“One stage of your journey is over, another begins.” –Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
At the Hoto Bakery, Mocha wishes she could’ve spent Christmas with Cocoa, Chino and the others. Mocha and Cocoa’s mother decides to write Cocoa a letter to describe Mocha’s adventures back home, and Mocha becomes sad when her latest attempt to brew coffee fails spectacularly. They end up sending Cocoa her old middle school uniform and a home-made Stollen. Mocha and Cocoa’s mother reveals that she once went to the same high school as Mocha did, and had been friends with Saki, as well. While browsing a photo album, Chino realises that her mother hadn’t always lived in the wood-framed town: Cocoa also received Mocha’s old high school uniform, and Chino recognises it as the same uniform Saki had worn. During New Years’ Day, Cocoa and Chino share a warm drink together before running into Maya, Megu, Rize, Sharo and Chiya: the latter has brought a homemade Galette des Rois to welcome the New Year, and Chino winds up getting the ring that makes her king-for-a-day. Chino struggles to think of a wish, and the others head off to explore the town’s market, where Chino begins to develop a wish to travel the world and see what’s out there. Chino later decides that her wish is to see a graduation trip with Maya and Megu, as well as Rize. As it turns out, Rize’s already been offered admissions to her post-secondary of choice, and Chino makes her request: to spend the evening with everyone at Rabbit House. Some time later, Cocoa and Chino spend some time together reminiscing about how much things have changed. Feeling that Cocoa’s influence has set her down a more joyful path, Chino thanks Cocoa. This brings GochiUsa BLOOM to a close – BLOOM concludes on a very definitive and meaningful note, while at the same time leaving open the possibility of a continuation: similarly to the first and second seasons, this finale did not particularly feel like a finale, and instead, shows a tightly-knit group of friends doing what they do best. However, much is mentioned in this episode to suggest that each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu’s futures will be an enjoyable and eventful experience.
BLOOM has never taken a subtle approach with respect to its themes, and in this finale, the culmination of experiences in GochiUsa has led Chino to realise the scope of her world as being vastly greater than just the wood-framed town she’d spent her entire life in. That Chino’s begun to look in this direction acts as a metaphor for her yearning for new experiences; having spent the past year and some with Cocoa and the others, Chino’s found her own happiness. With this joy comes a wish to really understand what exploration means: Saki had, after all, come from a different town and went to high school with Cocoa and Mocha’s mother, and must have therefore overcome the challenges of being in a new place. That Chino is now ready to do the same shows how far she’s come in GochiUsa – no longer focused solely on keeping Rabbit House thriving, Chino’s horizons have broadened, and she begins to understand how this can help her to reach her own dreams. As with the episodes before, past, present and future come together to form the finale’s main theme. This sets the stage for an episode that perfectly captures what the future looks like: Chino’s plans to go on a graduation trip with Maya, Megu and Rize create a sense of excitement, and even though viewers do not see the planning, it does serve to create anticipation amongst viewers: something new is just around the corner, and the path leading to this destination is just as meaningful as the destination itself. GochiUsa BLOOM captures these feelings elegantly to leave viewers on a high note in its finale; there is definitely room to see the story expanded upon, but simultaneously, with Chino looking back and demonstrating an appreciation for what Cocoa has done for her, BLOOM also provides closure for this current season. BLOOM had detailed Chino’s coming to terms with Saki’s passing and the new joy Cocoa’s brought into her life. By decisively showing that Chino is aware of this, viewers are assured that the Chino leaving BLOOM is much happier than the Chino Cocoa had met on her first day at Rabbit House
Overall, BLOOM‘s main themes of past, present and future are well-presented in each and every episode: the characters live in the moment, plan for the future and draw upon past experiences to make the most of the present and guide their decisions for the future. Amidst themes of acceptance and healing, BLOOM shows the importance of being mindful of each element, as well as how friendship is the true magic in helping individuals to understand the past, make the most of the present and plan ahead for the future. The reason why BLOOM is able to so elegantly present its messages lies in the fact that GochiUsa has firmly established its characters and setting in its two earlier seasons: returning viewers are immediately familiar with Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu, so after one season, it was possible to show more of their everyday life together, and by season three, viewers know the characters well enough so that more meaningful and moving storylines can be covered. Expanding upon the elements seen in Sing For You, BLOOM accentuates the idea that friendship and healing go hand-in-hand. In taking this direction, BLOOM shows how the characters in a slice-of-life series each have their own unique points, being more than their initial archetypes suggest. Seeing such life-like, multi-faceted characters was one of the many highlights about GochiUsa, and really helped viewers to get behind the characters. Viewers root for the characters’ success, hope that their dreams are realised and understand how they feel about certain things. This is the mark of an excellent slice-of-life series: with its third season, GochiUsa BLOOM capitalised on its world to showcase the characters in new ways, with the inevitable result that BLOOM becomes a very welcome addition to GochiUsa and impressing viewers in newfound ways.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While it was inevitable that BLOOM would come to a close, this did not dampen the fact that having this series come to an end would be a bit of a melancholy one. The finale opens with Cocoa performing a more sophisticated magic trick for Chino while she’s leafing through a photo album. Cocoa also attempts to convince Chino to sing, with little success; while she may not look the part, and she has yet to sing in GochiUsa, Cocoa is said to be a decent singer.
