“YES! That’s how it feels! I’m just a huge fan of the sport.” —Loki, Thor Ragnarok
Cocoa leaves town to visit her family for a week and worries about being separated from the others. She settles in back home readily, and back at Rabbit House, Chino finds it difficult to adjust to life in Cocoa’s absence, making a large number of iced cocoas. When Megu and Maya come to visit, Rize decides to put Chino, Maya and Megu to work cleaning Rabbit House up. Chino recalls how she first met Rize: although she was initially intimidated by Rize’s disciplined, serious demeanour, Chino eventually warmed up to Rize as a reliable employee and friend. Back in the present, the girls finish cleaning up Rabbit House, and Rize gives them schedules to keep busy. After shopping, Chiya and Sharo run into Rize, who is feeling a little down about being too hard on Maya and Megu. The next day, things become lively for Chino once again when Maya, Megu, Chiya and Sharo drop by to visit; when Chino tells the story of how Rize hand-made her stuffed rabbit, the others ask Rize for their own, and embarrassed, Rize expresses that she wants Cocoa back. Chino later asks the others if they’re interested in visiting the local summer festival to watch the fireworks with her, and gets an overwhelmingly positive response. Back home, Cocoa helps Mocha and their mother out with the day-to-day operations of a bakery. With things going smoothly, Mocha and Cocoa set off to make a delivery in town. Mocha reveals that she has a moped license, upstaging Cocoa, and the two head into town together. The two sisters take time to catch up with one another, and it turns out that Cocoa’s having difficulty picking a career out. After teasing Cocoa, Mocha finds Cocoa giving her the cold shoulder, but this does not last long: the breakfast rush has begun. When their mother takes off for a local clinic get her wrist checked out, Mocha and Cocoa manage to keep things in check. That evening, the family look over the photos that Cocoa’s sent. At Rabbit House, Chiya reveals that she’s brought yukata for everyone ahead of the summer festival, and it turns out that Rize ended up making stuffed rabbits for everyone. A week passes in no time at all, and on the day she’s set to head back, she nearly oversleeps. On her way back to the bus station, Cocoa declares her intention to work in a career that lets her bring happiness to others. Cocoa arrives back in town by evening, reading one of Aoyama’s books. Chino and the others change into their yukata and head to the festival, where they partake in the various games and food stalls. Maya wonders how they’ll see the fireworks, and Chiya remarks that she knows a place. Cocoa makes it just as the fireworks begin, surprising everyone, and the girls enjoy the performance together. Cocoa is glad that she was able to make it in time and after she takes a photograph of everyone, Chino welcomes Cocoa back. In the post-credits scene, Chino gives Cocoa her very own hand-made stuffed rabbit that Rize had made.
This is the gist of what happens in Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?? ~Dear My Sister~ (Dear My Sister for brevity from here on out), an OVA that screened in Japanese cinema a shade more than a half-year ago. A continuation of GochiUsa‘s second season, Dear My Sister adapts three chapters from the fifth volume into an hour-long movie that wastes absolutely no time at all in dropping audiences back into the party with Cocoa, Chino, Rize, Chiya, Sharo, Maya, Megu and Mocha. GochiUsa‘s first season eased viewers into the world that Cocoa moved into, being a gentle romp through life, and the second season showed that Cocoa had matured in the company of new friends and experiences. The events of Dear My Sister presents things from the flip-side – Cocoa’s also had a nontrivial impact on her friends, as well. With her happy-go-lucky, optimistic and open-minded personality, the joy and energy that Cocoa brings with her is infectious. Thus, when she leaves for a week to spend time with family, her absence is immediately noticeable. Chino reverts to making iced cocoas, and Chiya buys a large number of cocoa bars. The cast feel that their world has become quieter, having grown accustomed to Cocoa’s presence, and it falls upon Rize to try and liven things up in Cocoa’s steed. Applying her own approach to keeping the others busy, Rize learns that fulfilling the role that Cocoa had is no cake walk – it’s exhausting to constantly be on the lookout for fun things. Dear My Sister aims to and succeeds in conveying the idea that extroverted, high-energy folks who can get along with most anyone can have an immense positive impact on their surroundings and moreover, this particular skill is not something that everyone can cultivate. Cocoa herself seems aware of this and so, when Mocha inquires about her future career choice, Cocoa replies that while she’s unsure of the specifics, she’s interested in jobs that let her make others happy: despite her air-headed appearances, Cocoa can be focused and determined as the situation requires. She’s evidently matured, and is someone that can be depended upon, even if she outwardly looks to be the sort of individual one is compelled to look after.
