“Dominic did not need to be reminded, terrorists did not often make it fifty-eight years on this earth by being oblivious to men following them. El Daboussi knew every countersurveillance trick in the book, he knew these streets like the back of his hand, and he had friends here in the government and the police and the intelligence agencies. A hard target, indeed.” — Exerpt from Tom Clancy’s Locked On
With a new academic term arriving, Chiya reveals to Sharo that she and Cocoa were involved in a dispute, since Cocoa seemingly is unaware of the fact that moving up a year entails a possibility of being separated in their classes. Sharo subsequently visits Rize and Chino for advice, and accompanies the two on a shopping trip to a local stationary shop, where they pick up matching pens. Encountering Chiya later, they accompany her to the park where she’s supposedly to settle things with Cocoa, and it turns out that Cocoa’s mind was on something quite separate. With Rize and Chiya, Sharo helps Chiya and Cocoa see that being separated into different classes won’t really change their friendship. Later, struggling to decide which high school she’d like to attend, Maya speaks with Rize, but finds themselves sidetracked when Rize is under the impression that Maya wishes to learn some tradecraft. They follow Aoyama around, who herself is tailing Sharo for story ideas, and wind up themselves being followed by Chino and Megu, who are in turn being followed by Cocoa and Chiya. Maya eventually finds time to tell Rize her concerns, and Rize reassures her that separation does not mean that preclude friendship. So, the main theme in the eighth episode is that friendship transcends spatial barriers; it’s a common enough theme in anime, and in GochiUsa, it’s easy enough to forget that everyone attends different schools because they spend so much time outside of classes together. So, Rize and Sharo spend a majority of this episode reminding the others (and the viewers) of the fact that everyone needn’t be attending the same school to be friends, and moreover, it shouldn’t be too surprising that everyone is quite close to one another in spite of attending different schools.
Though the theme of friendship carries over to the entire episode, the second half is more comedy-driven and lends its events to the episode’s title. Rize’s misunderstanding of Maya’s request lead them to tail Aoyama and figure out her daily routine. Tailing is typically done to obtain information about a target’s habits and patterns, such that additional action (such as determining when they’re away from home to break in and install listening devices) might be taken. It’s featured quite commonly in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Junior series, where members of the Campus go around the world to clandestinely eliminate threats to the United States. A typical operation involves following a target around to learn of the target’s patterns, although as Jack Ryan Junior and the other Campus operatives learn, their targets often are well-versed in counter-surveillance measures. More senior members of the Campus, such as John Clark and Domino Chavez, can operate to throw off even these measures, but back in GochiUsa, one would not reasonably expect girls in middle school and high school to employ similar techniques. Thus, the eighth episode’s second half offers a refreshingly light-hearted take on what is otherwise a tense, suspenseful activity: Tom Clancy’s passages are riveting, but watching the girls go about doing things in their own way is cathartic. Nothing’s really at stake, and so, even if the girls are probably failing every surveillance and counter-surveillance measure in the Campus handbook for tradecraft, it’s simply relaxing to watch the girls do things at their own pace. That each team is blissfully unaware that they themselves are being tailed is icing on the cake. The quality of the writing is apparent in this episode; while the second half might be focused on tradecraft, the episode as a whole remains very focussed: Maya manages to voice her fears about being separated from her friends to Rize, who in turn, offers useful advice for her, helping Maya alleviate her doubts.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Because questions will be asked if I began the post with an image of a tearful Chiya, I’ll kick off this week’s discussion with an image of Sharo’s home. After preparing her uniform for classes, she notices Chiya staring through her window. Note the presence of Wild Geese’s home left of the front door: while Sharo’s not fully over her fear of rabbits, she’s a little more accommodating for Wild Geese, and similarly, Wild Geese seems fond of Sharo, fetching her polished school shoes for her.
- While Sharo (and by extension, the audience) might prima facie be anticipating something a little more serious when Chiya mentions a fight between her and Cocoa, the actual scope and severity of the situation is par the course for GochiUsa. Such reactions might be considered inordinate given the circumstances, but consider that Chiya reaction also shows that she deeply values her friendship with Cocoa.