- Because the Hoto family bakery is located in the Alpes-Maritimes region of France, they have a Mediterranean climate. During January, the average high is 13ºC: winters are generally very mild and dry. This stands in contrast with Colmar, whose proximity to the mountains results in a very dry climate overall, and winters are comparatively colder, with the average high being roughly 5ºC. As such, while the wood-framed town is covered in a dusting of snow, it still looks fairly warm at the Hot Bakery.
- Mocha had been noticeably absent from the proceedings, and in the finale, this is rectified by having her appear back home. She’s visibly jealous of the fun that Cocoa is having, and wishes she were able to join them. Assuming that GochiUsa uses the same train routes as seen in real life, a train from Colmar to Ezé would require a one-way trip of eight hours and fifty-five minutes, covering a total distance of 484 kilometres. Fares range from €150 to €235 (about 237 to 372 CAD), and while fares are usually the most inexpensive on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the numbers indicate that travelling to visit Cocoa (or having Cocoa return home) would not be something that could be practically done on a regular basis.
- While Mocha had been presented as a highly competent character who seems to get everything right on her first try, it turns out that Mocha’s skills come from her wish to be Cocoa’s role model, and as such, always put in the due effort required to succeed, only failing away from Cocoa’s eyes. In a bit of irony, this is precisely what Cocoa does for Chino, and the implications are that the desire to be a role model for someone can allow one to really grow. Of course, there are some things that Mocha are terrible at, and her first attempts at making coffee are completely unsuccessful.
- Altogether, it was a nice surprise to return to the Hot Bakery: GochiUsa has not returned here since 2018’s Dear My Sister, when Cocoa returned home for a brief visit. When Dear My Sister first released to Japanese cinema, it had been November 2017. I had come back from my trip to Japan and was going through Wolfenstein: The New Colossus at the time, having reached the game’s halfway point. By the time I got around to writing about the film, it was six months later, and I’d just gotten back from a day’s of hiking. In retrospect, Dear My Sister‘s gap between screening and home release was fair: these days, movies take an average of seven months after premièring in Japan for a home release to happen, and some films require a ten month wait.
- This is why I am so keen on seeing continuations take the form of TV seasons rather than OVAs or films. Back at Rabbit House, Cocoa’s received a package from home: besides a letter from family and a stollen cake Cocoa also receives her old middle school uniform, along with Mocha’s old high school uniform. Stollen is a German Christmas bread containing nuts, dried fruits and spices, dusted off with some icing sugar. It has a very unique, Christmas-like flavour, and while originating from a very simple bread to be made for Christmas, slowly evolved into a more intricate confectionary over time.
- Immediately changes out into her old middle school uniform and manages to convince Chino to wear Mocha’s old uniform. In a hilarious turn of events, after Cocoa concludes that she gets to pretend to be the younger sibling now, Chino becomes unexpectedly smug at being the older sister, at least until Cocoa chases Chino around Rabbit House for free cuddles. GochiUsa never goes overboard with these moments, striking a balance between the heartwarming and the amusing. Like K-On!, GochiUsa was not meant to be a full-fledged comedy series, and instead, its value comes largely from its portrayal of appreciating the ordinary.
- After Sharo and Chiya begin to enjoy the Stollen, the topic of conversation turns towards middle school stories. Evidently, Sharo and Chiya must have some interesting experiences, since Sharo immediately prohibits Chiya from saying anything more. Of course, when Rize expresses an interest in hearing said stories, Sharo feels conflicted.