Besides providing a welcoming story that articulates the thematic aspects of GochiUsa‘s predecessors, Dear My Sister also represents a audio-visual treat for audiences. The first season had been handled by White Fox, and the second season saw a collaboration between Kinema Citrus and White Fox. Dear My Sister is produced by production doA, a newcomer on the block whose only other title is the psychological horror Magical Girl Site (which, readers will have to convince me to watch if they desire me to write about it); despite their lack of a track record, production doA has done a phenomenal job with Dear My Sister. The characters retain their physical characteristics from White Fox and Kinema Citrus’ adaptation, being as expressive and fluidly animated as they were before. Sweeping shots of the landscapes in Dear My Sister give more insight into the world that Cocoa and the others live in: the setting had been the single best aspect about the anime adaptations of both Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? seasons, creating a compelling, immersive world that might be thought of as a separate character. In Dear My Sister, overhead shots of the town that Rabbit House is located in show that it is not too far removed from the coast. When Cocoa travels home, she disembarks from a bus stop on a hillside that offers a view of a sea in the distance. Despite Cocoa describing her home as being located deep in the mountains, it also seems that the Hot Bakery is close to a seaside town, as well. Cocoa and Mocha travel to this town to deliver bread, and, reflecting on the differences in climate, the close-ups of the town show that some parts have Germanic buildings, while districts closer to the coast have Mediterranean-Spanish influence in its architecture, different than the timber-framed buildings previously seen in GochiUsa. This is an incredibly nice touch that illustrates the series’ dedication to creating spaces that serve to accentuate the immersion in GochiUsa.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The first several minutes of Dear My Sister is watching Cocoa cry while the remainder of her friends and the train station’s patrons look on, so if you have no strength to stomach this, then you should leave…right now. Similarly, this is your last chance to duck out if you’re not a fan of the various Marvel Cinematic Universe callbacks I will be making this post. Cocoa receives some herbal cookies from Sharo; this simple gesture is a subtle hint that despite her typically regarding Cocoa as somewhat of a nuisance, Sharo’s come around by the time of Dear My Sister. The trains of GochiUsa are the LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard, a British steam train that holds the distinction of being the world’s fastest with its top speed of 203 km/h.
- Before we delve any further into this post, I remark that GochiUsa is an anime I enjoyed immensely; there is quite a bit to talk about, and after going through this OVA, I ended up a total of a hundred and twenty-five images. I’ve pared this gargantuan collection of screenshots down to a more “manageable” sixty for this post. Because this OVA runs for sixty minutes, three times the size of a standard episode, I have three times as many screenshots. Unlike Girls und Panzer: Das Finale, I am going to treat Dear My Sister like a movie and correspondingly, each of the screenshots can be expanded and viewed in 1080p glory: I say with full confidence that I have the internet’s first comprehensive review and collection of screenshots for this long-awaited OVA, and I imagine that this review will hold that position for a long, long time.
- As Cocoa’s train leaves the station, the camera pans upwards, revealing the outskirts of town and in the distance, a large body of water. While the town in GochiUsa might be modelled after Colmar, France, Dear My Sister suggests that the setting of GochiUsa might not be on the same world or timeline as our own (in turn making a crossover with Kiniro Mosaic implausible, if not outright unfeasible). As the beautiful summer’s day unfolds, “Happiness Encore”, a warm and welcoming song that acts as Dear My Sister‘s opening, begins playing. Dear My Sister was advertised to have a very substantial singing component when it was first announced, although it is apparent that this isn’t the case: there are certainly a large number of songs around Dear My Sister, but this OVA only presents the opening song and ending songs.