- Tippy enjoys a herbal tea at the Fleur Lupin while Rize and Chino listen to Sharo’s concerns. It’s rare to see him this relaxed, and it appears that he is rather fond of the tea served at Fleur Lupin. Fleur Lupin is French for “Flower Rabbit”, appropriately reflecting on the café’s specialisation in herbal teas. Both Fleur and Lupin are characters from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter: the former is a participant in the Tri-Wizard Tournament in the fourth novel who later marries Bill Weasley, and the latter is a Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor who was friends with James Potter.
- There’s a delightful tea house in Canmore, called Communitea Café that serves a variety of teas, sandwiches and pastries. Located at the corner of 10th Street and 6th Avenue, I first visited back during 2010 with the lab, and I returned during 2013 with my family. While this is still a ways off, I plan on making another trip to the Communitea Café to finish my thesis. At present, I’ve got a fair bit of the first two chapters done, and will soon need to direct my attention to the implementation and implications of my project.
- Back-to-school shopping is a yearly event for families as students gear up for another year of classes, and for the most part, occurs in September as summer draws to a close. Each year, the news presents stories of how families spend a comparable amount of money during back-to-school sales as they do during Christmas. Back in the day, my back-to-school shopping entailed getting new paper, notebooks and pencil lead: besides the TI-84 I got for high school, I averaged around less than 30 dollars per year on stationary: presumably, most of the expenses incurred arise from new clothing, which is brutally expensive.
- Chino, Rize and Sharo pick up matching pens matching their colours, but also some items unique to their personalities: Chino picks a writing board adorned by Angora rabbits, Rize opts to buy a grenade-shaped eraser and Sharo finds notebooks on discount. With more than half of GochiUsa‘s second season having elapsed, each of the characters’ personalities are firmly established; even in the absence of new characters, giving different characters opportunities to interact with one another adds new dimensions to GochiUsa.
- As the sun sets, Rize, Sharo and Chino run into Chiya, who’s received an intimidating message from Cocoa. It’s read in the same voice that Cocoa wielded in the previous episode, when, jealous that Rize was vying for Chino’s attention, she challenged her to a showdown. Ayane Sakura demonstrates her versatility quite well in GochiUsa: she’s capable of playing bubbly and cheerful characters (such as Vividred Operation‘s Akane Isshiki and Non Non Biyori‘s Natsumi Koshigaya), as well as more mature, serious-sounding individuals (Kantai Collection‘s Nagato and Charlotte‘s Nao Toumor).
- With their misunderstanding cleared up, support from Rize and Sharo convince Chiya and Cocoa that things will be okay even if they do wind up in separate classes. This is definitely something that crosses the mind of secondary school students; I recall being quite excited to learn that I shared classes with my friends in junior high and high school (some of the most fun in classes I’ve had were in fact, with my friends), but in classes where I was on my own, things went reasonably well anyways, since we could always hang out during lunch hour and when the technology had reached that level, after classes on MSN.
- Whether or not Chiya and Cocoa did wind up in the same class, that it is never mentioned shows that regardless of what the outcome was, Chiya is able to make the most of it. The entirety of the episode’s first half is set during the evening, suggesting that the conflict itself was resolved fairly quickly.
- Procrastination is a surprisingly common occurrence amongst students (even my classmates in the honours program), and although I consider myself to be reasonably proficient at time management, the net results can sometimes be the same, since some of my classmates can pull off incredible feats of paper-or-assignment-finishing in light of a looming deadline. I remark that it’s a rather rare occurrence to see the girls dealing with school-related content: most of GochiUsa is set outside the classroom, so it might be considered more of a work comedy rather than a slice-of-life.
- There appears to be two major high schools in the town where GochiUsa is set: Chiya and Cocoa attend the public school, whereas Rize and Sharo attend a more prestigious private academy. Chino plans on registering for the public school, and Megu intends to apply for a position at the private academy; this split leaves Maya a little concerned, since she feels that she won’t be spending time with her friends from here on out.
- Thus, she seeks out Rize in the hopes of gaining a second opinion, and perhaps more so than anyone else in GochiUsa, Rize is the best-versed in counter-surveillance techniques. However, she’s unable to determine that it was Maya who’s following her, responding to a rabbit that jumps out of the bushes instead.
- Tom Clancy’s novels suggest that the best tradecraft is to appear as if one looks like they “belongs” there. People tend not to pay attention to the ordinary, so it is possible to avoid drawing attention to oneself when tailing someone by simply being out in the open andfitting in with the crowd, rather than sneaking around. So, if Rize and Maya were to employ proper techniques, they might follow Aoyama into the bookstore and monitor her while reading books of their own, rather than following so far behind.
