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Stamp, Sleep, Study, Smile: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Eighth Episode Impressions and Review

“Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together.” –Scott Hayden

When Rize’s father laughs at her for having decided on becoming an elementary school teacher, Rize runs away from home. Takahiro agrees to have Rize stay at Rabbit House for a while as Rize and her father work things out. In the meantime, after Rize tells Cocoa and Chino of her aspirations, they decide to help her train for the role. Beyond duties like maintaining a schedule and encouraging students with her energy, Rize is also resourceful and creative, finding new ways to keep Chino and Cocoa motivated when they study. Later, the girls break up into small groups to prepare for their upcoming exams. As the day draws to a close, Rize takes Chino, Megu and Maya to the local pool, where Megu reveals she’s been a little worried about losing sight of Maya and Chino as they pursue their own futures. Upon returning to Rabbit House, Chiya, Cocoa and Sharo surprise Rize with a dinner party as thanks for everything she’s done for them. Happy, but exhausted, Rize falls asleep, and her father comes to pick her up. On the way back home, Rize’s father apologises to Rize after an awkward attempt at conversation and reveals he had been so overjoyed, he was tearing up. Father and daughter reconcile, and Rize gives her father a stamp in appreciation. If last week’s episode was about looking to answers from the past for how to face the future, this week’s episode is entirely about taking that step forwards and embracing a new journey, in addition to how one’s experiences play a strong role in influencing one’s own interests. Rize has found her calling in life as a result of the irreplaceable, priceless memories she’s had with Chino, Maya and Megu, feeling happiness in looking after them and organising things to ensure their success. As someone who takes joy in watching others succeed, Rize is presented as possessing the temperament and mindset of a teacher.

While this episode of BLOOM makes it openly known that Rize intends to pursue a career in education, GochiUsa has done a phenomenal job of setting things up and foreshadowing this decision. Throughout the entire series, small, seemingly trivial details have been presented that indicate Rize’s affinity for looking after children and instructing them. When she first meets Chino, she crafts her a stuffed rabbit and also goes about trying to help Chino speak more loudly: Rize is a disciplinarian who believes very much in rules and protocol, and isn’t afraid to impose this on her environment to ensure things go smoothly, but she also appreciates how to win people over. In the carrot-and-stick analogy, Rize shows people the stick but gives them the carrot, indicating she knows how to balance discipline and reward. Upon meeting Megu and Maya, Rize is swift to nickname them Chimame for brevity, showing she cares for those around her sufficiently to want to learn their names as soon as possible, and using a mnemonic to help her with this. After Cocoa leaves town to visit home in Dear My Sister, Rize helps to organise Chino, Maya and Megu’s days so they don’t fall to lethargy, tasking them with a heavy schedule and promising to make stuffed rabbits for them if they should stick to it. Rize helps Chino to train for her choral performance in Sing For You, and motivates Chiya to prepare for a school marathon earlier this season. Along the way, she finds ways to inspire and motivate those she works with. Altogether, GochiUsa has laid down the foundations for Rize’s career choice, and looking back at everything that’s happened in GochiUsa, Rize’s goals are admirable, well-chosen. This character growth, however, does not happen in a vacuum: Rize’s also long envied Cocoa for her ability to get along with most everyone, and seeing this side of Cocoa, in conjunction with advice from Tippy, helps Rize to understand that she can get along with others to in her own way. The discipline and order Rize possesses is balanced by a genuine love for those around her, and it is this that makes Rize suited to take on the role of an elementary teacher.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The previous episode was a hard one to top, but GochiUsa has never been a series to suffer from any inconsistency. Similarly to how the episode following Mocha’s departure was a quiet one, this week’s episode was comparatively less eventful. Neither are any less enjoyable, however, and this week opens with Rize giving Cocoa a rather unpleasant surprise in the morning by climbing on top of her and threatening her with CQC should she fail to get out of bed in a timely fashion.

  • As it turns out, Rize’s run away from home after sharing her ambitions with her father, only for him to laugh at her. For the time being, Rize stays at Rabbit House until things are settled. Rize’s father later asks Takahiro for help, noting that he’d always been a good negotiator. The key to negotiations is, unsurprisingly, to listen: Rize’s father is described as preferring to go loud in a situation, and this haste is probably what created the disagreement. Takahiro is indeed versed: he prefers to observe the girls rather than intervene directly, and allows everyone to try their hand in working out their own problems before determining if his help is needed.

  • When GochiUsa first began airing, Rize’s physical resemblance to Kiniro Mosaic‘s Aya Komichi was the subject of no small debate, exacerbated by the fact that Risa Taneda voices both Aya and Rize. These comparison quickly disappeared as GochiUsa continued, and on the topic of Kiniro Mosaic, after a special episode that was screened back in 2016, it looks like now, with the manga complete after a decade, the series is supposed to get a film. The release date is unknown, but I imagine that it’ll wrap up the manga’s story and pick up where Pretty Days ended off. Personally, I would’ve preferred a third season: anime films take an eternity to release, whereas TV series are available immediately.

  • Cocoa suggests some special training to help Rize prepare for the teaching profession, and I couldn’t help but smile: there is a very gentle form of dramatic irony, in which the audience knows something that the characters do not. Specifically, for viewers who have been following GochiUsa since the first season, Rize has given plenty of indicators that she’s well-suited for the role and therefore, not in any particular need for Cocoa’s training, which ends up being an excuse for Cocoa to skip out on the morning’s housework.

  • I would suppose that despite Rize’s disciplined and strong-willed personality, she yields very easily when Cocoa is around; she even agrees to take a short kip in the day per Cocoa’s suggestion, and is probably shocked that they’d actually been lying down before catching onto Cocoa’s antics. With Chimame, this rarely ever happens, so one can assume that as a teacher proper, Rize would have a solid handle on her students: there’s something special about Cocoa’s ability to cuddle with people that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

  • Once Cocoa’s ruse is discovered, Rize sets Cocoa and Chino with studying for their upcoming exams, rewarding the pair with stamps for completing problems. This had been a technique Rize had been using to motivate Chino and Chiya in earlier episodes, but in the moment, Rize’s forgotten and decides to stamp Cocoa directly on the forehead. A glance at the pages indicate that Cocoa and Rize are studying mathematics, which Chino appears to be weaker in (Cocoa has no trouble with math). It’s been a while since I’ve done anything with relations and expressions on their own, and in retrospect, my favourite part about mathematics has always been expressing systems in increasingly elegant ways.

  • Rize does have a very matronly feel to her this episode, and indeed, with a ponytail, resembles CLANNAD‘s Kyou Fujibayashi. Kyou ends up becoming Ushio’s teacher for kindergarten, and while Kyou is a shade more violent than Rize is, both share a forward, bold personality. After the day is done, Rize whips up a Neapolitan for dinner and promises dessert if Cocoa and Chino can finish their vegetables, a clever callback to the first season, where Cocoa and Chino both had vegetables they weren’t keen on eating.

  • As it turns out, spending so much time with Chino, Maya and Megu was the deciding factor in Rize choosing to become an elementary school instructor; while Rize is athletic and holds her own academically, making her suited for being a middle school and high school instructor, she finds joy in motivating children and watching them grow. There’s something immensely adorable about this decision, and it speaks to the fact that Chimame resemble elementary students more than middle school students.

  • Inspired by Rize, Cocoa attempts to host a study session for the sciences, but Chino comments that Cocoa’s explanations are difficult to understand. There’s a scene where a range of molecules can be seen behind Cocoa, and attesting to how my skills in chemistry have atrophied, I can’t readily identify the more complex molecules. Off the top of my head, water, molecular oxygen, molecular nitrogen, ammonia, chlorocyclohexane, methane, molecular hydrogen and isopropanol can be seen, along with a Rutherford model of the atom and several fictional compounds. There’s also what I’m guessing to be an incorrect representation of histidine: the diagram in the anime does not properly show the imidazole side chain as being aromatic, which results from electrostatic stability. The large molecule in the upper-right is an incorrect representation of Benzylpenicillin (or Penicillin G), a naturally occurring antibiotic: GochiUsa renders the benzyl group as a cyclohexane and mistakenly places hydronium groups in place of methyl groups, as well as missing the double bond in the carboxyl group, the distinct the sulfur and nitrogen of the five-membered thiazolidine are consistent with that of penicillin.

  • While these results means that BLOOM misses two of the molecules, it’s probably done to show that Cocoa might not be familiar with things like aromaticity. Fortunately, GochiUsa is not organic chemistry – gaps in Cocoa’s knowledge can be forgiven easily, and for the viewers, not knowing these compounds won’t have a tangible impact on one’s enjoyment of the series. As such, if anyone decides to create a “genius bonus” entry at Tango-Victor-Tango identifying the compounds, I am going to strike them from the page posthaste. Back in GochiUsa, a part of teaching is making things accessible and tangible for the students, and this is a skill that can be tricky to cultivate: for Cocoa, science and math come very naturally for her, and so, she’s never had to develop any tricks for recalling facts or synthesising information. It is often easy to forget this: Cocoa is very ditzy and does not appear to have a head for numbers, so in conjunction with the fact that GochiUsa rarely shows the girls being in school, Cocoa’s skills in the sciences and maths often come across as surprising to viewers.

  • For Megu and Chino, Cocoa still knows enough to help them along, and after finishing their sciences and maths, Chiya takes over for the humanities. They make enough progress so that Chiya decides to take a peek on Sharo next door, and surprisingly, they find Maya here. Despite being skillful academically, Maya is worried about the entrance exam and seeks out Sharo’s help, feeling that Sharo’s focus would make it easier for them to study in the absence of distractions. Sure enough, back in the day, I almost always studied alone, making the most progress when I understood systems and processes for myself. It was only in my undergrad where materials became tough enough so that I found it useful to have another perspective on things, but by grad school, I had hit my stride and could study on my own again.

  • After a hard day’s work, Rize takes Chimame to the local pool. We’ve not visited this pool since the first season in 2014, and while changing, Maya and Chino remark that Megu’s put on some weight in certain places, resulting in no small amount of envy: Rize has some cookies for each of Maya, Chino and Megu, but Megu initially turns them down as a result of Maya and Chino’s words, at least until Rize reassures her that a few sweets won’t be detrimental at all.

  • It is the case that simple sugars found in sweets can provide a small boost to cognitive function. The brain is the single most energy-consuming organ in the body, and simple sugars require very little additional energy to metabolise, converting the chemical potential energy stored in its bonds towards respiration. In a brain deprived of sugar, neurotransmitters function with decreasing efficacy. However, like all systems, there is too much of a good thing: sugars trigger a reward response in the brain as a result of our evolution favouring energy-rich foods (the less time one spends eating, the more time can be directed at other activities), and excessive sugars can damage the hippocampus’ ability to form memories as well as creating addictions. In moderation, however, the occasional sweet provides benefits.