- It took me a while to warm up to GochiUsa‘s second season opening, “No Poi”, and by now, I find the song as enjoyable as I did the opening for season one (“Daydream Café”). “Happiness Encore” is very well-written, and I’ve immediately taken a liking to it. The soundtrack in Dear My Sister recycles incidental music from the TV series, but there are also fourteen new pieces of background music on the bonus disk included with the BD, twelve of which are used in Dear My Sister. Two tracks are instrumental variations of the opening and ending songs.
- On the train, Cocoa runs into Aoyama, who is going to great lengths to evade her editor. Despite her efforts, Aoyama is eventually caught and hauled away, all the while attempting to drown out here editor’s remarks about impending deadlines. This exact same stunt was pulled in GochiUsa‘s second season, but it is no less funny for it: the inclusion of jokes for veterans to enjoy brings to mind the Marvel Cinematic Universe approach to things, and is the reason why I’ve opted to go with a quote from Thor Ragnarok. After the Hulk gives Thor a beatdown of the same variety that he’d given Loki in The Avengers during a ring fight, Loki reacts in jubilance. Viewers who’ve seen The Avengers will recall Loki getting knocked down a few pegs after the Hulk smashes him about, explaining his reluctance to remain when seeing the Hulk again. In my case, I found the line suited for describing the sense of loneliness and the transition from such the girls experience after Cocoa takes off, as well as aptly describing how it feels to finally be able to watch Dear My Sister.
- Aoyama’s evasion efforts are impressive, but her editor’s ability to hunt down Aoyama are doubly so: she’s about as determined as John Clark in finding her target, following Aoyama onto the train. Her name is Rin Mate (真手 凛), and she is voiced by Juri Kimura. Rin is completely dedicated to her job of making sure that Aoyama meets her deadlines. While strict and unyielding when there’s work to be done, Rin relaxes after deadlines have passed. She’s said to be named after Mandheling Coffee, which has a complex and rich taste.
- Back at Rabbit House, Chino is quieter than usual, and this is not unnoticed. With its runtime of an hour, Dear My Sister handles very much like a movie despite being classified as an OVA. In spite of this, some folks deemed it prudent to fly to Japan with the singular purpose of watching the movie, and one individual even pre-ordered their tickets to ensure a seat. I never did understand the rationale behind these actions, as the endeavour essentially drives the price of the screening ticket up to the cost of flights, accommodations and other travel expenses, but with that being said, Dear My Sister is sufficiently well-done so that it would have been worthwhile to pre-order tickets.
- I found myself beyond impressed with the visual fidelity of Dear My Sister: the area surrounding Cocoa’s hometown is inspired by Èze in the Alpes-Maritimes area of France, some 12.5 kilometres south of Nice. On this assumption, the bus stop Cocoa gets off at would then overlook GochiUsa‘s equivalent of Mediterranean Sea. At these resolutions, the houses below can be seen in great detail – the buildings have a stucco siding and lack the timber-framing that previously dominated the architecture in GochiUsa: they have a distinctly Germanic style to them as seen in the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
- Dear My Sister excels in all areas from a visual standpoint; as Cocoa travels across a footbridge to reach her home, the crystal-clear water flowing below is so well-rendered that it is comparable to water effects in the Frostbite Engine or CryEngine. Volumetric lighting produces shafts of light through the forest, suggesting a shaded region with light rays passing through openings in the forest canopy. It is typical for anime to improve their visuals, and like Girls und Panzer: Das Finale, GochiUsa‘s solid artwork continued to improve over time. Subtle details like these, while often missed, help immerse viewers, and here, one gets the sense that Cocoa hails from somewhere very warm.