- Rize restraining Maya was unexpectedly adorable: the latter was trying to peek over the bushes, threatening to blow their cover. While acceptable for a setting such as GochiUsa, Rize’s methods would actually leave them quite open to counter-surveillance; targets of surveillance are often savvy enough to know that they’re being tailed, and employ tails to follow said tails. There have been some cases in the Jack Ryan Junior series where Campus operators find themselves burned (spook-speak for having their cover blown) precisely because of counter-tails, forcing them to go loud.
- This is a prime example of the infamous Mexican standoff, where two or more parties are in a position such that neither advancement or retreat is possible owing to imminent danger: Sharo is tailing Rize and Maya, and cannot escape without blowing her cover to Aoyama. Rize and Maya, in observing Aoyama, are likewise stuck and cannot exit without exposing themselves to Sharo. Apparently, the term “Mexican standoff” was coined in a 1867 short story set in Mexico.
- When Sharo realises she’s late for work, she sprints off, leaving Aoyama to follow her and tripping in the process. It turns out that the reason that Aoyama is following Sharo is to gain more insight into the life of an ordinary high school girl for one of her novels, although given Aoyama’s interactions with Sharo in the first season (most notably in the first season), it seems that she’s more fond of Sharo than the others. The implications of this observation will be left as an exercise to the reader.
- The real fun in the episode doesn’t set in until Rize and Maya head off; it’s revealed that Chino and Megu are tailing them, and better yet, Chino and Megu themselves are being tailed by Chiya and Cocoa. Megu’s Popsicle melts quite quickly, suggesting that it’s a hot day, and dressed in their Sherlock-style garb, Chiya and Cocoa find themselves overheating. The last time such a story was present in an anime was Sora no Method‘s OVA, where Yuzuki and the others tail Shione to determine what the latter’s intents were after Yuzuki’s frustration at not being able to borrow a movie from the library reaches its limits.
- After Rize shares her insights with Maya, the others pop out of the shadows, and like Batman himself, Aoyama appears out of nowhere. Of the cast, Aoyama is the most ethereal: she seems to come and go as she pleases, and while appearing quite removed from the world that the girls experience, she nonetheless takes some time to offer advice when they need it. There’s a rather gentle piano piece playing in the background, and here and there, I’ve heard some good songs for GochiUsa, so I’m hoping that the OST will come out sooner rather than later.
- Rize is absolutely correct, bringing to the forefront the idea that one needn’t be in the same class with their friends to be good friends; in GochiUsa, everyone spends most of their time together outside of classes. While I never really noticed this last season, GochiUsa stands in stark contrast to most anime in that the girls’ adventures and experiences are predominantly set outside of class hours and clubs, in turn contributing to the anime’s ability to explore avenues of adventure outside of school.
- In a bit of Inception-inspired turn of events, Tippy’s been keeping an eye on Cocoa and Chino, and curious to see what Tippy’s been doing, Takahiro’s taken the afternoon off to follow Tippy around. This surprise contributes to the episode’s humour, and this marks the end of the eighth episode. It’s actually quite a bit of a surprise to see how quickly November’s passed, and December’s practically on our doorsteps. In the upcoming month, I’ll be posting about Yuru Yuri San-hai and Gakko Gurashi, as well as some other topics as time permits.
The eighth episode marks a return to the gentler, serene moments that characterises GochiUsa‘s first season, balancing the increased comedic elements seen over the past few episodes. I remarked earlier that it would be quite nice if GochiUsa would depict a full cycle with the seasons, and with the eighth episode dealing with back-to-school, it might appear that we’re beginning to enter the autumn: the trees don’t take on a golden hue until early October, and it does appear to be early September at present. However, Cocoa mentions that she’s fallen behind in her Spring Break assignments, and the Japanese academic calendar involves starting in April rather than September. With this being said, the setting suggests that the school calendars will follow a conventional schedule, and it’s more than likely that Cocoa is a slacker of the highest order. So, I’m still remaining optimistic about a Christmas episode for GochiUsa. Back during my speculations post from last year, I remarked that Cocoa and Chiya’s misunderstanding was the last of the volumes that I had knowledge of: in a figurative sense, we’re now entering uncharted waters. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here on out, and next week’s episode, titled “The Furball Launches a Suicide Attack and a Cruel Button is Fired”, sounds like GochiUsa is upping the ante.