The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?

Let’s Take a Coffee Break: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka, Thanksgiving and Thoughts on Continuations Through Life

“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).

I Can Take That Step Forward Because You Are Watching: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Finale Impressions and Whole-Series Review

“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.

  • 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 bag – as she exits high school, it seems to be 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.

Gochuumon wa Dsagi Desu ka? BLOOM Original Soundtrack set for release on December 25, 2020

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” –Edith Sitwell

Five days ago, the track list to Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM‘s soundtrack was made known, and in keeping with tradition, the soundtrack itself will release on Christmas Day. This time around, BLOOM‘s soundtrack will retail for 2750 Yen (34.01 CAD) and consist of a single disk with thirty-five tracks. The incidental music in GochiUsa is impressive, featuring a wide range of pieces that capture the different tenours that are seen throughout the series. From the use of accordion to create a distinctly French sound for the wood-framed town, to gentle piano and string pieces that create a sense of melancholy, and everything in between, the music of GochiUsa is an aural treat for the ears. BLOOM makes extensive use of newly-minted incidental music to convey atmosphere unique to content from its latest season, but incidental music from earlier seasons also make a return. The end result is a smörgåsbord of songs that are well-chosen to represent the mood and atmosphere of a given moment: GochiUsa had always excelled with creating a highly compelling atmosphere, and in BLOOM, the series continues to make use of its incidental music to greatly augment every moment that Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya and Megu spend together. From deciding which high school to attend, putting on a culture festival, wandering town on a day off and spending Christmas together, music in BLOOM adds considerable depth to each scene.

  • As with previous soundtracks, BLOOM features a beautifully-sketched cover featuring a standout moment from the fourth episode, when Rize and Sharo don Cocoa and Rize’s uniforms while attending the culture festival the latter two are hosting at their high school. Compared to previous soundtracks, the colouring is a bit deeper, and contrast between light and dark is more apparent, perhaps a callback to the third season’s new themes. Of the anime I’ve seen, GochiUsa has some of the most radiant smiles I’ve seen, and the only other series where a seeing simple smile can evoke such joy would be Yuru Camp△, which, serendipitously, is set to air come January.

It has become something of a tradition for me to make an effort in translating all of the track names into English: with GochiUsa BLOOM, this tradition continues, and this time around, I’ve opted to both provide the Hepburn romanisation of the track names in addition to their English titles. The aim of this is to provide readers with an idea of what every track is about: the name of a song gives considerable insights into what sort of tenour it conveys, as well as the context in which said track is used in. For instance, many episodes open with the third track, Today’s Also Relaxing, a gentle piece that makes use of flute to capture the gentle and calm atmosphere around the wood-framed town on an ordinary day. The Christmas tracks similarly weave together instruments evoking a Christmasy-character together with the accordion and strings to blend two concepts together, which convey the sense that it really is Christmas in the wood-framed town.

As with my previous translation efforts, I’ve taken a few liberties here to ensure that the English titles read consistently, while at the same time, preserving their original Japanese meaning as well as I can. For track seventeen [1], おしとやかにごきげんよう, I’ve opted to render ごきげんよう (Hepburn gokigenyō) as “salutations”. The phrase ごきげんよう is used as a greeting and as a goodbye depending on the context, akin to how the English phrase “good day [to you]”. However, as a track name, “good day [to you]” feels a little cumbersome, and in this context, since “salutations” can similarly refer to a phrase used as a greeting or goodbye, I found that to be a cleaner translation. Onomatopoeia are also tricky to translate: the Japanese language is rich in onomatopoeia that require a strong level of familiarity to pick up. For instance, things like ドキドキ (Hepburn dokidoki, representing the sound of a pounding heart) do not translate literally into English, and instead, it is the context that gives the onomatopoeia meaning (e.g. it is used frequently in situations where characters experience elevated heart rate, so anime fans will be instantly familiar with it). As such, GochiUsa track names that are onomatopoeia often give me difficulty.

Track seventeen is one such instance [2]: ドロドロ (Hepburn dorodoro) is literally the sound of something viscous and syrupy flowing. The English idiom, “sticky situation”, could be used to capture the contexts that this track is used in, since it broadly refers to an awkward, difficult or embarrassing scenario. Finally, things that have a cultural context can also be tricky to translate. The piano version of the ending theme, Nakayoshi!〇! Nakayoshi!, I’ve opted to translate its name literally: nakayoshi refers to very close friends, and in the context of GochiUsa, “dear” is probably the best way to characterise it. The circle, maru, is usually used to indicate a correct answer, so that’s why I’ve opted to go with “correct” in the English translation (although this is, technically, unnecessary). The last track is titled 優しさのお返し [4], and お返し (Hepburn Okaeshi, literally “Return Gift”) is a custom where the recipient of a gift will reciprocate with a gift of their own to the giver. This custom is said to strengthen the bonds between the individuals, and can be thought of as a scaled-up version of the Western practise of buying chocolates or wine to a party host. A literal translation here would sound a little unusual, and since the song is referring to a desire to repay kindness with kindness, I’ve opted to translate the track as Reciprocating Kindness. While perhaps a little less romantic than the original Japanese would suggest, the meaning is retained well enough for the track.