- The warmth of a summer’s day can be felt even with a screen separating viewers from the events of Dear My Sister. I’ve noticed that there’s only one other review of the movie out there at present, although I happen to disagree with the claim that Dear My Sister is “nothing more but a bunch of only semi-related scenes that felt like one déjà vu after another”. The scenes are all related, transitioning from Cocoa’s return to life back home to Chino’s quiet days at Rabbit House. The OVA aimed to convey that Cocoa’s positive energy comes from her family, and that while she might not be as capable as Mocha, she has her own unique set of skills that brighten the others’ days.
- Dear My Sister released on November 11 last year, during which I was still making my way through Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. By December, it had earned a total of 320 million Yen (3.8 million CAD) at the box office, with a box office total of 102 million Yen (1.2 million CAD) after its first weekend, considerably higher than Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days‘ 26 million Yen (around three hundred and eight thousand CAD) on its first weekend. The numbers suggest that GochiUsa is more favoured than Kiniro Moasic, and from a personal perspective, the setting is what gives GochiUsa a much more interesting feel compared to Kiniro Mosaic, which feels rather more conventional in its design.
- When Cocoa gets home, she fancies herself surprising her mother and Mocha, but ends up being on the receiving end of a surprise, where Mocha and her mother dress up in Rabbit House-style uniforms and Tippy-shaped hats in an attempt to recreate the home that she’s grown accustomed to. It’s a tearful reunion, and without the burden of having to maintain an older-sister image, Cocoa immediately settles in and allows her mother and older sister to spoil her. It’s clear that mother and daughters are very much fond of surprising others, although because Cocoa is a rank novice by comparison, she usually finds herself being surprised.
- The Hot Bakery is so remote that cellular service is nonexistent, and so, Mocha invites Cocoa to an old standby: the land line telephone. Because of our increasing movement towards mobile phones, I personally see very little incentive to buy a land line package, but there are some advantages that remain to the old ways. Land line phones have superior sound quality and because of their setup, allow emergency operators to immediately pinpoint one’s address should the need arise. However, as cellular connectivity services improve, I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the disparities in security and sound quality is closed.
- Cocoa attempts to call Chino, but finds the line tied up. She’s using a cradle-style telephone here, whose design dates back to the 1890s. While the model in Dear My Sister is merely in the style of an older phone, the original cradle phones worked by means of connecting with an operator, who manipulated switches to connect calls together: phones with the ability to dial specific numbers did not come about until 1905. The combination of old-style designs with modern technology is very apparent in GochiUsa: things like feature phones exist alongside old-style homes and steam engines (most contemporary trains are electrically powered), creating a very unique world.
- Chino begins absent-mindedly making a large number of iced cocoas, mirroring an incident during GochiUsa where Cocoa was out studying with Chiya and Sharo. Missing Cocoa causes Chino to make milk cocoas, and she relapses again. There are several modes of preparations for iced cocoas: the more common recipes recommend preparing a standard cocoa and then chilling the drink, adding ice cubes to create a cold drink. This ensures that the cocoa powder dissolves evenly. While this is going down, Megu and Maya speak of going on another Ciste Hunt, alluding to the one they did with Cocoa back in the second season.
- To defeat the idleness and quiet that has gripped Rabbit House, Rize breaks out her inner drill sergeant and orders the girls to clean up Rabbit House. Rize’s militaristic spirits leads Chino to have a flashback about how she’d first met Rize: identical to Cocoa, who encounters Rize in naught but her underwear, Chino first encountered Rize while she was changing and found herself face-to-face with Rize’s model Glock. She recounts how Rize could be a bit intimidating, but was also quite friendly.
- In most anime, when one walks in on a girl who’s changing, they can reasonably expect some furious blushing, shouts of 出て来 (romaji deteki, “get out!”) and possibly, the throwing of various objects to expedite said process. GochiUsa has Rize breaking the convention: she draws her model Glock 17 at all who see her while she’s changing. It’s a marked departure from other shows, but in its intended role of eliciting some laughs, Rize’s reactions work all the same.