  • While Maya longs to try her hand at chess, Chino is looking to swim. She and Maya decide on racing a little, and when Megu wishes to join, she sinks instantly after trying to catch up to the pair, requiring that Rize rescue her. This moment serves to indicate that Rize is in excellent condition, enough to look after student  with reliability, but it also sets in motion one of the lingering questions that always appears whenever discussions turn towards the future.

  • It turns out that Megu had been feeling a little left behind after seeing Maya and Chino pursue their futures so earnestly – this is a natural part of life as people reach a milestone, and one of the things I’ve always tried to keep in mind is that life is not a sprint, but rather, a marathon. It is not necessary to compare oneself to others because everyone’s circumstances are different, and so, the folks who look like they’re behind won’t always be on the backfoot. Focusing on one’s own progress is the way to go, and it appears that Megu’s definitely understood this.

  • For Rize, Megu, Chino and Maya, it’s been about a year since they last visited the pool together as a group. For us viewers, it’s closer to six-and-a-half years since the first season saw them doing this – when I first saw Rize keeping an eye in Chimame, it would’ve been during the summer of 2014. At the time, the Giant Walkthrough Brain project was underway, and I would watch GochiUsa during lunch breaks. This project turned out to be an unprecedented success, paving the way for my graduate thesis and professional interest in iOS development. GochiUsa did have an impact on how I implemented the Unity app powering the Giant Walkthrough Brain, and as such, the series holds a special place in my heart for this reason, on top of its excellent and moving life lessons.

  • Upon returning to Rabbit House, Cocoa, Sharo and Chiya confront Rize – because she’s done so much for everyone, the three have cooked a special homemade dinner for her, featuring things like a hearty meat’n’potatoes, fried chicken and Hamburg steak, rounded off with stir-fried bean sprouts. It’s a joyful evening for the group of friends, who have definitely shown their appreciation to all that Rize’s done for them. Of the characters, Rize’s often been seen as the most independent and capable of driving her own growth: she’s shown to always be taking the initiative to explore new directions, such as taking on roles in a play, or shopping for different clothes to experiment with her appearance, but it is ultimately with everyone’s influence that Rize comes to be comfortable with her identity, enjoying both military-related topics alongside things that teenaged girls find engaging.

  • This get-together is set in the private kitchen of Rabbit House: most events had previously been set outside in the main area, and so, this serves to remind viewers that this is a bit more of an intimate dinner, showing how close everyone’s gotten since GochiUsa‘s beginning. According to the official TV guidebook, Memorial Blend, the kitchen is located towards the back of Rabbit House on the second floor, and a quick glance at the floor plans the guidebook provides shows that there are a total of three bedrooms. As such, during her stay at Rabbit House, Rize must’ve shared a space with Cocoa.

  • While the others help to clean up, Rize falls asleep, having become exhausted after a full day’s worth of activities. When Cocoa makes to give Rize a stamp, she reawakens, similar to how Cocoa responds to the phrase onee-chan. Rize’s father has arrived to pick Rize up, and as they head home, there’s a bit of an awkward silence between the two. Motor vehicles have not been seen in GochiUsa with too much frequency, but since Rize’s father owns a car, viewers can finally ascertain that, since the car is a left-handed drive, the series is almost certainly set in France. The location of the wood-framed town in GochiUsa had always remained something of a mystery, and while the extended materials indicate the town was modelled on Colmar in France, the series mixes in German signage and Japanese currency. Ultimately, the location of GochiUsa isn’t as relevant as what such a unique setting does for the series.

  • When Rize’s father explains himself, it makes it clear that Rize’s path to the future is paved. This week’s episode is in the books, and I’ve got one more post lined up for this month on Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear. I went for a brief walk earlier this morning to take in the brisk air of a sunny late November morning, and this afternoon, the goal will be to put up our Christmas tree after polishing off a chicken pot pie and garlic bread. November’s passed by very quickly, and it’s now the final month of the first year to the new decade. Besides my episodic BLOOM and Road to Berlin posts, I plan on starting the month with posts for The Division 2‘s Schaeffer Manhunt, as well as Halo 4 once I’ve finished the game.

In an episode focused on Rize, BLOOM continues to explore the idea that meetings with others are important. For Rize, her meeting with Chino sets the stage for her to befriend Cocoa, Maya and Megu, as well, which has a tangible impact on her career choices. This is something that people can universally relate to: there are certain individuals in everyone’s lives that have made the present possible, and the future feasible. BLOOM thus indicates that those moments are worth treasuring, and no moment is too small to make memories out of. This week’s episode marks a return to the more down-to-earth setup that GochiUsa typically portrays, and while featuring no supernatural elements or uncommonly distinct scenery as last week’s Halloween episode had, the episode continues to be engaging and joyful to watch. GochiUsa masterfully combines the extraordinary and the mundane to do what very few slice-of-life series can do. In this way, BLOOM represents the progression of the moé genre towards a much more mature and meaningful direction: fluffy moé series have long been counted as being little more than cathartic entertainment or light-hearted comedy, but of late, it’s become apparent that such series utilise their setting to explore a variety of life lessons in a gentle, optimistic fashion. The goal of series like GochiUsa is no longer solely to make viewers laugh out loud or relax, but on top of this, consider important lessons in life. As the world continues hurtling along at a breakneck pace, there are times when these lessons are forgotten in our haste for progress: series like GochiUsa can remind viewers to take a step back and count our blessings, to be thankful for the things that we often take for granted.

We Shall Dance with Ghosts Until Dawn on this Halloween Night!: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Seventh Episode Impressions and Review

“We should keep the dead before our eyes, and honour them as though still living.” –Confucius

On Devil’s Night, Megu and Maya decide to pay their friends’ cafés a visit while practising their trick-or-treating techniques. At Ama Usa An, they notice that Chiya’s hurt her hand and decide to help out with work. Upon realising that Chiya’s not given them any treats for showing up yet, Maya and Megu stage a fight to prank Chiya instead. In exchange, Chiya provides a plate of pumpkin tarts, with a pair of trick tarts laced with wasabi. Later that evening, Rize runs into Chiya and offers to carry her groceries. When they return to Ama Usa An, they find Sharo there with some medicine for Chiya. The next day, Halloween is upon the timber-framed town. As the townsfolk set up for the big night, Cocoa and Chino pay Chiya a visit. That evening, Chino, Chiya and Sharo have decided to go out as Phantom Thief Lapin, while Rize is dressed as a policewoman. Cocoa is a witch, but she’s gotten lost. After Cocoa encounters a lost child and fails to impress her with her magic tricks, Cocoa breaks down in tears, coming face-to-face with a kindly woman. She offers to teach Cocoa some magic tricks before disappearing into the night. As Chino and the others search for Cocoa, Chino suddenly has a feeling Cocoa might be at the overlook above town. The gang is reunited, and when Cocoa performs a magic trick, Chino is reminded of her mother. While Cocoa becomes curious as to the sort of person Chino’s mother was, the pair head off to rejoin the others after a night of Halloween festivities together. The practise of trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins into Jack-o-lanterns and donning costumes dates back to at least the sixteenth century in Scotland as part of a Celtic festival to mark the beginning of winter, and the incarnation as we know it became popular in the 1920s. Halloween is thought to have origins with Gælic harvest festivals merging with the Christian Church’s All Saint’s Day to celebrate the saints. By the 1300s, Halloween began taking its modern form as people began seeing the holiday as a time to remember the dead and offered them baked goods. As was the period knowledge, it was assumed that on Halloween, the spirits of the deceased would wander the world, and people wore costumes to disguise themselves from and blend in with these spirits to avoid troubling them. Despite largely being associated with pumpkins, costumes and trick-or-treating, Halloween has a complex, nuanced history: it is this history that GochiUsa: BLOOM chooses to portray, and while the seventh episodes starts off innocuously enough, it quickly delves into a new realm that had hitherto only been touched upon.

Cocoa’s chance encounter with Saki’s spirit on Halloween night forms the keystone of this episode: after getting separated from her friends and being mocked by a child for failing in basic magic tricks, Saki appears at a critical time to reassure Cocoa and also show her the basics of magic tricks, as well. This supernatural encounter demonstrates that not all spirits are as malevolent as Chiya prefers to consider them as, and especially in the world of GochiUsa, spirits are willing to guide those in the world of the living with the knowledge and wisdom they themselves had accrued in life. While Cocoa has a very tangible encounter with such a benevolent spirit, the implication is that the memories and deeds of one’s ancestors live on in those that are still alive, offering their support wherever possible. For Chino, this is especially important – until Cocoa entered her life, Chino had been rather lonely but found it difficult to let new people into her life because of her mother’s passing, fearing to become close with anyone because she might lose them again. However, she always had her grandfather’s advice open to her: because her grandfather somehow had his consciousness transferred into Tippy, he’d been able to help her out as best as he could. Similarly, now that Cocoa’s lost her way briefly, the spirit of Chino’s mother, Saki, makes an appearance to help the two find one another. BLOOM has been predominantly about preparing for the future, but this episode, being set on Hallow’s Eve, when the world is transformed and the boundary between the physical and spirit worlds are blurred, the series gently reminds viewers that wisdom from the past provides the stepping stones for the future: knowing where our ancestors and precursors tread, and understanding their discoveries, help one to ascertain the path to their own futures. This is why humanity mourns and respects the deceased – their contributions have tangibly affected our lives, and we remember them for laying down the stepping stones that help us along. In BLOOM, Cocoa uses Saki’s knowledge of magic to help cheer up Chino, who is overcome with a feeling of sadness when thinking about her mother: that Cocoa is able to succeed with the magic trick, the same one Saki had performed for Chino when she was still alive, indicates that the deceased still live on in our memories, and that someone is never truly gone as long as their contributions and experiences are remembered.

