“What I love about Thanksgiving is that it’s purely about getting together with friends or family and enjoying food. It’s really for everybody, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.” –Daniel Humm
It’s a gorgeous autumn afternoon outside right now: the golden foliage clings to a handful of trees, and the sky is of a deep shade of blue. This time of year is characterised by still-warm days, pumpkin pie and previously, the arrival of a new GochiUsa season. In 2015, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing, and just last year, BLOOM began on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, giving me one more thing to be thankful for. This year, while no new GochiUsa is available, the current season does have a very large number of sequels – Yakunara Mug Cup Mo: Niban Kama, 86 EIGHTY-SIX and Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter are all running. Each series takes its own approach towards continuing with their respective universe’s story: Niban Kama has Himeno learn more about her mother’s love for pottery, 86 EIGHTY-SIX drops viewers into things some time after the first season had ended, with Vladilena now leading a new squadron, and Shinei being found by the Federacy of Giad, and Great Mankai Chapter gives the Hero Club some much-needed downtime as they go around town and have fun, before Mimori unexpectedly gets a request that will see her group pressed back into service against an unknown foe. If one’s memory is a little rusty as to what happened earlier in each of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Yakunara Mug Cup Mo and 86 EIGHTY-SIX, these first episodes will probably jolt the viewer’s memories somewhat, reminding one of what had previously happened and then beaconing viewers to continue on with the journey. Story-driven anime like Yūki Yūna is a Hero and 86 EIGHTY-SIX will have little trouble picking things up. However, with slower-paced, slice-of-life anime, it can often feel that a bit more effort is needed to resume where things had left off. However, this is something that GochiUsa has never struggled with; the series expertly picks things up, and despite the oftentimes long duration between seasons, when a continuation does air, it feels as though there had never been a gap between seasons at all.
The reason why GochiUsa is especially apt at this is because while there is an overarching story throughout the series, episodes are largely self-contained, dealing with an experience or journey that is resolved within the course of that episode. Characters also possess very distinct identifying traits, and as such, seeing everyone together again immediately reminds viewers of what the previous season had done, before setting viewers about with the promise of all-new adventures. In GochiUsa, the first season had ended on a cold winter’s day, with Cocoa and Chino falling ill and subsequently looking after one another. The second season begins as spring begins returning, and Cocoa is seized with a desire to take photographs of her friends to send back home, but struggles to photograph a smiling Chino. The second season ended with a ciste hunt during the late spring, during which Maya, Megu and Chino decide to put on a hunt for Cocoa, too. By BLOOM, summer has arrived, and it’d become a little too hot to work at Rabbit House, prompting Cocoa, Chino and Rize to create new uniforms, before selling off some unused items at a local flea market. These events are completely unrelated, but share the commonality of showcasing each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo at their best. Moreover, while the characters do mature of the course of GochiUsa, they remain true to themselves, as well. This unifying element means that regardless of how much time has passed since the last season, starting a new season means viewers immediately feel at home, creating a sense of warmth and comforting familiarity.
Additional Thoughts and Commentary
- It’s now been six years since GochiUsa‘s second season began airing: I was starting my final year of graduate school back then, and the Star Wars Battlefront beta was going. I’d deliberately taken a half-day off so I could get some screenshots for discussions on Friday: back then, I was making enough progress with my thesis work so that my supervisor had no objections to this whatsoever. I thus spent the morning organising the citations I needed, evaluated the submissions for the iOS class I was TA’ing, and by the afternoon, I delved into the beta.
- On Saturday morning, GochiUsa‘s second season began airing. Like BLOOM, episodes came out at 0830 MDT (or 0730 MST), so I was able to watch the episode almost immediately after waking up and starting my day. That had been a particularly peaceful morning, with blue skies and brisk autumn air. However, whereas we were just coming out of the summer and entering autumn, GochiUsa‘s second season was exiting winter and headed into the summer.
- By 2015, I’d more or less found the style that I write with for this blog: on average, an episodic post takes around two hours to write if I’m coming fresh from the episode. I believe that GochiUsa‘s second season would’ve been the first time that I did a full episodic review. Originally, I’d been intending on writing the series after three episodes, and then again once the whole season had concluded. However, as I continued watching, it became clear that there was plenty of material to consider. Because the episodes are largely self-contained, they each cover a distinct topic.
- All of these topics are then related to the overall message the entire season is going for. Along the way, GochiUsa does a fantastic job of ensuring that the world Cocoa, Chino and the others reside in is a world that is plausible. There is an incredible amount of attention paid to details, whether it be the apparatus that Chino uses to grind coffee beans and brew coffee, the fung-shui charts Cocoa and Chiya’s class use to optimise their layout for the culture festival, or the fact that the animators have even hidden in neat Easter eggs into things like license plates and QR codes.