- The events of Dear My Sister show that despite her tough exterior, Rize is completely unequipped to deal with Megu and Maya. While this behaviour is not unexpected from Maya, who is the more energetic and mischievous of Chino’s friends, it was a bit surprising to see Megu participate, as well. This suggests that Megu’s become a little less shy, as well. It brings to mind the more rambunctious students that I’ve taught as an assistant teacher and while volunteering to teach children at my dōjō.
- After spending a better part of two hours cleaning up Rabbit House, the café shows a newfound glitz and sparkle. Keeping busy has helped the girls take their mind off Cocoa’s absence. With their task finished, Rize has one more surprise for everyone; Maya and Megu are shocked that Rize’s gone to the lengths of creating schedules for them to follow. When Chino mentions that Rize has more stuffed rabbits similar to the one she gave Chino, Megu and Maya, also wanting one, ask Rize where it’s from.
- As evening sets in, Rize wonders if she should’ve pushed Chino and the others so hard. While the most disciplined of the girls, Cocoa’s nonetheless had an impact on her: Rize is much more open about herself in Cocoa’s influence. With Cocoa gone, Rize returns to her old, tough-as-nails personality. I feel that Cocoa’s carefree nature and willingness to accept everyone encouraged Rize to be more true to herself in front of others; Rize’s love for the military and survival is very real, but she also uses it to hide the other side of her personality.
- Different areas of town are shown in Dear My Sister. I bought the artbooks for both seasons (Memorial Blend and Miracle Blend) a few years ago; these provide unparalleled insights into how the world of GochiUsa was constructed, and at 2500 Yen apiece (nearly 30 CAD today, with the exchange rates), they’re not too unreasonable a purchase. I’ve amassed a small collection of artbooks to the shows that struck a chord with me, and having an official resource confers access to insights that one cannot get simply by watching a series.
- While looking at her stuffed rabbit more closely, Chino notices that the stitching does not look machined, and there’s a lack of a manufacturer’s tag. In conjunction with Rize’s reaction when she’d given her the doll, and other subtle hints, Chino deduces that the rabbit was handmade. That Rize is learned in making stuffed animals by hand is yet another surprise that Dear My Sister introduces. This is the joy of slice-of-life anime: given enough time, the multi-dimensionality of the characters become apparent, making them more life-like.
- Despite their innocence, Maya and Megu can be mischievous in their own manner: they frustrate Rize on occasion (to the maximum extent that such dynamics can occur in GochiUsa), and this is another noticeable difference between Rize and Cocoa. Rize is more strict, playing the bad cop to Cocoa’s good cop: Cocoa rolls with whatever Megu and Maya do. Rize consequently tires out more quickly when dealing with them because of a very similar principle to those seen in martial arts: rather than rigidity, martial arts emphasises fluidity.
- After Chino reveals that her stuffed rabbit is handmade, Rize is completely shocked, and the revelation leads each of Maya, Megu, Sharo and Chiya to request their own. Embarrassed, and then flattered, we see a side of Rize that’s quite rare. The mixed emotions within her prove exhausting, and Rize soon longs for Cocoa to come back. Everyone expresses their missing Cocoa in different ways: Chiya buys a large number of Cocoa ingredients, Chino makes nothing but iced cocoas, and Rize seems to retreat back into her tough-as-nails shell. The differences that Cocoa introduce illustrates the impact she’s had on the others.
- As the week progresses, the girls become increasingly lively and energetic; in a lull, Chino asks the others if they’re interested in attending a summer festival with her. She is met with enthusiastic affirmatives, setting in motion the events that Dear My Sister‘s trailers presented. Summer festivals are an international phenomenon, but vary greatly depending on the region. In North America, they take the form of music festivals, country fairs and fireworks performances: the long, warm days are very conducive towards outdoors activities. One of my favourite aspects about The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ is actually the variety of insanely delicious but unhealthy midway food, and while said Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth™ also has good fireworks, GlobalFest actually boasts the city’s best fireworks performance.