Tracklist

  1. いつものRabbit Houseです♪ (Itsumo no Rabbit House desu♪, It’s the Usual Rabbit House♪)
  2. うぇるかむかもーん!(Uerukamu kamon!, Welcome, Come On!)
  3. 今日ものんびり (Kyō mo nonbiri, Today’s Also Relaxing)
  4. 賑やかフェスティバル (Nigiyaka fesutibaru, Bustling Festival)
  5. 良い感じだね~ (Yoi kanjida ne~, It feels good, doesn’t it~)
  6. 青山先生はここですかー!? (Aoyama-sensei wa koko desu ka?!, Is Aoyama-sensei here?!)
  7. はじまりのショータイム (Hajimari no shōtaimu, Showtime At the Beginning)
  8. 天空カフェテリア ~solo piano ver.~ (Tenkū Kafeteria ~solo piano ver.~, Heavenly Cafeteria ~solo piano ver.~)
  9. 今日もお疲れ様♪ (Kyō mo otsukaresama♪, Thank You For Your Work Today♪)
  10. いつもそばに (Itsumo soba ni, Always At My Side)
  11. 夢色のじかん (Yumeiro no jikan, A Time of Coloured Dreams)
  12. 10年後の私達 (10 Nen-go no watashi-tachi, Us In 10 Years’ Time)
  13. きらめきの魔法 (Kirameki no mahō, The Magic of Glitter)
  14. 木組みの街のハロウィーン (Kigumi no machi no Harouīn, Halloween in the Half-Timbered City)
  15. トリックオアトリート!~ようこそ魔女の館へ~ (Torikkuoatorīto! ~Yōkoso majo no yakata e~, Trick or Treat! ~Welcome to the Witch’s Home~)
  16. 千夜のおばあちゃん (Chiya no obā-chan, Chiya’s Grandma)
  17. おしとやかにごきげんよう (Oshitoyaka ni gokigen yō, A Graceful Salutation) [1]
  18. 捜索中…! (Sōsaku-chū…!, Searching…!)
  19. たすけてぇ~~ (Tasukete~~, Help me~~)
  20. ヒュ~~~ドロドロドロ (Hyu ~~~ dorodorodoro, Hmm~~~A sticky situation) [2]
  21. やめてぇぇ~~~!!! (Yamete~~~!!!, Stop It~~~!!!)
  22. まちなさーい! (Machinasai!, Hold it right there!)
  23. なかよし!〇!なかよし!~solo piano ver.~ (Nakayoshi! Maru! Nakayoshi! ~solo piano ver.~, Dear Friends! Correct! Dear Friends!~solo piano ver.~) [3]
  24. 決戦の火蓋 (Kessen no hibuta, Decisive Battle)
  25. 悶々と (Monmon to, Worrisome)
  26. 先輩は私が守るっ!! (Senpai wa watashi ga mamorutsu!!, I’ll Protect My Senpai!!)
  27. 今日だけお嬢様 (Kyō dake ojōsama, Just Ladies Today)
  28. 覚悟はいいかっ!? (Kakugo wa īkatsu!?, Are You Ready?!)
  29. 怪盗ラパン参上! (Kaitō Rapan sanjō!, Phantom Thief Lapin Visits!)
  30. ウサギ警部の過去 (Usagi keibu no kako, Rabbit Inspector’s Past)
  31. 木組みの街のX’mas (Kigumi no machi no X’mas, X’mas in the Half-Timbered City)
  32. ほんわかクリスマス (Honwaka kurisumasu, Gentle Christmas)
  33. 木組みの街に降る雪 (Kigumi no machi ni furu yuki, Snowfall in the Half-Timbered City)
  34. みんなでいっしょに!! (Minna de issho ni!!, Together With Everyone!!)
  35. 優しさのお返し (Yasashisa no okaeshi, Reciprocating Kindness) [4]

  • This is one of the shorter posts I’ve written in a while, coinciding with today being Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. In a curious turn of events, it also happens to be the Dongzi festival, a time when the Chinese celebrate the arrival of winter and togetherness. Traditionally, tang yuan are enjoyed, but for me, the family custom is to enjoy bai qui je (white-cut chicken) and char sui for dinner. The weather today was a far cry from that of yesterday’s: it’s been a moody overcast sort of day today, and the snowfall warning remains in effect, so it’s time to hunker down and welcome the arrival of winter in style.

While precedence suggests that most of the tracks will be quite short (around two or so minutes), and it has been the case that GochiUsa soundtracks have trended towards fewer songs (the first season’s soundtrack consisted of a total of forty-eight tracks over two disks, and season two’s soundtrack had thirty-nine tracks), quantity is certainly not a measure of quality: I am rather looking forwards to hearing all of the new songs from BLOOM in their original glory on Christmas Day. As with my previous translations, the English titles I’ve provided are approximations at best. With this being said, it should make it easier to identify one’s favourite songs on the GochiUsa BLOOM soundtrack. At the time of writing, we’re now down to the finale, which airs on Boxing Day. GochiUsa BLOOM has been a most welcome addition to this anime season; the series is consistently impressing and improving through its story, character dynamics and visuals. Amidst all of the things that GochiUsa nails, it is easy to forget that the incidental music is another one of GochiUsa‘s strong points: augmenting the atmosphere considerably to create a sense of adventure, warmth, reminiscence, melancholy and tension, GochiUsa‘s soundtracks have always been spectacular collections of music that capture emotions from a broad spectrum, adding considerable depth to an already-impressive series.

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.

A Request for Backup From a Full Heart: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Tenth Episode Impressions and Review

“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.