BLOOM also begins hinting at Chino’s readiness to step into the future with this episode: the first act has Chino staying at Rabbit House to prepare for their Halloween event. It is Maya and Megu who wander around town together in search of the best Halloween eats. Similarly, the second act has Chino hanging out with Cocoa, Rize, Chiya and Sharo. The decision to have Maya and Megu as Chino’s friends, but not lock them in with a specific café, gives them the freedom to come and go as they please. During the earlier seasons, this gave the pair a carefree spirit, and they would occasionally appear to liven up GochiUsa. By BLOOM, showing that Chino is comfortable with people outside of her immediate circles, and that she can open up in the absence of Maya and Megu, indicate that as she is now, Chino is capable of taking that plunge into the future: while she’d been very close to Maya and Megu throughout the course of GochiUsa, she’s not dependent on their presence in order to summon the courage to speak with others. Being with Cocoa and the others have helped Chino considerably, and so, whether she’s with Cocoa’s group or Maya and Megu, Chino can be open, true to herself. While BLOOM has made this abundantly clear, GochiUsa had actually done a strong job of foreshadowing this even during the first season: while Cocoa is busy studying for her exams, Chino invites Maya and Megu over to help out at Rabbit House. When Rize asks about them, Chino remarks that Maya and Megu are capable of telepathic communication. Whether or not this is true is left as an exercise to the viewer, but here, it is clear that Maya and Megu are extremely close, and since Chino makes no mention of being in on the telepathy, even then, she feels a slight distance from them. However, this has not stopped them from being friends, and as such, with the time that has elapsed between then and now, Chino is more capable of, and confident, in hanging out with different people.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This post is longer than usual because it swiftly dawned on me that the seventh BLOOM episode was no ordinary episode – despite sharing the same run time as all of the previous episodes, there was something special about its execution that made it particularly standout. BLOOM faithfully adapts the manga, and the seventh episode covers the sixth volume’s fifth and sixth chapters: the manga has had plenty of time to touch upon different topics, and by this point in time, it becomes clear that the series is mature enough to handle more challenging matters in an appropriate, heartfelt manner.

  • This isn’t to say that the seventh episode of BLOOM is not fun in its own right: after establishing shots that show a side of the wood-framed town we’d never seen before, Rize and Cocoa welcome Megu and Maya. However, Chino refuses to participate, at least until Rize lets slip that she’d actually been practising the role of being a vampire in secret, leading Chino to bite Rize. This was certainly a sight I’d never expected to see, and so, out of the gates, every indicator was present to suggest that this week would be no different than the previous weeks in terms of offering a fun experience.

  • Megu and Maya are dressed as foxes for Halloween, sporting fake animal ears and tails matching their hair colour. It’s adorable and surprisingly well-done: their ears blend in very well, and to the casual viewer, one might even mistake them as being quite real. While Maya and Megu themselves actually have no idea what animal their costume represent, I would say that they’re foxes simply because of their uncommonly bushy tails.

  • After visiting Sharo at Fleur de Lapin and getting treats here, Maya and Megu give Sharo treats of their own. It must’ve been the case that Maya and Megu visited Rabbit House early, when the café was still quiet, since every other shop in town is packed with people. I imagine that Rabbit House will also get more customers later on in the day – since Cocoa and the others do not show up, it stands to reason that they’re busy taking orders and serving people Halloween-themed items. One must wonder if pumpkin spice is popular in GochiUsa: this blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove mimics the flavours of autumn and was popularised by Starbucks, but has been around for thousands of years. The key ingredient is nutmeg (Megu’s namesake), and it turns out the Indonesians have been using it as a spice since time immemorial.

  • In keeping with her love for all things supernatural and the occult, Chiya’s spared no expense at all in decking out Ama Usa An with Halloween decorations. Her grandmother wonders if all of this stuff might cause the ghost of Chino’s grandfather to haunt them: this is a subtle call-back to the fact that Rabbit House and Ama Usa An had been fierce rivals back in the day, and Chiya’s grandmother never got over that fact. In the present day, Chiya and Chino get along fine, suggesting that conflicts are lost when the new generations take charge.

  • Chiya particularly enjoys playing the role of a Witch for Ama Usa An’s Halloween event, and she’s unexpectedly versed with the sort of chūnibyō speech that KonoSuba‘s Megumin and other Crimson Dæmons are known for; perhaps Satomi Satō could be cast as a Crimson Dæmon if Konosuba gets another continuation. Back in BLOOM, after realising that Chiya’s hurt, Maya and Megu decide to help out of their own volition, and makes things run at Ama Usa An a bit more smoothly. However, when Chiya begins speaking of experience points, Maya and Megu begin fighting over things: I’ve never seen an actual fight in GochiUsa before and was wondering if this could mark a different direction for BLOOM, but it turns out to have been an elaborate trick. It throws Chiya off, and it certainly surprises the viewer, too.

  • After a hard day’s work, Chiya gives Megu and Maya pumpkin tarts. She jokingly remarks that a pair of them have been loaded with wasabi, rather similarly to how she’d previously did the same thing for tea in the second season by making one cup with vegetable juice. This scares Maya and Megu, who suddenly become reluctant to eat the pumpkin tarts, but after Chiya assures them nothing of the sort happened, they dig in. Chiya’s grandmother, however, notes that she baked the pumpkin tarts and had actually rigged them. Since Maya and Megu got the normal ones, Chiya now has a 40 percent chance of picking the wrong one, and she does ends up taking a loaded one, suffering for it. It would appear that food roulette might be a thing in the Ujimatsu family.

  • After seeing Maya and Megu off, Chiya goes shopping for groceries and has trouble carrying them on account of her injury. Fortunately, Rize is nearby, and she happens to have a hankering to carry stuff. Pumpkins are a very popular decoration during Halloween: they are a fantastic food source rich in nutrients, but because of their large size, are well-suited for carving faces into, as well. Conventional recipes for pumpkin include pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, while more creative recipes include cheesecake, tarts and muffins. However, these are lightweights compared to my favourites: creamy roast pumpkin soup and pumpkin-and-pork-rib stir fry.

  • As it turns out, Sharo had gone out to get some medicine for Chiya after hearing about her injury from Chiya’s grand other. With the day turning to night, viewers get a glimpse of what the wood-framed town looks like under the glow of countless Jack-o-lanterns and conventional pumpkin-shaped lanterns adjourning every street in town. Sharo remarks that an injury is nothing to sneeze at, and further to this, wants to return the favour for the time where Chiya went ballistic when Sharo had a slight cold. While laughable under normal times, I argue that Chiya’s reaction is perfectly natural, especially in light of current events.

  • The next day, Halloween proper, Megu and Maya decide to visit Ama Usa An again. They decide to try a summoning circle for fun, and right as they complete the ritual, Cocoa and Chino appear. It turns out they’re here to ask for Chiya’s feedback on something special Rabbit House is doing, and coincidentally, Chiya had been looking for someone to try her latest Halloween special, as well. When they do arrive, a series of bad jokes results in misunderstandings: Chiya declares herself as the new Chi in Chimame, causing Chino to feel left out. When she reassures Chino that as her older sister, she understands that Chino will always be a part of Chimame, Cocoa is stunned to see Chiya trying to usurp her role as Chino’s older sister, and pandemonium ensues.

  • Thus ends the first act of BLOOM‘s seventh episode, which prima facie feels very much like a conventional episode. However, seeing the wood-framed town in full Halloween decorations gives the episode a completely different feeling, and it is under this unique environment that the second act begins. This second act fundamentally changes the way I watch GochiUsa, and what is particularly impressive about the episode is how it manages to so masterfully strike a balance between its usual atmosphere while dealing with topics that seem quite far removed from the series’ usual themes.

  • Aoyama and Rin make a short appearance in this episode, sharing drinks together while riding a boat on the canals. This peaceful moment is a bit of a rarity in that Rin is always seen pursuing Aoyama, so this scene suggests that at the very least, Aoyama must’ve finished enough of her work to take the evening off without incurring Rin’s displeasure. I believe that for every episode of BLOOM, all of the major characters have appeared in some capacity in each and every episode.

  • The vivid colours seen after dark creates a very magical, timeless environment in the wood-framed town, and I was immediately reminded of Tamayura‘s Path of Longing Festival, a time when the community in Takehara cut bamboo shoots and placed candles in them to illuminate the old town’s main thoroughfare in a soft glow. The deep blue hues of the evening sky stand in stark contrast with the warm yellow-orange light emanating from the lanterns – both Tamayura and BLOOM create a similar aesthetic, but whereas Tamayura‘s festival was contemplative and quiet, there is a lot more excitement in BLOOM. The similarities and contrasts seen in this episode of BLOOM is why I’ve opted to feature more screenshots, both to showcase the wood-framed town and to explore my thoughts in more detail.

  • By coincidence, Chino, Sharo and Chiya are all Phantom Thief Lapin. When Rize comments on this and remarks that it would’ve been nice to see Sharo in something else, Sharo blushes up a storm and asks Rize to give being Phantom Thief Lapin a go, too. Cocoa is noticeably absent from the proceedings, and it turns out that despite having lived in this town for more than a year, she’s still prone to getting lost. She finds herself on the promenade overlooking the town and decides to try and work out where everyone is, but immediately loses her focus upon encountering a small child who is lost, too.

  • Despite trying to act the part of a reliable older sister for the small child, Cocoa gets snubbed after all of her magic tricks fail, and the child’s mother appears. While Cocoa might be much older than the children in GochiUsa, it is both adorable and heartbreaking to see that at heart, Cocoa is no different than they are: she bursts into tears afterwards, resembling the child she’d sought to help out. When I think about it, I’m not sure how anime manage to pull things like this off: at the science fairs I adjudicate, folks of high school age act more similarly with my peers at university than they do the kindergarten-aged children I helped to look after at the local Chinese academy years ago. I’ll have to chalk this up to the magic of anime and excellence on the writers’ part.

  • A mysterious lady in white appears to Cocoa shortly after, and despite never speaking, conveys a very warm, reassuring, maternal presence. There’s an air of familiarity about her, and when Cocoa takes a closer look, she spots a rabbit on the lady’s head who doesn’t look too dissimilar to Tippy, although the rabbit’s eyes feel more lady-like. The lady in white demonstrates to Cocoa a range of magic tricks after Cocoa asks this of her, and Cocoa soon catches on despite having trouble what the lady’s hand gestures mean.

  • While Chino and Chiya attempt to contact Cocoa, who appears to have lost cellular reception, Sharo and Rize switch outfits and decide the time has come to go on a manhunt with Cocoa as the prize. In the moment, the girls are feeling particularly Phantom Thief Lapin-like, and decide it’s a competition. This is very much one of Cocoa’s traits, to get caught in a moment and really enjoy things. On her end, that Cocoa’s lost cellular reception hints at the supernatural nature of the lady in white she’s encountered: spirits are said to often disrupt electronic communications and mechanical devices.

  • Because everyone in town is in a costume, visually identifying Cocoa would be a challenge, and so, the girls resort to doing something that would be seen as quite embarrassing; they decide to call out Cocoa by addressing her as big sister. Indeed, Chiya, Rize and Sharo draw a few stares from onlookers, and even Chino helps out, putting her learnings from Sing For You to use. That the girls are using this particular tactic speaks volumes to how much Cocoa’s been a part of their lives – they now know her well enough to exploit Cocoa’s weaknesses to their advantage.