- Following the Christmas-themed episodes we’ve seen for the past two weeks, it does feel a little melancholy to be returning to routine in the aftermath of Christmas; Christmas decorations around the wood-framed town are taken down, and winter has now truly set in. I was having a bit of trouble placing how far into the winter this finale’s episode were set, but this question will find its answer in a bit. In the meantime, Chino begins to wonder why Mocha’s uniform feels so familiar, and the answer is presented for the viewers’ benefit almost immediately.
- At the Hot Bakery, Mocha and her mother have a minor bit of a scuffle after Mocha decides to check out an old photo album. Even in Cocoa’s absence, it seems that life at the Hot Bakery is never dull. Yesterday saw BLOOM‘s original soundtrack release, and having now had a listen to it, I greatly enjoyed the new pieces of incidental music that BLOOM introduces. “Today’s Also Relaxing”, “Thank You For Your Work Today♪” and “A Time of Coloured Dreams” are the more introspective pieces that play during the series’ more poignant moments, adding a great deal of impact to each moment. The soundtrack also comes with Phantom Thief Lapin pieces, showing the level of effort that went into making an immersive experience for the show-within-a-show.
- In a curious turn of events that can only be described as fate, Cocoa and Chino’s mothers were friends in high school and got along swimmingly. That Cocoa would return to the wood-framed town where Saki once lived, and befriend Chino years later, is a bit of serendipity that suggests that things like fateful meetings happen for a reason.
- Rin and Aoyama toast to the New Year after the latter finishes her quota of work ahead of deadlines. In this finale, all of the central characters make an appearance, and it was a nice touch in seeing everyone again before BLOOM drew to a close. This toast here clarifies that it is likely early January; I was a little uncertain of the timing, since I keep Christmas decorations up until the first weekend of January, after which they are taken down, and traditionally, Christmas decorations are kept until Epiphany, which is January 6. There is a bit of a story behind this tradition: keeping decorations up for too long allow evil spirits to linger and harm agriculture for the next year.
- For now, thought, it’s just the day after Christmas. I picked up Abandoned Alberta and Soviet Ghosts this year as gifts, to add to my collection of books about haikyo, and after spending the afternoon messing around in Agent Under Fire, as is the yearly custom, I helped with the making of a delicious home-made surf-and-turf dinner of roast tenderloin, broiled lobster tail, sautéed vegetables and fully-loaded mashed potatoes wrapped up with a flan for dessert. I understand that Christmas dinners can get a little complex, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple: the tenderloin was only seasoned with salt, pepper and herbs, while the lobster tails were dusted with a paprika, garlic powder, pepper, salt, butter and a dash of lemon juice. This year, I did not go for my customary Christmas Day walk on account of the weather proving unfavourable; while we did have a White Christmas, cold, blustery and overcast conditions were unsuited for a walk.
- With this being said, a few days earlier, the weather had been particularly nice, even if it had been blustery (on account of an inbound snowstorm): I took advantage of the weather to walk up to a grove of aspen nearby that I’m particularly fond of. Back in BLOOM, when Chino wonders why Cocoa’s chosen to spend the New Years here, Cocoa remarks that it’s because moments like these are what make the best memories. While it is true that returning home would be a bit of a schlepp, Cocoa sees it more as about making the most of the present. Their peace is soon disturbed when snowballs are lobbed their way: Maya, Megu and Rize have shown up to the party.
- Sharo and Chiya soon join the party, with a Galette des Rois in hand, to celebrate the New Year. This King Cake is particularly well-known as a food for celebrating Epiphany. The idea of burying a charm in the cake is a tradition with seven centuries’ worth of history, and GochiUsa has gone to extensive effort to ensure that customs and traditions of the wood-framed town are faithful to their real-world counterparts. Chiya presents the Northern France variation of the Galatte des Rois, characterised by a puff-pastry crust filled with frangipane, an almond paste.
- Cocoa immediately wishes to win so she can dote on everyone for a day, but it ends up being Chino who finds the
One Ring charm inside the King Cake. Correspondingly, everyone crowns Chino and asks her what her wishes for the day are. Chino struggles to come up something on the spot, and the others decide to go explore the shops nearby.
- While walking around, Chino sees Maya admiring a painting of the ocean and comments that it would be nice to travel to such a place. The ocean is indeed strikingly beautiful, and as someone who’s lived somewhere landlocked, I can definitely relate to a wish to visit the ocean at some point. In conjunction with the fact that Cocoa hails from elsewhere, and her mother once attended a high school elsewhere, Chino begins to develop a bit of wanderlust, a wish to travel and see the world.
