, Chino, Chiya, Megu and Sharo put on. The colourful Rabbit House uniforms likely signified how Saki saw Chino’s friends as all having a unique character, livening up Chino’s day in a distinct manner. The themes that constitute BLOOM‘s run were introduced back in GochiUsa: Dear My Sister, when Chino began reminiscing about how she first met Rize. However, Rize had trouble getting Chino to open up early on, and it took a while for the two to become friends. With Cocoa’s arrival, things began changing rapidly, and Rize admitted that she’s not quite as good with people as Cocoa. Sing For You continued to build upon this, and in conjunction with what BLOOM has shown, I’ve become confident in defining what I found to be GochiUsa‘s themes.

  • Before dinner begins, the long-awaited gift exchange has finally arrived. Cocoa is beyond excited, and she is overjoyed to receive an adorable new rabbit-shaped bank from Sharo. As Sharo anticipated, Cocoa finds the bank adorable and promises to treasure it. Seeing Cocoa’s reaction helps Sharo to see why Cocoa is so fond of being Santa. Since we’ve gotten to the secret Santa segment of the episode, and recalling remarks from some folks that they were curious to see the pairings, I remark here that attempting to guess the pairings without any a priori knowledge with any accuracy would be challenging, because the number of combinations possible is 1854.

  • I reached this number because the secret Santa problem is one of derangements, a special kind of permutation where no element is allowed to appear in its original position. There are seven people altogether (Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu), and the expression for counting derangements is !n = n! (1 – (1/1!) + (1/2!) – (1/3!) + … + ((-1)^n)(1/n!)). Evaluating when n = 7, we end up with 1854. Consequently, any individual guessing would have a 1:1854 (0.05393 percent) chance of getting correct all of different secret Santa pairings that were possible.

  • Of course, in GochiUsa, we do know that Sharo is Cocoa’s secret Santa, but even assuming we cut the group size down to 6, the total number of remaining derangements is 265: while we know who Cocoa’s secret Santa is, we do not know who Sharo’s secret Santa is. At 1:256 (roughly 0.39 percent), the odds of guessing the secret Santa pairings correctly on first try remains very slim. Use of mathematics in GochiUsa fully explains why the anime can remain fresh after three seasons: the different combinations of characters who can go for adventures are large, and so, there’s all sorts of room for exploration.

  • It turns out that Rize was Sharo’s secret Santa, giving her a beautiful new sugar bowl. Cocoa was Rize’s secret Santa, and she buys a set of glasses and pointer for the latter’s upcoming aspiration to become a teacher. Meanwhile, Megu gifts to Chiya a new clip for her kimono. Chiya buys a new video game for Maya, and Chino gets an aroma lamp for Megu. All of the gifts are incredibly thoughtful: Sharo is practically minded and would find something to store sugar in valuable, Rize will enjoy being motivated for her career choice, Chiya is very fond of Japanese culture, Maya loves video games and Megu is a gentle person all-around.

  • In turn, Maya is Chino’s secret Santa, and gifts her a miniature chess set with the hope of one day being able to have a proper match with Chino. Whereas Western Christmas specials present Christmas as being very extravagant, with roast beast, piles of gifts under trees and massive family gatherings, Christmas in GochiUsa is portrayed in a very inconspicuous manner: it’s a small get-together amongst friends. In spite of this, the GochiUsa Christmas is no less authentic, and in fact, can be seen as showing the joys of a smaller-scale Christmas: Christmas has long been held as being too commercialised, and as early as A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, it was already thought that traditional Christmas values were being eroded as retailers aggressively attempt to maximise revenues.

  • While it can be difficult to ignore how aggressive retailers are, one can nonetheless have a very enjoyable and fulfilling Christmas without breaking the bank. As GochiUsa shows, it is the simpler things, seeing the happiness on everyone’s faces, that make Christmas worth it. Once the gift exchange is done, when invited to lead the Christmas toast, Chino does so with enthusiasm, opening the floor to Christmas dinner. We’re still six days away from Christmas at the time of writing, but I am nonetheless quite excited about this Christmas: it’ll be a chance to rest, relax and be merry. Christmas dinner this year will be rather extravagant, but in the meantime, my mind turns towards a simple burger I had earlier this week: this time around, I tried to do a cross-section of the burger, Binging with Babish-style. Since our burgers are more basic, the cross-section might’ve been less impressive, but the burgers were nonetheless tasty (and no, I did not forget the pickles).

  • Over the past few weeks, the weather had been consistently pleasant, so I also went for frequent walks during the evenings. On one particularly eventful walk, I climbed to the top of a nearby hill just in time to watch the last vestiges of day leave the world. I’m not too sure if I’ll do a Christmas walk just yet this year, but this Christmas Day, I do intend on kicking back with  a good book or two to really unwind, away from a screen. Back in GochiUsa, it turns out that Rin’s shown up to help, ostensibly to make up for the fact that her work on Aoyama’s showcase article had worked a little too well. Aoyama herself is quite unconcerned with the comings and goings of the world around her and is seen tucking in to some pastries while Rin wheels out the cake that Chino had baked earlier.

  • One of the things that GochiUsa does well is the return of elements that were shown earlier in the series; Cocoa dons her magician’s set and prepares to go about performing magic for her friends. In doing things this way, GochiUsa really creates the sense that events in the series are contiguous, and as such, every episode sees the characters slightly more mature, better learnt and increasingly ready to take on their future. In this case, Cocoa’s interest in magic since BLOOM‘s first episode has endured throughout the series, and in the four or so months since she decided to pick up the magician’s set, she’s found a use for it.