  • Folks familiar with GochiUsa would have immediately identified the lady in white as Saki Kafuu, Chino’s mother. She died some time ago, but in life, was said to be very similar to Cocoa in personality, jumping head-first into things and always finding ways to have fun. One wonders if Chino’s cold reception to Cocoa was a result of spotting this: not wanting to get hurt when Cocoa’s homestay ended, she tried to keep her distance during the earlier seasons, but found herself becoming closer to Cocoa in spite of herself. Saki had a large presence in Sing For You, hinting at the real reason behind why Chino begins her journey so quiet and reserved. By this episode, the reasons begin manifesting in a more visible fashion.

  • To really accentuate the question of whether or not what’s happening is real, Encourage Studio has decided to fade out the borders to the scenes where Saki is counselling Cocoa in magic tricks. This creates a dream-like quality in the moment that creates a sense of ambiguity: are the characters dreaming, or is there really some sort of miracle happening here in the wood-framed town? The manga itself doesn’t utilise equivalent visual cues, making it explicitly clear that Cocoa had run into Saki’s spirit on the promenade and that the latter holds true.

  • Cocoa appears to be a quick study when it comes to magic, and she soon masters the basics. With her job done, Saki’s spirit vanishes into the night. Cocoa is quite unaware that she’d just run into the ghost of Chino’s mother, and concludes that the mysterious lady was simply someone who was uncommonly good with magic. The choice to have Cocoa get lost up here was probably deliberate, creating a disconnect from the warmth and energy of the festivities in the streets below. The distance acts as a visual metaphor for how strong the bonds are between the girls; even from this height, Cocoa hears Chino calling for her, and Saki’s spirit leaves upon hearing Chino’s voice; she feels at ease that things are going well for Chino.

  • Up until now, GochiUsa had always been very subtle about the supernatural elements, implying that they’re present but not an open part of the world. However, with this episode of BLOOM, that line of thinking goes out the window: the episode takes advantage of the atmosphere surrounding Hallow’s Eve to do something different, and makes it clear that there are ghosts in this universe. In the realm of fiction, the supernatural is often used to accelerate a particular idea to demonstrate what can happen if things occur at an unnatural rate, or how even with a bit of intervention, some things were never meant to be. GochiUsa, however, chooses to use the supernatural to help drive fateful meetings and draw parallels for viewers.

  • Chino suddenly feels the inclination to head up to the promenade above town, and finds Cocoa up here. Tippy arrives first, and the differences between Saki’s Tippy and the current Tippy are apparent. Since Saki also kept Tippy on her head, I imagine this is where Chino picked up the habit, as well. The group of friends are reunited shortly after, and Rize, Chiya and Chino fight over who got to Cocoa first. Amidst the return of her friends, Cocoa is left to wonder if she’d really encountered a ghost on Halloween.

  • In reality, Halloween was three weeks ago, and on account of the ongoing global health crisis, I opted to sit the event out this year. Normally, we get a handful of visitors in search of candy, but this year, in the name of precaution, we left our lights off and did not bother carving a Jack-o-lantern. The gap between what’s happening in the real world and something like GochiUsa is very apparent: a pessimist would see it as a reminder of how the things we take for granted can be taken away so swiftly, while an optimist would find the energy in GochiUsa to be a constant reminder that we should always count our blessings and enjoy what we do have.

  • The implication that Tippy makes, when he remarks that he refused to shuffle off this mortal coil, was probably so he could continue to look after Chino even after Saki had passed away. With this in mind, it is likely the case that Chino’s grandfather merged his consciousness with Tippy’s body shortly after her death and would have “died” subsequently. From what we’ve seen of Chino when she was a child, she was vivacious and joyful; after Saki’s death, one can imagine that Chino would’ve become more withdrawn, and as Tippy, Chino’s grandfather would’ve done everything he could to help her.

  • Working at Rabbit House was something that would’ve begun rebuilding confidence in Chino, but the fateful meeting with Cocoa set in motion everything that’s happened since. By this point in time, Saki rests easier knowing that Chino is smiling again, having found new joy in life through her friends and their everyday adventures together. Because of the implications this episode has on the whole of GochiUsa, it becomes evident that GochiUsa is no ordinary slice-of-life series, and instead, found a way to very cleverly discuss topics from Tamayura in a different way.

  • It would appear that during their time together, Saki’s spirit taught Cocoa the very same magic trick that she’d once enjoyed showing to Chino, who was always thrilled to seeing it irrespective of how often it was done. When Cocoa does the same trick for Chino in the present day, Chino is immediately reminded of her mother, and a warmth takes her: while Saki might be gone, she continues to live on in her hearts and the friendship she shares with everyone. That Saki’s spirit chose to show Cocoa this particular trick was her way of reminding Chino that things are going to be okay.

  • At the beginning of the episode, Cocoa puts down a candy wrapped in an identical fashion, foreshadowing the events that would unfold. The writing in BLOOM (and by extension, the manga) has really hit its stride now. I’ve always seen GochiUsa as an iyashikei (癒し系, literally “healing anime”): such series focus on everyday life and prima facie have little aim beyond helping the viewers to relax, but invariably carry a life lesson of sorts. A lot of viewers, and indeed, the very folks who wrote the definitions, seem to forget the latter; it is an appreciation of the everyday things people take for granted that help the characters out in some way, and in GochiUsa, overcoming loss appears to be one of the themes being considered.

  • The reason I chose the quote that I did for this post was because I view life and death in a very traditional Chinese manner on account of my background. Death is a subject I’m not particularly fond of talking about, but if and when I am asked, I cope with death by observing the appropriate traditional rites per my culture, as well as honouring the deceased by conducting myself with integrity and benevolence: I believe that my actions now reflect on those of my ancestors, and by doing good, I am also respecting their contributions and legacy.

  • When Cocoa learns about Chino’s mother, she immediately longs to know more, but Chino declines for now. The two run off to join their friends as the episode draws to a close, and here, I will note that this post is so long because the episode invited discussions about something that GochiUsa does not typically venture into. This seventh episode is easily the strongest episode of BLOOM so far, and is a contender for being the best episode in the whole of GochiUsa: assuming what I’ve postulated in this post to hold true, GochiUsa holds more meaning than themes of friendship alone suggest, and would offer a very cheerful, but gentle reminder to viewers on topics such as death and grief.

When last week’s preview had indicate that the seventh BLOOM episode was going to be Halloween oriented, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the traditional aspects of Halloween were utilised to create a particularly moving, and meaningful story. GochiUsa is normally considered to be an adorable and fluffy series, but evidently, the series itself has matured alongside the characters – as everyone is closer to one another than they’d been previously, BLOOM is really able to begin exploring the more intimate, personal side of things. The end result is that BLOOM has a stronger emotional impact than its predecessors. This is the logical outcome in a slice-of-life series: as the characters become more tightly-knit, and viewers accompany this growth, slice-of-life series can find meaningful ways of exploring on some of the trickier topics in life, giving insight into what the creator makes of said topics. Having laid the foundations for increasingly challenging topics, BLOOM shows that GochiUsa is more than capable of covering topics like accepting loss, as well as finding new joy in the world without forgetting what is important. By capitalising on the fact it’s well established, BLOOM eases its viewers into a world where it seems that healing is very much a part of the story – Tamayura was built upon a similar premise, with Fū Sawatari taking up photography to continue finding the joyful things in the worlds with friends after her father’s passing. Tamayura and GochiUsa are dramatically different in their outward appearances (Tamayura is decidedly more calming, whereas GochiUsa is brimming with energy), but both series possess similarities that suggest that healing comes in many different ways, but regardless of what path one takes, having the right people in one’s corner makes all the difference in the world.

A Fluffle of Rabbits is Also Most Welcome: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“I like the idea of being warm and secure. That’s what home should be. That you have a sense of warmth, security, love, and you love the things around you and surround yourself with beauty.” –Andre Leon Talley

With graduation photos rapidly approaching, Chino, Maya and Megu notice their classmates rocking new hairstyles. While they promise to keep things simple for their own photos, each of Megu, Maya and Chino can’t help but wonder if they should at least spruce up a little, since graduation photos will be a permanent record of things. Megu runs into Chiya, who is cutting Sharo’s hair, and when the two offer to give her a haircut, Chiya’s grandmother steps in and says she’s got a particular cut in mind for Megu. Meanwhile, Maya wonders what she can do, since having short hair limits her options, and wishes she could at least make her hair lie flat. Rize happens to be visiting the same store, and gives her a hairclip. Upon noticing Tippy sporting a rather dashing cut, Chino asks Cocoa to give her a haircut, but inadvertently causes Cocoa to mess up when she remarks that she might consider attending a different high school if Cocoa is always around. In the end, the haircuts still come out well enough, with Chino and Cocoa sporting the same style. Later, Rabbit House hosts an all-you-can-eat Bread Festival. Chino worries that the bread and pasta specials Cocoa and Rize has will overshadow Rabbit House’s coffee, but after Rin orders a special blend upon seeing Sharo’s look of bliss when drinking it, Chino realises that her coffee is doing well enough. Some children also watch Chino make latté art; as Chino becomes more comfortable around others, Cocoa and Rize feel that Chino’s beginning to open up. While cleaning up after the Bread Festival, Tippy points a feral rabbit out to Chino, who is able to pet it without said rabbit running off. At BLOOM‘s halfway point, GochiUsa‘s third season continues to advance personal growth amongst the characters, with this week’s focus being on Chino, whose personality has noticeably changed since earlier seasons as a result of Cocoa’s influence.

The sixth episode to BLOOM is split down the middle into two acts: the first follows Chimame as they prepare for graduation photos. While the three friends are inseparable, BLOOM chooses to have each of Megu, Maya and Chino prepare in their own way. Megu steps out of her comfort zone and decides to ask Chiya for a haircut, but ends up getting a special haircut from Chiya’s grandmother. Maya ends up getting a few pointers from Rize, who uses a hairclip to completely change the air that Maya conveys without a haircut, and in the process, manages to help Rize pick out something, too. Finally, Chino entrusts Cocoa to cut her hair, and despite a small mistake, winds up with something that works. Takahiro compliments Chino and Cocoa’s new haircuts, saying that Cocoa and Chino are beginning to resemble one another, and together with Chino’s attempts to cuddle with the stray rabbits around town earlier in the episode, plus the fact that Chino is beginning to be more receptive to being addressed as an older sister, BLOOM indicates to viewers that for better or worse, Chino is beginning to be more Cocoa-like; specifically, Chino is now more outgoing and expressive than before. While she may still have trouble in being honest with how she feels, the changes in Chino’s character are apparent. Similarly, in doing her utmost to earn Chino’s respect, Cocoa herself has become more reliable and capable than before, even if she is still prone to mistakes whenever worried or distracted. Through BLOOM‘s sixth episode, GochiUsa portrays characters as slowly changing over time, imbibing the traits of those around them while retaining the attributes that make everyone unique to remind viewers that people are impacted by the company they keep, but despite the influences of one’s friends and acquaintances, people will always have their own distinct personalities that make them stand out.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Previous seasons had shown that Chino does not seem to get along with other rabbits, whereas rabbits definitely enjoy Sharo’s presence even if she has mild leporiphobia. To this end, Chino attempts to cuddle rabbits when Sharo’s around, and finds that she’s successful. During the first season, Chino had been content to be with Tippy, but Cocoa’s presence eventually saw Chino develop a desire to see if she could pet the rabbits around town, as well. Right out of the gates, the episode lives up to its name: Chino and Sharo find themselves in a field with lots of bunnies as Chino tries to cuddle them the same way Cocoa does.