- Sharo is found browsing around a bookstore, looking at a book about different cafés around the world. Back in August, I picked up a similar book in ryōkan; these photo books are fantastic books to have, simply because their text-light, photo-heavy design makes them a wonderful volume to pick up and admire. Of course, such books do not contain any materials for serious reading, but for days where one is inclined to pick up a book and be immersed in a different world, photo books are perfect.
- Rize, on the other hand, is considering buying a luggage – as she exits high school, it is a bit of a custom for students to go on a graduation trip of sorts, at least in Japan. Seeing Rize’s upcoming plans to travel serve to strengthen Chino’s wish of seeing the world. Throughout the years, I’ve written about my own thoughts on travel, and I’ve always noted that travel in and of itself is a good thing, but contrary to what a lot of people believe, constantly travelling and sating wanderlust is not always necessarily the most appropriate of decisions. Here in GochiUsa, Chino’s never travelled anywhere before, so her desires are driven by a want to learn more and drive these experiences towards improving Rabbit House.
- Cocoa isn’t even shopping, and instead, can be found making snow angels in a nearby field. When Cocoa says that the sky reminds her of home (no matter where one goes in the world, everyone is under the same sky: a romantic thought), Chino realises that travelling’s chief tenant is to help one appreciate their own home more. This is absolutely and totally true: GochiUsa‘s stance on travel is one I align with, and one that has parallels with J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. In both The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings, protagonists Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee both have epic adventures throughout Middle Earth, but find that nowhere is comparable to their home in the Shire.
- There are many reasons for travelling, and I’ve found that being in another country means being to see how, no matter how different cultures and customs are, people are more similar than they are different. Of course, I will continue to hold the belief that travel is meaningless without a home to return to: the juxtaposition of the foreign and familiar is what makes travel particularly worthwhile, and being able to see how other people live, as well as what different places have to offer, does indeed remind one to count their own blessings for what their home has to offer. This is why I do not particularly agree with the idea of moving somewhere after having travelled there, especially if it comes at the expense of a life that is otherwise stable and promising.
- After Chino makes her wish known to her friends, they reply that such a wish is less of a tangible order in keeping with the spirit of the Kings Cake charm. Chino thus tries to think of something else, and Rize reveals that she had been, in fact, successful in being admitted to her post-secondary of choice. There hadn’t been time to talk about it with the others, and so, this news comes across as being surprising. One aspect of GochiUsa that made it particularly standout was the fact that so much of the series is set outside the classroom, that it is easy to forget that everyone is still a student.
- In good spirits, the others begin chucking snowballs at Rize, who feels that this is probably a most unwelcome mode of expressing congratulations. Once the dust settles, the girls decide to figure out what a memorable trip together would look like: Chiya’s interested in hitting the onsen, and Maya wishes to go to the beach. Megu’s curious to check out a larger city, and with so many ideas on the table, like Yui, Mio, Ritsu, Mugi and Azusa had before them, the time has come to put their ideas down and determine which one to pick.
- Talk of graduation trips and exploring the world while at once, being together, is a topic that K-On! once tread; in K-On! The Movie, a graduation trip to London materialised after Yui, Mio, Ritsu and Mugi began exploring options for a gift for Azusa, but wanted it to be a surprise, and so, covered their “secret” as being a graduation trip. This trip saw Houkago Tea Time visiting London, and the film portrays their travels in a montage, instead, choosing to showcase the moments they spend together in their hotel room as they attempt to work out lyrics for a song they wish to perform for Azusa.
- K-On! The Movie thus ended up being a treat to watch: despite travel being a secondary to the idea of being together with everyone, the film did a wonderful job of conveying its messages during its runtime. The successes of K-On! and its influence on slice-of-life anime subsequently cannot be under-stated: the idea of joy bringing people together and making the ordinary special is something that GochiUsa, K-On! and numerous other slice-of-life series share. While such anime were once seen as saturating every season (much as how isekai anime is now common), the truth is that in a given season, such shows were finding success and generating discussions because many people found them enjoyable.
- In the present day, GochiUsa can be said to be the logical progression of K-On!-like anime: with its writing and world-building, GochiUsa is nearly universally acclaimed, and I’ve actually been hard-pressed to find any negative reception. Negative and critical perspectives about this series approaching what was seen during the height of K-On! is virtually non-existent, and it becomes cleear that a majority of viewers have no trouble of slice-of-life series such as GochiUsa. Every journey has an end – while BLOOM is drawing to a close, talk of travel and the future brings about an excitement amongst viewers, who now anticipate seeing Chino and the others travel somewhere else.