- At home, Cocoa returns to her old life of baking bread for the family bakery. While Cocoa is noted for her baking skills (the others have remarked that it’s the one thing Cocoa can consistently and reliably do well), she’s still got a ways to go; Mocha’s bread is regarded as even better than Cocoa’s. The sisters help out the family bakery with great enthusiasm, and in a short period of time, bake enough bread to begin for the day’s customers. The Hot Bakery uses a brick oven, which allows for high temperatures to be reached because bricks can retain heat well. The end result is bread that bakes very quickly, which is perfect for a bakery with a high customer volume.
- When a request for a delivery comes through, Cocoa and Mocha set out to fulfill it. Mocha surprises Cocoa with the revelation that she now has an operator’s license for a moped. Mopeds are surprisingly common in anime, and where I’m from, the basic learner’s license will allow one to operate them. While these vehicles are no doubt great during the summer as a convenient form of transportation, mopeds are rather limited and do nothing to keep one insulated from the elements, so they’re not too commonplace.
- Mocha’s not particularly skilful with mechanical devices, but in time, she’s learned to master the art of riding a moped, even popping wheelies and totally shocking Cocoa, who comes away from her ride exhausted. I would like to think that my driving is not particularly deadly, although my home province is legendary in Canada for hosting the worst drivers. As far as road behaviours go, I’m a defensive driver, actively keeping an eye on my surroundings so I can anticipate the actions of other drivers. I don’t mind being cut off half as much I mind tailgaters, and I minimally tolerate tailgaters. My buttons are pressed when I encounter drivers who sound their horn because I’m waiting for a pedestrian to cross or vehicles with right of way to pass while making a right turn.
- After Cocoa and Mocha deliver bread for a customer, they stop at a viewpoint overlooking the sea below, with a Mediterranean-style building adjacent. Steam trains and cradle phones existing alongside cellular phones and modern rifles, small towns with old-style architecture and a world that’s quite pastoral, featuring many small towns, leads me to wonder if GochiUsa is the logical evolution of the world depicted in Sora no Woto. Takahiro and Rize’s father mention fighting together in a war of some sort: with the distinct mish-mash of Japanese and European cultures, anachronism in technology and a world with few major urban centres, there is merit to the idea that world of GochiUsa can be the result of social and technological advancement after the events of Sora no Woto, in which humanity manages to begin recovering again. This is a very optimistic outlook of things, and a view that not everyone may share – for one, such speculation would likely break down with some scrutiny.
- Conversation between the sisters turn to catching up: Cocoa and Mocha’s father is a professor at a university, one of the brothers is a scientist of unknown discipline (likely in chemistry or biology), and the other is a lawyer. All three of them work in the city, which is why we’ve not seen them so far. Because of the diverse array of talents and interests in the family, Cocoa grew up seeing a plethora of options available. At her age, I was similar to Cocoa in this regard, being interested by a wide range of disciplines. As high school ended, I narrowed it down to health and computing, eventually being accepted by the university’s Bachelor of Health Sciences programme for an honours degree in bioinformatics.
- Cocoa cannot settle on a career, feeling that she could be a barista, lawyer and novelist at the same time. Strictly speaking, this is not impossible – there are many incredibly talented people out there, so the probability of someone who’s done all three occupations, sometimes simultaneously, in their lives, is non-zero. Cocoa is also quite talented with numbers despite her appearances. While trying to work out a career, Cocoa remarks that she’s happy as long as she’s viewed as an older sister of sorts.
- Watching Cocoa be taken in by Mocha’s prank was particularly adorable: Mocha recalls back when they were children, Cocoa had aspirations in becoming a
master of the mystic arts magician, but after Mocha deceived Cocoa by pretending to have turned into a rabbit, Cocoa was shocked enough to drop these goals. Unlike the other flashbacks seen in Dear My Sister, this moment is rendered in a non-traditional perspective, implying that the memory itself is a bit fuzzier (other flashbacks are merely less saturated) as a result of its distance from the present.