- Because of these factors, GochiUsa is an exceptional series that draws in viewers; the world feels real, the learnings are relevant, and the characters are loveable. Even tougher anime critics note that GochiUsa has only improved since it began airing: the first season had been a little lighter on themes because it was focused on introducing the characters and their setting, but once everything was established, GochiUsa could really begin exploring things that were more thoughtful and mature. This aspect really allowed GochiUsa to excel: the gentle slice-of-life atmosphere could soften up difficult topics like being separated from friends as everyone pursues a different future, or dealing with death and honouring those who are no longer among the living.
- Here, Aoyama Blue Mountain holds up a copy of the magazine that she writes for, and looking more closely, one can spot Rize modelling for the magazine known in-universe as Walker. After GochiUsa finished airing, I purchased a copy of the second season’s artbook, Miracle Blend: it proved to be an incredible resource that includes behind-the-scenes interviews, concept and setting art, and high-resolution artwork. In this artbook, every page from Walker is shown in high resolution, and using image recognition technology, I’ve been able to translate the magazine’s contents.
- In the end, I also picked up the artbook Memorial Blend for GochiUsa‘s first season, which similarly provided a wealth of information about the series, right down to what phones each of Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya and Sharo were using, spots in Colmar that formed inspiration for the town, and my personal favourite, sketches of Rabbit House’s floor plans to ensure that the interior remained consistent throughout all three seasons. I had plans to pick up the artbook for BLOOM, but at the time of writing, I’ve not heard any indicators that such an artbook will be released.
- Such an artbook would doubtlessly be an asset to have, especially if it also covers off Dear My Sister and Sing For You: Yuru Camp△‘s second artbook was a bit heftier than the first because it also shows the events of Heya Camp△. There is a lot of content inside these artbooks, and I do draw upon them from time to time if revisiting a series. However, I’ve never really had the chance to sit down, sift through everything, translate everything to English and share this with readers.
- Such an exercise is something that the most die-hard GochiUsa fans might consider, but for me, while I am a pretty devoted fan of this series, I’m also a bit of a generalist in that with the time I have, I would prefer to experience a wider variety of stuff. There are some folks who end up specialising in one series and can offer some solid insights or tidbits of trivia I miss, but for me, the tradeoff about becoming specialised is that I might end up missing out on other stuff. I’m similar in this regard with respect to games; rather than become insanely good at any one game (e.g. Halo), I’m happier trying out a variety of games and becoming just good enough in each to hold my own.
- Once GochiUsa‘s second season picked up, I found myself returning weekly, every Saturday afternoon, to write about the series. In this way, my autumn academic term disappeared in the blink of an eye, and every week, I looked forwards to seeing what each episode would bring to the table. Here, in one of Chino’s flashbacks, Saki can plainly be seen: even as early as the second season, it was hinted that GochiUsa was headed towards a more introspective direction by implying that Cocoa’s actions reminded Chino of her late mother.
- BLOOM began airing a full five years after GochiUsa‘s second season, but the in-betweens were punctuated by Dear My Sister (2018) and Sing For You (2019), so the wait didn’t feel too terribly long. At this point last year, BLOOM was kicking off, and unlike the second season, I knew from the start that I was going to do episodic reviews for it, making the first time that I did a pair of episodic reviews simultaneously in a season.
- GochiUsa has changed studios three times during its run, but thanks to consistent character designers and voice actresses, one wouldn’t be able to tell the difference for the most part, and in fact, the only noticeable changes is that the artwork and animation have improved with time. The wood-framed town does not change much in terms of aesthetics, but subtle things like lighting and water effects make the world come alive.
- A quick glance at the official GochiUsa website finds that they’re celebrating ten years of success: the comics originally began serialisation in Manga Time Kirara back in March 2011, and there have been a bunch of events commemorating this milestone. With this going on, one wonders if there will be announcement of any continuations: it has been, after all, a year since BLOOM finished airing, and at the time of writing, there are a total of nine manga volumes. The series’ positive reception (and corresponding sales figures) means that a continuation is going to be a matter of when, rather than if.
- Like season two’s first episode, BLOOM opens at Rabbit House on a hot summer’s day, and eases viewers back into the swing of things. Five years had passed, and in that time, I’ve transitioned fully over into industry from academia (during season two, I was about ten months from finishing graduate school): looking back, it’s been quite a bumpy journey, what with the turbulent nature of start-ups. However, the experience imparted here was invaluable, and allowed me a chance to really learn all of the technical and problem-solving skills needed to be effective in my role.
- Watching the everyone go shopping for materials to create summer uniforms typified the experience that GochiUsa‘s successfully conveyed in its anime adaptation; compared to the manga, where there is a greater emphasis on humour (typical of the 4-koma format), the anime is able to begin exploring topics that are only touched upon in the manga. K-On! was very similar in this regard: while both anime and manga alike were about Azusa coming to cherish her time with Houkago Tea Time despite lamenting how lax Yui is towards music, the anime made this point especially clear (whereas in the manga, this was covered over the space of a few pages).