- Of course, with only five minutes left to BLOOM, there is no feasible way to present such an event, and the episode instead concludes with Chino’s wish is for everyone to spend an evening together at Rabbit House, demonstrating that she’s become more decisive and forward with her thoughts as well. With this, BLOOM proper comes to an end. However, like the average Marvel Cinematic Universe film, there is a post-credit sequence, as well: as with GochiUsa seasons before it, BLOOM uses a special ending sequence: rather than Nakayoshi!〇! Nakayoshi!, the second of the opening songs, Yume < Utsutsu → Happy Time, is performed.
- GochiUsa is the sort of anime that invariably brings with it numerous memories. The first season evokes recollections of a time when I had been working on The Giant Walkthrough Brain, and a shade more than a year later, GochiUsa‘s second season aired, when I had been wrapping up my graduate thesis. While we’ve had Dear My Sister and Sing For You in 2017 and 2019, it’s still been five years between the second season and BLOOM. With GochiUsa such an enjoyable series, I do wonder what lies ahead in the future – the manga suggests that much adventure still awaits everyone, and there is plenty of material to be adapted, after all.
- Writing for GochiUsa BLOOM was a joy this season: there was no shortage of material to talk about, speaking to the strengths of this series, and I found it fun to mention and read around for specific details relevant to the series. With this being said, episodic reviews are quite tough to write for, since they require that I consistently find something noteworthy and unique to consider for each and every episode. I’ll leave the reader to determine whether or not I was able to do so for BLOOM, and further remark that if there is interest in my doing so, I would be happy to do episodic reviews for any future seasons of GochiUsa.
- Altogether, GochiUsa BLOOM is an A+ (4.0 of 4.0, 10 of 10): a masterpiece. In taking on all of the learnings of earlier seasons, BLOOM improves upon character dynamics even further than was previously seen, presents the wood-framed town even more vividly than before, and altogether, told a phenomenal story about the boundary between the present and the future. With GochiUsa BLOOM now done, I remark that I have every intention of picking up the season guidebook for this one as soon as it becomes available, and that entering 2021, the conclusion of BLOOM means that there is a very large void left in the slice-of-life realm. Fortunately, the winter 2021 season will see the airing of Yuru Camp△ and Non Non Biyori Nonstop, two excellent slice-of-life series. I am still working out details of how to write for these two series at present, but readers can be assured that I will definitely be looking at both Yuru Camp△ and Non Non Biyori Nonstop in some capacity here.
With BLOOM‘s finale done and the third season of GochiUsa now in the books, the question invariably becomes whether or not a continuation is likely. Much of the events in BLOOM correspond with volumes five and six of the manga, plus a few early chapters of volume seven, and there are nine manga volumes in total. Given the success that GochiUsa has seen previously, BLOOM‘s BD sales are expected to be strong, and a fourth season covering the events of volumes seven and eight could very well be a reality. There are numerous stories in the future volumes that I’d love to see brought to life. The fact that GochiUsa‘s manga continues shows that life is indeed a journey, with no defined destination, and where the process matters infinitely more than the goal itself. As such, I wouldn’t be too surprised if a fourth season of GochiUsa was announced at some point in the future to continue on what has been the strongest slice-of-life experience this year: amidst the global health crisis, shows like GochiUsa simultaneously serve to help viewers to relax and regroup, as well as to take store of their situation and appreciate what they do have. Consequently, there is no doubt in my mind that GochiUsa BLOOM is probably my favourite anime of 2020 – BLOOM not only does everything right, but it surpassed all expectations. Besides featuring a moving story, meaningful experiences, stepping outside of the series’ usual realm into topics that are more serious and executing those in a mature, thoughtful manner, GochiUsa BLOOM portrays the wood-framed town in much greater detail than before, making use of lighting and framing to really capture the tenour of a moment. The visual quality and depth of the stories in BLOOM evidently are maturing with the characters. With all of this in mind, GochiUsa BLOOM becomes a must-watch for all fans of the series, and for folks who’ve yet to see GochiUsa, the events of this third season are worth reaching: the first and second seasons are highly enjoyable in their own right, and the outcomes of the third season makes this journey all the more meaningful. The praises of GochiUsa are universal for a reason, and one could spend a lifetime exploring what makes GochiUsa so effective. Of course, I imagine that readers will have little interest in reading a post that is a life-age in length, so I will conclude this finale talk with the remark that GochiUsa BLOOM is a veritable masterpiece, and leave it to the reader to determine whether or not this is something they’d wish to check out.