- It’s an embarrassing memory for Cocoa, who puffs up her cheeks and pouts after being reminded. With this being said, there are some traces of the supernatural in GochiUsa, and the first season suggests that Cocoa might have been involved in why Chino’s grandfather had his consciousness transferred into Tippy’s body. Barring the presence of a Reality Stone, the precise mechanism for how this happened remains unknown, and besides Chino and Takahiro, the other characters remain unaware that this has occurred.
- Cocoa and Mocha’s mother is voiced by Yuko Minaguchi (Kōko Yoshino née Ibuki of CLANNAD, and Akiko Minase of Kanon). She made a brief appearance in the finale of GochiUsa‘s second season, having a more substantial role in Dear My Sister. After Cocoa and Mocha get home, Cocoa’s in a sour mood – it turns out that even Cocoa can have a few moments where her happy-go-lucky disposition disappears, and Mocha is one of the few people who can make this happen. This is hardly surprising, since siblings know one another best, and also serves to augment the authenticity of Cocoa’s character.
- There’s hardly any time to sulk around, since the breakfast crowd soon shows up, filling the small bakery with patrons. With their mother out for the count, Mocha’s exceptional efficiency comes into play here – she single-handedly manages everything, moving at three times the speed of the others to serve customers, manage transactions and even has time to speak with a little girl. When the crowds thin, Cocoa feels as though she’d just done a month’s worth of work: Rabbit House seems to be quiet as a coffeehouse, and the fact that it’s still in business suggests that its bar is doing well enough to keep the balance book in the black.
- A quick glance at the calendar shows that it’s been four years since GochiUsa‘s first season aired. When I picked up GochiUsa, I was right in the middle of working on the Giant Walkthrough Brain project for my supervisor and Jay Ingram: in 2014, my most predominantly used language was C# and I worked largely with the Unity 4 engine. By the time GochiUsa‘s second season rolled around, I transitioned over to the Unreal Engine and wrote most of my code in C++. Time makes fools of us all: I now largely work with Swift 4.1 and iOS frameworks, although I occasionally dabble in Python and Java, as well as some SQL. Of course, if I were to blog about optionals, delegates and completion handlers, I would not begrudge the reader to find another place to read about anime. If you’re looking to learn about Swift and get into iOS programming, while yes, I could be of some assistance, there are more useful resources out there, like Ray Wenderlich, that would be more useful.
- I still vividly recall the warm summer afternoons spent watching GochiUsa while on lunch break, and the splendid Thanksgiving morning that I took to review the first episode of the second season, before spending more or less the entire day playing the Star Wars Battlefront open beta. When I wrapped up GochiUsa‘s second season, I had nothing but good things to say about it. The first season is a solid A, a 9.0 of 10, and the second season is a 9.5 of 10 for an A+. I subsequently did a second reflection on the first season, which in retrospect, contributed to how I built the Giant Walkthrough Brain and then in the preview post for Dear My Sister, joked that one would probably need an ARIA-level miracle, such as the Time Stone, to watch this any earlier than the BD release date.
- Cocoa channels her inner Nanako Usami here, recoiling in surprise and then pouting again when her mother reveals her arm was fine, and she’d been merely making a reason to get the two sisters together. While it might’ve been two-and-a-half years ago, I still recall mentioning that GochiUsa was a series that some could find it difficult to write for – giants like Random Curiosity did not feel they could find something to talk about in each episode, and episodic posts that did exist were quite underwhelming, being limited to reactions to the events seen on screen. My unusual take on things, on the other hand, allowed me to find something to discuss in each episode, and so, for its second season, I managed to do episodic reviews of a satisfactory standard.