  • In a glorious display of finesse and skill, Cocoa successfully uses her magic knowledge to reveal pleasant surprises for her friends, as well as a wonderful confetti display. That Cocoa is proficient with magic is the surest indicator to viewers that Cocoa herself has come a very long way in GochiUsa: the earliest episodes saw Cocoa being unable to serve customers properly in her early days and creating mishaps. However, by now, Cocoa’s skillset has evidently expanded, and she’s able to sew and perform magic without difficulty. Seeing Cocoa improving in various pursuits shows that she is reaching her goal of being more reliable and dependable.

  • If there was a single screenshot that captures the sum of everything in GochiUsa up until now, this would be it: it’s the perfect Christmas moment that shows everyone together in their element in a moment that I’m sure would become a treasured memory that will last a lifetime. The use of colours here again indicate the dream-like quality of this moment, and in doing so, indicates that those happiest moments in life often do not feel real.

  • Since I failed to do so in my last post, I’ll include an image of Rabbit House decorated for Christmas. Unlike the first season, Rabbit House and its surroundings are much more ornately decorated for the Christmas season, but this time around, there is no snowfall. The forecast for this year’s Christmas back home is a pleasant one: after the early snowfall, things are supposed to be sunny and pleasant. There will be a White Christmas (i.e. Christmas Day where there is at least an inch of snow on the ground), and I do not expect a Perfect Christmas (i.e. Christmas Day where there is at least an inch of snow on the ground and some form of snow during the day, per Environment Canada’s definition).

  • It was a pleasant surprise to see Chino doing the whole midnight Santa routine this time around: that she’s willing to do this shows that she definitely cares about Cocoa now. Of course, in a bit of a twist, Cocoa had been planning to do the same thing and dutifully wakes up when her alarm goes off at the stroke of midnight. While the surprise is ruined, Cocoa and Chino decide to exchange gifts anyways. Cocoa surprises Chino with an alarm clock, and Chino gifts to Cocoa a snow globe.

  • GochiUsa presents Christmas Eve as being the bigger of the events, and Christmas Day feels more muted by comparison. This is because GochiUsa is written with a Japanese spin on things: in Japan, Christmas Eve is counted as a romantic evening akin to Valentines’ Day, and Christmas Day, a statuary holiday in most Western nations, is an ordinary workday. While most schools are closed December 25, businesses remain open. However, GochiUsa is set in Europe, where Christmas Day is a statuary holiday. However, in the West, some businesses do open on Christmas Day, such as Starbucks. Being a coffee shop, it is not too surprising to see Cocoa and Rize gear up to receive the day’s customers in GochiUsa.

  • To round the episode out, things end on a comedic note as Chino’s new alarm clock is unable to enter snooze mode: it turns out the alarm clock is most similar to the alarm clock that Nayuki lends Yuuichi in Kanon, where she had pre-recorded the message 朝、朝だよ~。朝ご飯食べて、学校行くよ!(Hepburn Asa, asada yo ~. Asa gohan tabete, gakkō iku yo!) to Yuuichi’s annoyance. I’m willing to bet that Cocoa brought a bunny-shaped alarm clock with similar capabilities and pre-recorded her message, only she somehow messed up, and there’s no easy way to shut off the alarm. In a situation like that, removing the battery should be sufficient to at least turn the alarm off, after which troubleshooting can be conducted.

I certainly did not expect GochiUsa BLOOM to delve anywhere nearly as deeply into themes of healing and fellowship as it did. The first season of GochiUsa had excelled with its atmosphere, crafting a very compelling, and inviting, wood-framed town that set as a highly distinct background for everyday adventures. The second season built upon the different character dynamics to show that as long as one was with the people dear to them, there would never be a dull moment, and that precious memories would always be found irrespective of what one was doing. BLOOM, on the other hand, takes advantage of the series maturity to begin exploring deeper topics. From concerns about the future, to accepting the past and healing from loss, BLOOM strikes a fine balance between saying something meaningful about these matters, as well as continuing to present the fluffy and warm tone that GochiUsa had become known for. The end result of this is that GochiUsa is more thought-provoking than its appearance suggests: the series is ultimately about aspects of life, from sorrow to joy, everything in between, and how experiences together are amplified. Challenges become more manageable, and triumphs feel all the more so with friends. Here at the penultimate episode, it is clear that GochiUsa BLOOM represents the slice-of-life series at its finest: there is appreciation for the small things, but there is also a moving, relevant life lesson underneath everything. However, while GochiUsa may have a moral for viewers, this is never forcibly presented; instead, GochiUsa‘s themes are gently woven into the characters’ experiences and interactions. Altogether, GochiUsa BLOOM has been a wonderful series that raises the bar for what is possible with slice-of-life series, and here in episode eleven, viewers are given a spectacular episode that captures the spirit of Christmas while seamlessly integrating the series’ themes into the story: this comes a bit early, but I see no trouble in recommending GochiUsa to readers at all. BLOOM is especially strong in its presentation, and I am left in anticipation to see where this season wraps up.

2 responses to “The Cafe of Smiles and the Rainbow Magician: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Eleventh Episode Impressions and Review

  1. LuckyLaki December 25, 2020 at 08:38

    It’s episodes like this that help you appreciate the spirit of Christmas and I have to say this is the ultimate culmination of so much the season has been building up to. To see Saki’s dream not only fulfilled but surpassed was touching, I’d think she would be overjoyed to see Rabbit House so bustling and full of joy and color. It was beautiful and straight out of a dream.

    I hope you have yourself a Merry Christmas!

    Like

    • infinitezenith December 25, 2020 at 11:58

      Merry Christmas to you as well! Today’s definitely one of those magical days, a time to spend with family and friends.

      BLOOM nailed that down exceedingly well, and I’m a little sad to see that tomorrow, we’re already onto the finale. It’s been a helluva ride in BLOOM, a series that’s definitely been appreciating the people most important in one’s life.

      Like

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