  • Whereas my post for Road to Berlin featured thirty screenshots, for this post on BLOOM, I’ve opted to go with the usual twenty. I could go for the extended format, and this sixth episode does offer quite a bit to talk about, but there is also value in keeping things concise for the readers’ sake – I actually have a second post coming out today on Hai-Furi: The Movie, and as such, will need a bit of time to write about that, as well. Besides Hai-Furi: The Movie, I’ll also need to turn my attention towards my MacOS machines. Yesterday evening, I ran the update that brings Big Sur to my iMac, and it seems to be fine after the update. I had noticed a bit of input delay earlier, but this no longer seems to be an issue. With this, it’s time to update my MacBook Pro, as well.

  • It’s been a few years since my last graduation photo – back in secondary school and during my undergrad, graduation photos were a big deal, and all of my classmates were very excited about things, comparing outfits, hair-styles and whatnot. By graduate school, however, my graduation photo was much more muted: during the week after I finished my defense, I visited a special session to get my photos taken, and that was about it. Such moments certainly seemed much more exciting when I was younger, and BLOOM is perhaps a reminder to viewers that things like graduation photos can create memories to be treasured.

  • Whether by chance or design, it seems that each of Maya, Megu and Chino get along with certain of their seniors the most swimmingly: Maya admires Rize and, Megu gets along best with Chiya, and whether or not Chino would care to admit it, the senior she’s come to look to most is Cocoa. With a friendly and warm personality, Megu’s character represents naïveté and innocence. Like Chiya, who has a natural talent for dodging things thrown at her, Megu has an uncommon physical talent – she is resilient to dizziness and acts very graceful as a result of her previous ballet training.

  • After seeing Chiya cutting Sharo’s hair, Megu approaches them and wonders if they’d be willing to cut her hair, as well. Chiya is all too happy to oblige, but remarks that she can only do straight bangs. Sharo can similarly do straight bangs only, and so, while they’re able to do haircuts well enough, straight bangs don’t seem to suit Megu. Fortunately, Chiya’s grandmother has some experience in this arena, remarking that she’d be able to properly get Megu set up with a proper haircut.

  • In anime and manga, ahoge (アホ毛, literally “stupid hair”) is a single tuft of hair that resists being combed down and is typically a visual indicator of someone who is either happy-go-lucky or inept. With her energetic, mischievous personality, Maya is portrayed with one, but for her graduation photo, she wishes that at the very least, she could keep it down: short hair doesn’t offer her many options. Maya runs into Rize at the hair accessories store while considering what she could do, and after Rize attempts to flatten Maya’s ahoge are unsuccessful, she gives Maya a hairclip that works rather well.

  • Rize and Maya subsequently browse through different hairclips, as Rize had been looking to try a new look, as well. Despite her seeming lack of interest in appearances, Maya seems to have a fair eye for things, suggesting that a purple hairclip would suit Rize and accentuate the maturity that she conveys. QR codes, likely leading to the manufacturer’s website in-universe, can be seen on the backs of the clips they try out. Curiosity led me to try and scan them, although they don’t lead anywhere and therefore were likely just added for authenticity. QR codes were originally created in Japan, and their patterns encode a specific string. I think that here in BLOOM, the hairclip packaging uses a 33×33 Version 4 QR code, which can encode up to 50 characters.

  • While preparing to trim her own hair, Chino notices Tippy as being uncommonly dapper, sorting a silky coat that far exceeds its usual fluffiness. Realising that she’s curious to see if Cocoa can trim her hair the same way she’s done for Tippy, she asks Cocoa to cut her hair, as well. Although surprised, Cocoa agrees: one of the lingering things from earlier seasons is that Cocoa has always been presented as being a little clumsy, and as such, even though viewers are aware that Cocoa has been increasingly reliable and mature over the course of GochiUsa, there remains the possibility that something could go wrong (usually in a humourous fashion) where she is involved.

  • This fear soon comes to pass: while Cocoa starts out by playing salon, when it comes down to it, Cocoa is able to do a reasonable enough job of things, at least until Chino asks her to be more serious, lest she decide to change her application for high schools. Cocoa is shocked and cuts off more of Chino’s bangs than she’d expected. On haircuts, in a curious turn of events, I just went last week, myself: the current health situation had made it difficult to get my hair cut, although fortunately, barbers are open now provided that proper precautionary measures are taken. In general, I prefer my hair short, since it tries faster after being washed. With this being said, there is one merit to longer hair during cooler seasons of the year: after a haircut, the briskness of a winter’s day is more noticeable.

  • In the end, after Chino also tries her hand at cutting Cocoa’s hair, she also makes a similar mistake. Both manage to smooth things out and end up sporting a similar appearance. When Takahiro points out how Chino and Cocoa resemble one another as a result of their hair, Chino smiles, realising that perhaps being seen as similar to Cocoa isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Cocoa’s warm personality and ability to get along with most everyone is something she’s come to respect.

  • On the day of graduation photos, Megu, Maya and Chino return to find that they all sport tangibly different hairstyles despite their original promise of keeping things real earlier. This brings a close to the sixth episode’s first act: Chimame‘s experiences in updating their appearance hints at everyone growing older and yearning to try for a different style, hinting at the fact that the girls are going to graduate from middle school and begin high school soon. The milestone corresponds with a desire to look more mature, but at the same time, exploring this in the present creates one more treasured memory that each of Maya, Megu and Chino have with their friends.

  • The second half of the episode has Rabbit House preparing for an all-you-can-eat Bread Festival. As Cocoa, Rize and Chino go around town, handing out fliers to advertise for their event, they run into Sharo, Aoyama (who’s up to her usual lecherous ways) and even Rin. Rin initially only plans to attend the event if it works for her schedule, but upon hearing that Aoyama is definitely attending, Rin changes her mind immediately. Curiously enough, all-you-can-eat bread (パン食べ放題, Pan Tabehoudai) does appear to be a real thing: some restaurants in Tokyo offer bread buffets of sorts, featuring a range of different kinds of bread. A cursory search returns restaurants such as Buzz Garden, Barbara Marketplace 325 and Shimbashi Bakery have bread buffets, allowing one to experience Rabbit House’s Bread Festival for themselves if they felt so inclined.

  • While Rize and Cocoa have no trouble promoting the respective pasta and bread portion of the Bread Festival, Chino finds herself cut off whenever she makes to add mention of a special coffee blend. She is found sulking in a grass field nearby, and complains that Rabbit House is as much about coffee as it is about everything else. Chiya happens to be in the neighbourhood, and swaps out Wild Geese for Anko, upon which Chino immediately becomes gloomy. It turns out to have been an elaborate prank, which feels a little unexpected coming from Chino; such an act is more befitting of Cocoa.

  • With Rize openly stating that Chino’s become more Cocoa-like, and Sharo wondering if this means more work on their hands, BLOOM firmly establishes just how much of an influence Cocoa has had on Chino. Between their similar haircuts and characters openly noticing this, coupled with hints shown here and there about Chino beginning to understand why Cocoa insists on being referred to as “older sister”, BLOOM suggests that despite her usual quiet and stoic personality, she also wants to be seen as someone who is easy to get along with and reliable. As such, despite seeing herself as being different than Cocoa for most of GochiUsa, Chino begins to realise she and Cocoa are actually not so different.

  • On the day of the Bread Festival, Cocoa initially worries that no one will show up, and that her bread baking skills are inferior to Mocha’s. However, as the customers begin appearing, and Rabbit House livens up, it’s all hands on deck as the girls work hard to serve their customers and friends. Upon taking a special blend that Chino’s made for this event, Sharo is sent into coffee heaven, experiencing a gentle bliss quite unlike anything she’d had before. Sharo’s response to coffees varies depending on the blend: some coffees make her sad, others send her into over drive, and here, Chino’s coffee instills tranquility, sending Sharo into a blissful state.

  • The effects are such that Rin, who normally isn’t a fan of coffee, orders a cup, and upon trying it, compliments the balanced flavours. Coffee can be a bit strong depending on the brew, and having found a blend that works for people who aren’t large coffee drinkers, Chino is happy to consider adding this particular blend to the menu. Rin remarks that such a blend would certainly see her return to Rabbit House. Upon hearing this, the life fades from Aoyama’s eyes as she realises that her blissful days of evading Rin are potentially over.

  • In an episode where every moment is adorable and cuddly, the scene where Chino demonstrates making latté art for children was probably the warmest scene. After a small child notices Rin and expresses a wish to try the coffee, Chino recommends a hot cocoa instead. Having children be increasingly present in GochiUsa helps to put things in perspective: for most episodes, Chimame are the youngest of the characters, so to see even smaller children (and how Chino is becoming more comfortable in their presence) around gives the youngest main characters a chance to show off how much they’ve grown, as well.

  • The Bread Festival was a great success, and during its run, viewers do see that Rabbit House is at capacity, creating a much livelier atmosphere that reminds viewers that despite the frequent jokes about the fact that Takahiro’s bar surpasses the coffeehouse in terms of business, Rabbit House still has a loyal following and enough business to keep it going. Cocoa and Rize both notice Chino’s become more confident and address her as big sister, to her embarrassment. Granted, Chino has come a long way from the first episodes of GochiUsa, during which she had been very shy and quiet, but she’s still finding it difficult to be truthful about how she feels on occasion.

  • Stepping outside to give herself some quiet from Rize and Cocoa, Tippy mentions that Chino has changed, and brings her attention to a rabbit that’s appeared behind her, and she is able to pet the rabbit without it running away. This simple act succinctly summarises what the episode had intended to accomplish: Chino is very different now than she had been when GochiUsa began, and as such, she graduates from middle school and spends less time with Maya and Megu, viewers can be confident that Chino is on a better footing and able to begin her journey of befriending new people.