- The success GochiUsa‘s animated adaptation experienced is a parallel to K-On!: in both cases, the anime took events occurring over the space of two or three pages and spaced them out over a longer time period, giving viewers time to consider things beyond the punchline. Furthermore, the addition of motion, colour and audio means that a given moment in the anime can evoke emotions that are otherwise more implicit in the manga. For instance, after Cocoa reunites with the others during the Halloween festival, a moment that spans eight panels in the manga was brought to live with dialogue and music that further accentuated what it meant to Chino, now that Cocoa could pull off her magic trick.
- In this way, I’ve found that GochiUsa is providing viewers with an alternate experience of the series compared to the manga to present a different perspective on things. With this being said, the manga remains the source for the anime, and it is not unreasonable to read ahead in the manga to gain insight as to what might be upcoming. Unfortunately, at least at the time of writing, GochiUsa remains unlicensed over in North America, and without a publisher like Yen Press or Seven Seas, it means that for the time being, I won’t be able to hop on over to my favourite bookstore and pick up a copy of the manga, as I have for something like Harukana Receive or The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan.
- GochiUsa is definitely a series I would have no qualms picking up the manga for, and given that two compilation volumes have been released, I would hope that, if an English-language version of GochiUsa ever becomes available, they’d be in the omnibus format, as well. With this in mind, it’s almost time to wrap this post up. The morning had been overcast and gusty, but the clouds gave way to sunshine and unexpectedly warm weather, so I took the afternoon to walk around outside while it’s still nice; I ended up walking over to a viewpoint overlooking the west end of town, where the mountains are visible. While the trees are starting to lose their colour now, the park nearby remained radiant; their leaves are still brilliantly yellow. Our Thanksgiving dinner is set for tomorrow evening, and this year, we’re opting to keep things simple on account of how busy it’s been.
- This is because my house hunting endeavours turned into a process of buying the house, and throughout September, I was busy with getting all my documentation prepared, and all of my forms signed ahead of possession date. Thus, it seemed appropriate to make a smaller, simpler Thanksgiving dinner: this year, there is much to be thankful for. I give thanks for the support I’ve had, especially in these times, and also for the opportunity that I’ve been given to pick myself up and continue moving forwards. I am especially thankful about my family, friends, and also you, the readers; this blog has allowed me to write out my challenges and experiences, and being able to share thoughts with readers has also been a mode of support for me.
- With this post reminiscing about GochiUsa in the books, I’ll wrap up with a moment of Chino smiling, remark that Cocoa would have an easier time of photographing a smiling Chino by the events of BLOOM than she did in the second season, and wrap things up. The Battlefield 2042 open beta has been live for a day now for me (I’m not in the EA Access group, and I didn’t preorder), and while I’ve had the chance to put in three hours so far, the beta ends later this evening, so I’d like to get as much out of things as I can.
Because of the atmosphere and aesthetics in GochiUsa, whenever a fourth season begins airing, viewers can be reasonably confident that it will be as though they’d never left. GochiUsa has proven to be unexpectedly popular amongst viewers; while prima facie appearing to be little more than a fluffy slice-of-life about appreciating the more down-to-earth and subtle aspects of everyday life, the series captivated viewers with its detailed and unexpectedly immersive world. As the series wore on, GochiUsa began to explore more personal and challenging topics, of accepting death and finding happiness with those around one self: by BLOOM, thoughts of graduation and choosing one’s future with conviction becomes the main theme, and Chino closes the third season by remarking that she’s now curious to see what’s out there, signifying her own desire to grow and become aware of how vast the world really is. When the day the fourth season airs, I imagine that GochiUsa will have no trouble welcoming its fans back to what has been an uncommonly engaging and immersive series. I’ve heard that the manga is still ongoing, and BLOOM ended with volume seven. Because the anime adaptation does things quite differently compared to the manga, the anime actually ended up with a more cohesive and focused story. Since BLOOM ended with the desire to travel, it is possible that we could get a full-fledged movie of the group travelling together over to the city that combines landmarks from Prague, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Helsinki and Stockholm, before returning back to town for the new school year. What lies ahead is exciting beyond words, and it should be no surprise that GochiUsa is a special to me – I picked the anime up before graduate school began, saw the second season as graduate school drew to a close, became a competent iOS developer by the time of BLOOM, and this year, I’m now getting ready to sign off on the mortgage for the new place I’d bought. I’m not sure where in my life I’ll be by the time GochiUsa‘s next work, whether it be a new season or a film, comes out, but I am very confident that I will enjoy whatever lies ahead at least as much as I’ve enjoyed the existing three seasons and two OVAs (if not even more so).