  • I’ll conclude this post with Chino smiling; originally, such moments were rare, but I imagine that they will be more common as BLOOM enters its second half. This brings my reflections of BLOOM at its halfway point to a close. It goes without saying that I am very much enjoying this series, which offers much more to viewers than just fluffy and adorable moments. With this week’s post done, it’s time to switch gears and turn my attention to writing about Hai-Furi: The Movie. I should have the post done by this evening for readers to check out.

Autumn is now in full swing in BLOOM, and following a Bread Festival intended to warm everyone up, it is clear that winter is fast approaching for Chino and the others. While thoughts of graduation in spring, and new beginnings are never too far from the characters’ minds, the time between the present and this milestone is still a ways off: because GochiUsa has always been about appreciating the moment, I imagine that with the remaining half to the series, BLOOM will strike a balance between making the most of the present (through the adorable, fluffy moments the series is known for) and subtly making mention of the future as the characters begin preparing for the next steps in their lives. Amidst all this, however, there is never a sense of melancholy or longing for days past. Chino and the others are equally as excited about the future as they are happy in the present, and BLOOM excels in conveying that this balance results in being able to create treasured memories with the now, as well as being prepared for tomorrow. As it stands, BLOOM has been the strongest, thematically, of all the GochiUsa seasons insofar, warming the hearts and mind of viewers each and every week it’s been airing. While Mocha’s absence is noticeable, the fact that BLOOM is able to keep its momentum going and sustain such an engaging story even without Mocha, serves to show that GochiUsa is not a series where any one character carries the show, but rather, it is the sum of the characters’ interactions and adventures that keep things fresh every week. Entering the second half of BLOOM, it should be no surprise that viewers will be in for a treat, and furthermore, it should be no surprise that BLOOM will continue to be surprising for all of the right reasons.

She is a Fierce Whirlwind, She is a Carefree Breeze: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Fifth Episode Impressions and Review

“Don’t say it! Don’t you say it!”
“On your left.”
“COME ON!”
– Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

With the school marathon fast approaching, Chiya turns to Rize to help her train for it. The two begin waking up early each morning on an invigorating run through the streets of the wood-framed town, and over time, Chiya begins to improve her stamina. Conversely, while Cocoa wants to train, her inability to get up in the mornings means on the day of the marathon, it’s Chiya who ends up helping Cocoa out. The two manage to finish the marathon, to their friends’ happiness. On a quiet day after the marathon, Cocoa and Chiya run into Aoyama, who has a rare day off. Aoyama wishes to relive a more carefree time and asks the two to join her for a game of hide-and-seek around town. Meanwhile, Aoyama’s editor, Rin, has a similar idea – while searching for Aoyama at Rabbit House, she enlists Chino and Rize to help out. Despite her best efforts, Rin, Chino and Rize always seem to be a step behind Aoyama, Chiya and Cocoa. While Cocoa is ultimately captured, Chiya and Aoyama enter the town fair, where they see Sharo performing as Phantom Thief Lapin and go for a ride on the Merry-go-round. While Aoyama reminisces, she hears Chino’s grandfather speaking through her. Rin reveals that even on a day off, she’s always chasing after Aoyama, but is happy to have finally found her. It seemed quite the challenge for BLOOM to top the energy of the previous episode, but this week’s episode indicates that BLOOM is more than capable of consistently providing new scenarios for viewers to enjoy: until now, Chiya and Rize have rarely spent time alone together, and similarly, Rin’s beginning to get more screen time, joining the regular cast for a romp across town in an unexpected, but meaningful journey.

If BLOOM is about looking to the future, this week’s episode is about living in the moment and appreciating the carefree days associated with youth. As an adult, Aoyama seems to struggle with her responsibilities as an author, and it’s up to Rin to keep her in check – Rin had been previously shown to be capable of going to extraordinary lengths to ensure Aoyama makes her deadlines, and this hide-and-seek dynamic, which Aoyama expresses as something she’d like to relive, is actually an integral part of her everyday life. This suggests that, perhaps despite accruing more responsibilities as an adult, being older does not necessarily mean that one surrenders all of their freedom and carefree days: on her day off, Rin remarks that chasing after Aoyama in a game of hide-and-seek is no different than pursuing her on a workday to ensure the latter gets to work. Despite the similarities to her workdays, Rin was glad to have spent a day wandering, and this suggests that, her attitudes towards Aoyama concerning deadlines notwithstanding, pursuing Aoyama is something that she does enjoy doing, as well. For Cocoa and the others, then, the adventure they share together is a reminder of the fact that their time together is exceedingly precious, but graduation and the world beyond this milestone does not mark an end to their friendship (and the joys that such moments bring): milestones can therefore be seen as a new beginning, rather than a definitive ending.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • To celebrate Chino’s decision, the girls take coffee together in a scene reminiscent of the Sachiko Ever After charm, although in something like GochiUsa, it should be apparent that terrifying mirror dimensions and ghosts are not part of this world, and as such, there is no risk of anything unusual happening. While Chino’s not formally filled out the paperwork at this point, her attending Cocoa and Chiya’s high school is more or less set in stone now. Aoyama suddenly appears out of the blue, intent on skiving work.

  • Unsurprisingly, Rin is hot on Aoyama’s tail. Since Aoyama’s been making more frequent appearances, and Rin’s begun to show up accordingly, Chiya wonders if this means Ama Usa An can see her patronage, as well. Unfortunately for Rin, the time it takes Chiya to hand her a business card for Ama Usa An provides Aoyama with all of the time she needs to beat a hasty escape.

  • While out on a morning run one day, Rize encounters Chiya, who’s trying to bolster her fitness levels ahead of a school marathon. Rize herself had been intent on losing a few pounds after eating a few too many sweets, and is surprised to see Chiya out and about. Previous seasons had established that Chiya’s fitness isn’t particularly good, and while Rize agrees to run with her, she’s shocked that Chiya’s completely gassed after running a few blocks. However, over time, Chiya does begin to improve, and the results of her hard work begin yielding results.

  • I imagine that shiritori (しりとり, literally “taking up the rear”) is a familiar enough word game for folks who watch enough anime: the rules are simple enough and require that one form a word in keeping with a theme, using the kana from the previous world. It’s a loss if one ends their word in ん or fails to come up with a new word. Since Rize is running to keep her mind off sweets, the theme for this round is sweets, and Chiya’s answers end up being complex names she intends to use for Ama Usa An, which only serves to deplete her energy faster.

  • To help motivate Chiya, Rize uses a stamp board that indicates how many runs she’s been on, and Chiya wonders if she could do something similar for Ama Usa An customers. She proposes an all-you-can-eat special for anyone who’s made a certain number of purchases. I note that rewarding customer loyalty is a nice way to bring people back, although to keep things profitable, Chiya could offer something a little less extravagant (like a complimentary slice of chestnut yōkan or a medium green tea). The use of a stamp board reiterates the idea that Rize’s very much become like a teacher, figuring out the sorts of things to motivate those around her, and praising those who make progress where it is earned. Coupled with her previous ability to keep Chimame-tai busy and productive during Dear My Sister, and her success in training Chino for a choral performance in Sing For YouBLOOM begins to hint at the career path that Rize intends to pursue after graduating from high school.

  • Besides improving their fitness, Rize and Chiya are rewarded with a beautiful sunrise at daybreak. Sunrises in Colmar during early October is around 0650-0710 local time, so I imagine that for Chiya, she’s been getting up at around 0600 every morning to train with Rize. On the other hand, Cocoa’s slept through every session, and even when she promises to train with Sharo, she ends up sleeping through that, as well. Whether or not one can wake up in the morning is a combination of physiology and lifestyle habits: everyone’s body chemistry and genetic makeup is different, explaining why morning birds and night owls have different preferences, although with sufficient discipline, one can render themselves alert and awake if they need to. Cocoa lacks this discipline, and on the day of the marathon, pays for it.

  • It turns out that with Rize’s training, Chiya is just barely able to make it. In order to keep up, Cocoa clings to Chiya’s twintails. It is not lost on me that despite being high school students, Cocoa and Chiya resemble elementary students in manner – this contributes to GochiUsa‘s charm, and I’ve found that slife-of-life anime in general seem to have an uncommon ability to evoke feelings of warmth and cuddliness that wouldn’t work anywhere else. Such anime are well-suited for days like today, when the autumn’s begun to set in, leaving a brisk wind and grey skies in its wake.

  • In my days as a student, while I never was counted as athletic and never joined any sports teams, I managed to hold my own to a reasonable extent. It was not until university, when I had access to the campus weight room and running tracks, that I began to do more, and even since graduation, I’ve continued my routines. This year, with the global health crisis, I’ve been unable to maintain this, and while I’ve been exercising in an alternate fashion, I intend to return to the gym as soon as this situation’s been addressed. Of course, I understand that, having not done a proper bench press for over a half year, I am going to have to go back to the basics again when I do return.

  • While taking it easy, Cocoa and Chiya run into Aoyama, who mentions that she’s got a day off from her writing and yearns to experience something from her youth: hide-and-seek. The ability for anime like GochiUsa to remind viewers of their halcyon days is one of the reasons why the genre is so popular – it evokes fond memories of a time when one did not have the same responsibilities as they currently do. In my time as a high school student (and even as a university student), my focus had been purely on my studies, whereas today, things like taxes, work and other personal things come to the forefront. With this being said, I do have more freedoms accompanying the responsibilities, and so, I have no particular wish to return to an older time.

  • Life is constantly about adapting and making trade-offs, so even for folks who may express as desire to return to simpler times, I imagine that, like Aoyama, a short experience is what they seek. As Aoyama, Cocoa and Chiya set off to evade, Rin visits Rabbit House, hoping to find Aoyama there. Since Rin intends to find Aoyama as the seeker, Rize decides it’s time to participate and help out, as well: always game for things resembling field work, Rize’s enthusiasm for things makes her my favourite character in GochiUsa. It looks like a dog-tag is a part of her casual wear: these are issued in the military for the purposes of identification, and while Rize is seen wearing one, soldiers are given two (the soldier wears both, and in the event of death in the line of duty, one tag is left with the soldier, while the other is collected).

  • I’ve deliberately chosen the page quote from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, because it is unexpectedly relevant to this episode of BLOOM: besides dealing with running, the episode also has Aoyama, Chiya and Cocoa continuing to elude Rin, Rize and Chino. Chino is the first to notice the others and always remarks their targets are behind them (in The Winter Soldier, Steve always comes up on Samuel’s left side before overtaking him, and after a few passes too many, Samuel shouts out in frustration). Here, Aoyama, Cocoa and Chiya can be seen on the streets behind Rin, Rize and Chino.

  • After spotting Aoyama, Cocoa and Chiya in the canals below, Tippy falls off Chino into the canal, but is spared a soaking when Cocoa catches him. Chino’s look of shock is hilarious – her expression stands in stark contrast with her usual, quiet self, and brings back memories of a similar moment in the second season, where Tippy had fallen out of a boat and began floating on a pond during a race with Cocoa and the others. I note that technically, since Tippy is on the “seek” team, the moment Cocoa picks him up, Chino and the others should’ve won their match of hide-and-seek. However, to bring the journey to an end here would leave the episode short of a content, and the show must go on.

  • Rin is frustrated that even on a day off, she’s done nothing but pursue Aoyama unsuccessfully: Aoyama’s somehow managed to be so far ahead of Rin, Rize and Chino that they’ve been able to stop at a café, sit in the park for a bit and even go for a boat ride, all without being caught. Today’s post comes out a bit later: while the end of Daylight Savings last week means that episodes now release at 0630 PST, an hour earlier for me, this week, I had a scheduled flu shot appointment that took a small chunk of the morning. That’s done now, and it is reassuring to know that I am at least immunised for the annual flu.

  • The canal in Colmar is known as the Lauch, a stream that cuts through town, creating a district locals call Little Venice. At a length of about a kilometre, the Lauch passes through several highlights of Colmar, including Quai de la Poissonnerie, the Covered Market, the Krutenau district, Pont Saint-Pierre, Place des Six Montagnes Noires and a few others. Boat tours are available and go for seven Euros per person, lasting about half an hour. From what is seen, it looks like Aoyama, Chiya and Cocoa have had a very relaxing day off, and their hide-and-seek adventure is rather more laid-back than a conventional one, befitting of the cathartic atmosphere in BLOOM.

  • Having spent more than a year with Cocoa, Chino knows precisely how to draw Cocoa out for hide-and-seek. Despite knowing it’s a trap, Cocoa decides to go for it anyways, never passing up a chance to hug Chino. Cocoa thus becomes one of the seekers, with Chiya and Aoyama heading off in order to continue eluding the seekers. Evening sets in soon after, with Chiya and Aoyama still going strong.

  • While Chiya’s become more confident in her fitness, it seems that her knowledge of the area is insufficient: she soon encounters a wall she cannot scale, and concedes defeat. The group of friends then head back into town, where a carnival event is occurring. Such street carnivals convey a sense of wonder, offering a place to get lost in and explore – as the final stop for the episode, it is a well-chosen venue, creating a magical environment where time itself seems to stand still.

  • As a part of her work for Fleur de Lapin, Sharo’s putting on a performance as Phantom Thief Lapin, and it’s clear she’s really grown into her role: Rin is spellbound, feeling that she’s seeing the real Phantom Thief Lapin in person. Wanting a photograph, Rin moves closer to the stage and finds herself face to face with Aoyama, whose old habits have come out in force. Aoyama’s perversions are a bit strange in a series that is otherwise harmless and fluffy – while it’s never too obtrusive, and I am aware it is deliberately done to evoke a few laughs, it is inconsistent with the happy, cathartic tones in GochiUsa. As soon as Aoyama and Rin runs off, Sharo disappears into the night, as well.

  • Under darkening skies, the group finds a merry-go-round at the heart of the fair and decide to ride it after seeing Aoyama’s already riding it. Cocoa’s never seen one before, perhaps suggesting that life in her old town, while peaceful, might not have had the same festive atmosphere: it seems that every other week, something exciting is going on here. Towards the end of the episode, the anime takes on a bokeh aesthetic: focus is shifted to the characters, who feel as though they are floating in time and space as they share a treasured moment with one another. Bokeh is derived from the Japanese boke (暈け, “blurry”), which describes something that’s out of focus, and it’s a suitable style for this moment: as the girls ride the merry-go-round, the world feels timeless as they spend time with the people most important to them.

  • To this end, the background is deliberately shifted out of focus, and emphasis is placed on the characters. The ability to use a variety of visual effects in an anime allows adaptations to capture emotions and metaphors in an elegant fashion, creating an emotional impact that differs from those of the manga. It creates a magical moment that accentuates the fact that BLOOM is very much focused on its themes, and in this episode, it’s about cherishing what one has. While the messages in something like BLOOM are out in the open and very straightforwards to discern, this is one of GochiUsa‘s great strengths – things are very straightforwards and concise, leaving nothing ambiguous.

  • Rin catches up to Aoyama and smiles as the episode draws to a close – while Rin may be rather fiery and utterly devoted to her duties, at heart, the admiration and respect for Aoyama that she had since her high school days has evidently endured, and she is so adamant about keeping Aoyama in check precisely because she cares for her. With this episode in the books, we are nearing the halfway point for BLOOM, and it goes without saying that I am very excited to see where this third season is going with its remaining episodes. I’ll wrap things up here, and then turn my attention to Christmas shopping; I know it’s a bit early, but with current circumstances, having a bit of a buffer will make things simpler as the winter holidays approach.

GochiUsa BLOOM accentuates something that became apparent in GochiUsa‘s second season: there really is no shortage of adventures that can be had amongst this group of closely-knit friends, and with Rin looking like she’s becoming a regular character in BLOOM, the possibilities of where things could go increases. Slice-of-life series are able to hold viewer engagement because of this possibility: life is immutable and ever-changing, and a bit of mathematics can demonstrate why anime like GochiUsa are so successful despite depicting events one might consider unremarkable. Using combinations, Σ(r, i=1) C(n, r), we can quickly determine that for n = 10 (i.e. ten central characters) and 1 ≤ r ≤ 10 (for the size of the groups the characters can be in, with a minimum size of 1 and a maximum size of 10), then the sum of the combinations for each of the different groups is 1023. That is to say, there are 1023 different combinations of characters that can be grouped together for different episodes. Consequently, it should not be terribly surprising that BLOOM can continue to explore new directions without becoming stale. When a series is properly done, with the right character combinations and their interactions, the number of adventures they can go on are practically limitless: the fifth episode of BLOOM indicates that, besides having a cast large enough to accommodate all sorts of adventures, the wood-framed town itself is full of surprises, perfect for creating life-long memories of time spent together with the people close to oneself.

A Potential Everyday Life: Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? BLOOM Fourth Episode Impressions and Review

“Here’s the beautiful lady with the beer.” –Ernest Hemingway

It turns out that Cocoa and Chiya had visited Rize and Sharo’s school for additional materials after learning that the other classes had secured ingredients from the more well-known farms and supplies in the area, so to make their exhibit more standout, the Student Council President wondered if it’d be possible to obtain some decor from the school Rize and Sharo attend. Upon returning to school, Cocoa and Chiya help their classmates to make the culture festival a success. The two later invite Rize, Sharo and Chino to attend. On the day of the culture festival, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Maya and Megu are greeted by a colourful display of activities. They soon find Cocoa, who is wearing a Tippy-shaped mask. As it turns out, Cocoa and Chiya’s class are doing a Beer Hall, Oktoberfest-style, and they welcome their visitors. Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are surprised at how ordinary-seeming Rize and Sharo are. When Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates learn that they have a scheduling conflict, Rize and Sharo step in to help. Maya, Megu and Chino decide to help advertise the Beer Hall, as well. With the shortfall in staff covered, Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates invite Sharo and Rize to try on their high school’s uniforms and go exploring. Noticing how well Rize and Sharo fit in with Cocoa and Chiya, Chino asks a member of the photography club to take a picture of the four of them together and gifts it to them at the culture festival’s end. She announces to Maya and Megu that she’s decided on attending Cocoa and Chiya’s high school. With its focus on Oktoberfest, the fourth BLOOM episode is a spectacular way of bringing the first third of the series, and October, to a close.

While this fourth episode might’ve featured Oktoberfest prominently, it remains subtly tied to themes surrounding the future and specifically, the lingering question of which high school Chino plans to apply for. Consequently, the episode excels in showcasing high school life from a completely different perspective – unlike Sharo and Rize’s school, which has a very formal and structured atmosphere, Cocoa and Chiya’s school feels more easygoing and spirited. Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are capable individuals, but are more laid-back than their counterparts at Rize and Sharo’s school. This creates a noticeably different atmosphere that each of Chino, Rize, Sharo, Maya and Megu notice. The culture festival thus serves two purposes: it is a chance for Cocoa and Chiya’s school to really show its best side for Chino, and offer viewers a juxtaposition between the previous episode. For Chino, then, the decision becomes an easy one: seeing how inviting and warm the students at Cocoa and Chiya’s school are seals the deal for her. Recalling how Chino had resolved to become more comfortable around new people and appreciates how Cocoa’s entry into her life has resulted in many, positive changes, Chino realises that she cannot be around Maya and Megu forever, and so, sets herself on a path that will allow her to pursue a future that is best suite for her. At the end of the episode, Chino’s made a concrete decision, and this means for the remainder of BLOOM, with graduation being the next major milestone, I imagine that thoughts of the future will probably be shifted to the side as the girls aim to make the most of the moment.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Last week, I did promise that I’d showcase Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates in more detail: from left to right, excluding Cocoa and Chiya, we have Rei (Masumi Tazawa), Nacchan (Yuka Nukui), Anzu (Yūki Kuwahara), Kano (Tomomi Tazawa) and the Student Council President (Yōko Hisaka). In their introduction last week, Rei and Kano seemed to doubt Cocoa and Chiya’s ability to get things done, but at this point in the preparations, it is clear to everyone that Chiya is capable, to the point where she’s forgetting about delegation and attempting to do too much on her own. The others begin stepping up, and after some classmates appear with the news of supplies being tricky, the Student Council President suggests upping their décor.

  • So it turns out that the Student Council President had applied to Sharo and Rize’s school, but likely didn’t make the entrance requirements. Given her disposition and and responsibilities as the Student Council President, this does make sense: she comes across as someone who would’ve been pursuing their academic tracks there. To prevent anything from happening resulting of this rejection, which she is still bitter about, Cocoa and Chiya are sent instead, and they promise to find what they seek, to general cheers from their classmates.

  • By backtracking a little, BLOOM fills in the small details of how things came to be, and does so in a very elegant, seamless manner. The canal cutting through town can be seen here, and I think that in future posts, I will make it a point to showcase different parts of the wood-framed town; even familiar locations always look fresh and new. One touch I’m fond of are the reflections and lighting details in the water. Water visuals vary greatly in anime, and just like with video games, I enjoy looking at how different series handle water – Studio Ghibli, P.A. Works, Makoto Shinkai and Kyoto Animation typically have the best water effects in the industry for anime, while in the realm of games, I would say that the Frostbite Engine and Cry Engine have the nicest looking water around, although the Snowdrop Engine and Unreal Engines are no slouches, either.

  • Cocoa and Chiya explain to Chino that the students of Rize and Sharo’s school were happy to lend out their stuff provided that they could be bested in competition, so the fact that they were able to secure the materials suggest that together, Cocoa and Chiya have a myriad of various skills that, while seemingly useless or irrelevant in most cases, do come in handy from time to time.

  • Upon returning to school, Cocoa and Chiya begin working to utilise their materials. I had originally anticipated that a bit more time might be spent on the build-up to the culture festival, but once they mentioned that it was crunch time, it became clear that BLOOM was going to use the culture festival as a part of Chino’s journey to see the difference between her two options. From a thematic perspective, this makes sense, since BLOOM has begun to explore what happens as Chino approaches the end of her time as a middle school student.

  • While Chiya’s definitely shown her classmates as being someone reliable, it appears that Cocoa is still widely regarded as being the “little sister” of the class – although somewhat air-headed and giving the sense of needing supervision, Cocoa brings plenty of positive energy with her wherever she goes. I imagine that coupled with her experience at Rabbit House, Cocoa has also been a great help to her classmates, although she’ll be remembered for being a warm and fuzzy presence, first and foremost.

  • Seeing preparations for a culture festival brings back memories of K-On!, where Yui and the others had stayed overnight in order to prepare for their performance – because Mio and Ritsu had spent so much time gearing up for their class play, the band had limited opportunity to practise together, and burning the midnight oil became required to ensure that their live performance was of a solid quality. It was a moving moment that also acted as a milestone of sorts: this concert was probably their biggest in the series, being their final performance to their classmates.

  • On the eve of the culture festival, Rize and Sharo are noticeably downtrodden, feeling like they’re missing out on something fun. For the briefest of moments, it would appear both wish to have been classmates with Cocoa and Chiya. Aoyama all but confirms this when Chino asks her, but this won’t remain a problem – Chiya and Cocoa have invitations for everyone to come and check out the culture festival, brightening up everyone’s day considerably. Rize and Sharo do their best to conceal their happiness at being invited, although they barely succeed.

  • On the day of the festival, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Megu and Maya find themselves treated to a spectacular sight. I believe this is the first time any of them have visited Cocoa and Chiya’s school in the series: GochiUsa is unique amongst slice-of-life anime for not prominently featuring the characters’ high school as a setting, and so, aside from the exterior, a few hallways and classrooms, the interior of Cocoa and Chiya’s school is not really emphasised. Ordinarily, Cocoa and Chiya’s school would be quite unremarkable, but during the culture festival, it is brimming with life and excitement. I imagine that everyday life at Cocoa and Chiya’s school would be a ways quieter, but enjoyable in its own right.

  • Ever-energetic, Maya and Megu rush off into the school grounds and explore. For the two, their decision to attend Sharo and Rize’s school is set in stone, so they’re here primarily to have fun and explore the different classes’ exhibits. Sharo and Rize also decide to partake: showing that she’s matured, Sharo takes the initiative and asks Rize if they’d like to get started. While still occasionally being prone to being flustered by Rize, Sharo’s gradually improved in keeping her cool when around Rize and is able to hold a conversation with her without any trouble.

  • I don’t believe we’ve ever seen the school grounds this lively before – while BLOOM may be the third season of GochiUsa, the series continues to find new ways of showing familiar locations in a different light. A short ways into the front grounds, Chino, Maya and Megu immediately grab some “beers” (actually freshly-made apple juice with a bit of foam, sourced from the best local apples) from a vendor before running into Cocoa, who is rocking a rather unusual-looking Tippy mask. It turns out that, of all the supplies they’d collected from Rize and Sharo’s school, they ended up making use of the German Club’s dirndls.

  • Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates are relieved to see that Rize and Sharo are ordinary folks: following Cocoa and Chiya’s description of the two, an exaggerated image was painted into their minds’ eyes of what Rize and Sharo were like. I am guilty of this: usually, I am always surprised to meet people or see something for myself after hearing about them or reading about it. After their introduction, Kano challenges Rize to an arm-wrestling match and is defeated. While Kano is in good shape on account of her being the daughter of a carpenter, Rize just happens to be in great shape. It creates a bit of humour and also shows that at Chiya and Cocoa’s school, there are all sorts of folks.

  • Dirndls are a traditional German dress with origins in the nation’s Alps regions and became a folk costume in the 19th century. The name stems from Dirndlkleid (literally “dress for young women”), and designs vary greatly: more traditional designs are simpler in their design, while fancier, more intricate designs are usually found in dirndls worn during festivities like Oktoberfest. There is a longstanding urban myth about whether the knot being worn on the left or right side can indicate marital status, and since BLOOM omits this detail, it stands to reason that this is something that, in GochiUsa, is not up for discussion – the girls are seen wearing their knots behind their backs.

  • I would hazard a guess that, given Oktoberfest runs from mid-September to the first Sunday of October, it is now either late September or early October in BLOOM. This folk festival is focused on the enjoyment of beer in a carnival-like environment and has been held in Munich since 1810. Märzenbier (“March Beer”, which has varying hues and strengths) is the usual beer consumed during Oktoberfest events elsewhere, although curiously enough, Munich’s Oktoberfest does not serve Märzenbier; it was phased out in 1953 by Festbier, a strong, golden-coloured Helles beer likely chosen for consistency while maintaining tradition. While I’m no beer drinker (a single pint will knock me out for an hour), I would very much love to visit an Oktoberfest in Munich for myself in the future, and Bavaria is high on my list of the places I’d to check out for its beautiful mountain scenery.

  • Once Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates leave to attend to their club activities, Rize, Sharo, Maya, Megu, Aoyama and Rin feel duty-bound to step in and to help out (Aoyama and Rin had been present because the atmosphere has greatly enhanced the former’s ability to write, and Rin’s hoping she can meet her deadline). With their efforts, the beer hall continues to run smoothly: Chino, in particular, is enjoying her role as the mascot and is really able to draw in visitors, impressing Maya and Megu. Chino also uses this time to advertise for Rabbit House. While Chino of GochiUsa‘s first season would not have been able to pull this off even with the Tippy mask on, after spending a shade more than a year with Cocoa, she’s become more confident and outgoing. Similarly, it seems that Rize’s mannerisms have been imparted in a variety of characters, who view her as a natural leader of sorts: even though it’s her first time meeting Cocoa and Chiya’s classmates, they salute her when she gives them advice on remaining on alert.

  • Much as how last episode, Cocoa and Chiya donned the uniforms of Sharo and Rize’s school, this episode, Rize and Sharo are given a chance to wear Cocoa and Chiya’s uniforms. The group of friends immediately set off enjoying themselves as fully as possible, seeing a stage play on Phantom Thief Lapin, enjoying a performance from the light music club (while there are no parallels, the guitarist reminds me of K-On!‘s Azusa) and eating their way through the different foods the culture festival has to offer, including dango and fresh ice-cream (the latter of which is very creamy and refreshing when made correctly).

  • The prim-and-proper aesthetic of Sharo and Rize’s school stands in sharp contrast with the energy-filled, exciting atmosphere at Cocoa and Chiya’s school. However, much as how Cocoa and Chiya were able to adapt the aristocratic tendencies of the former, Rize and Sharo fit right in with the students of the latter. It is here that Rize asks Sharo to regard her more casually, since they’re close in age. That everyone is able to get along so naturally suggests that irrespective of the school’s expectations and style, at the end of the day, the students still share more in common with one another than they are different. Chino, rocking a high degree of confidence since the day started, asks one of the girls to take a photo of Cocoa, Chiya, Rize and Sharo wearing the same uniforms to remember this day.

  • Having seen that Cocoa and Chiya’s school is not too shabby, her mind is now decided on where to attend. This decision spans two episode and gave viewers a chance to see both schools (and correspondingly, what Chino stands to gain from attending each). In the end, her choice is a logical one: ever since she met Cocoa, Chino’s long been envious of Cocoa’s natural ability to get along with others, and believes that the best way to improve her people skills would simply be to put herself in scenarios where there’s new people. Whereas following Maya and Megu to Sharo and Rize’s school would likely cause Chino to cling to them, going to Cocoa and Chiya’s school would motivate her to explore new friendships.

  • Chino gives Chiya, Sharo, Rize and Cocoa a photograph of everyone together in the same uniform – for folks unfamiliar with the context, they would only see an image of four friends having a blast together. GochiUsa differs from most slice-of-life series in that the protagonists do not all attend the same school, but because of their connection to a café, all come together: it is not the school that determines one’s personality, and in this way, GochiUsa indicates that there’s more connecting people and driving friendships beyond merely being in the same school or club. It’s a very touching thought that shows how GochiUsa does things differently, setting it apart from other series of the same genre and contributing to its successes.

  • Since Chino is rocking the same uniform as Cocoa and Chiya, I imagine she had no trouble with admissions – all that’s left now is choosing a cardigan colour. When Cocoa sees her, she hugs her tightly, bringing the episode to a close that’s sure to leave a smile lingering a ways after things are done for the week. I note that today is Halloween, and with circumstances this year, as a safety precaution, I’ve opted to sit out the handing of candy to trick-or-treaters. With this being said, I will still partake in my annual custom of enjoying a Kit-Kat (the best Halloween candy of all time, in my humble opinion) and go for a marathon of my two favourite Halloween specials of all time: Garfield’s Halloween Adventure and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. There’s also supposed to be a blue moon tonight, so that’ll be worth checking out.

Besides advancing the story in a meaningful manner, BLOOM also demonstrates that Encourage is doing a superb job with its artwork and animation. The culture festival at Cocoa and Chiya’s school is very lively, and care was taken to ensure each scene captured this energy: the school grounds, hallways and classrooms are all filled with people, both students and visitors alike. While most anime typically resorted to slights-of-hand to handle large crowds (such as rendering simplified, paper-like figures), BLOOM has elected to render all characters in full, which serves to further enhance the immersion and really create the sense that GochiUsa is set in a living, breathing world. Upon seeing the excitement and energy at the culture festival, both from Cocoa and Chiya’s class, as well as all of the other presentations from the other classes and clubs, BLOOM has fully captured the aesthetic and atmosphere at Cocoa and Chiya’s school – the viewers also get to see what captivates Chino and ultimately leads to her decision. I believe at this time five years ago, when Cocoa, Chiya, Rize, Sharo, Chino, Maya and Megu shared high tea together, they were celebrating entering a new semester; the march of time is relentless, and as the group of friends head towards graduation, I am going to be interested in seeing how they spend their time together before taking off to pursue their futures.