- While Chiya prepares yukata for everyone to wear for the festival, Rize’s hard at work making stuffed rabbits for everyone. By this point in time, Rabbit House has become very lively and joyous even in Cocoa’s absence: in doing their best to keep busy while Cocoa’s away, the girls learn to find joy in the ordinary, something that Cocoa excels at. I should mention here that, if one were to describe what watching Dear My Sister is like, I would liken the experience to hugging a large stuffed animal for an hour straight.
- While Dear My Sister focuses on all of GochiUsa‘s characters the same way Pretty Days focused on Kiniro Mosaic‘s cast, both OVAs put their resident twin-tailed tsundere at the forefront of things. Besides sharing similarities in their appearance, Rize and Aya’s voices are both provided by Risa Taneda. Much like how Pretty Days gave Aya a bit of a chance to shine, Dear My Sister also gives viewers new insights into Rize’s character.
- Mahou Shoujo Chino is a concept born from an April Fool’s joke that was very well-received, and eventually, Inori Minase performed a song about Magical Girl Chino. Dear My Sister takes things one step further, actually incorporating Magical Girl Chino into a dream that Cocoa has while staying with her family. This was a pleasant Easter Egg that the most diehard GochiUsa fans will find enjoyable, bringing to life what was intended to be a simple joke, and more casual viewers unfamiliar with the April Fool’s joke will still find this an adorable sequence.
- Ever the doting elder sibling, Mocha is concerned when Cocoa wakes up with her head still in the clouds. While I’d like to say that my internal clock is infallible, there was an instance in recent memory where I overslept by forty minutes on a workday. I somehow managed to get my rear in gear and did my usual morning routine, making it to the office just in time for work. Days like these are (and will hopefully remain) the exception: most days, I awaken around ten minutes before my alarm is set to go off.
- After oversleeping, Cocoa manages to get ready, and Mocha drives her to the bus station. Cocoa reveals that while she’s still undecided on a career, she wants to do something that makes others smile. Cocoa subsequently heads back to Rabbit House by train, and on her journey back, she reads one of Aoyama’s novels. Titled “Bakery Queen- Beloved Sisters’ Moving Story”, one must wonder how Aoyama manages to get her story ideas. It’s shown that she’s a capable writer and has numerous talents despite her propensity to ignore deadlines, so one can imagine her pulling some John Clark-level stunts to gain inspiration for her stories. This book is her latest work, and at the end, Cocoa sees a request from her mother and Mocha – get the book autographed.
- With the month of June now in full swing, some hiking trails in nearby Kananaskis Provincial park are now open, and after a week of cool, misty and grey weather, the skies gave way to a warm day of sunshine today. The combination of good weather and open trails meant that I could take some time to really unwind in the mountains: I ascended the West Wind Pass trail, easily one of the more difficult hikes I’ve done, if only for the fact that the trail is adjacent to a deep ravine and despite this, is quite poorly marked. The path takes hikers to points where they need to hug a cliff sheer to pass, and also branches off in different directions without indication of whether or not it was a part of the trail, but despite these challenges, it was very invigorating and fun to climb up. Reaching the West Wind Pass itself, I was greeted by a vast, wind-swept clearing and a stunning view of the Spray Lakes reservoir some 390 metres below. The view was beautiful, but up here, the cold meant that we couldn’t stay for long, only stopping long enough to take some photographs, before turning around.
- There are some deviations in Dear My Sister from the original manga: aside from some obvious additions, such as the inclusion of Mahou Shoujo Chino and Chino working out the courage to invite everyone to the fireworks festivals, there have also been some omissions, as well. Cocoa does not return to Rabbit House ahead of the festival to finish her assignments, and Aoyama does not run into the misfortunate of wrecking her manuscript. These differences are relatively minor and did not break the flow of events in Dear My Sister in any way.
- The use of violets and pinks in the town by evening casts its buildings in hues that were previously unseen, creating a festive and ethereal, timeless sense quite similar to the choice of colours seen in Fireworks: Should We See Them From The Side or Bottom?. While poet T.S. Elliot uses the phrase “violet hour” in his famous poem, “The Waste Land”, repetition of this phrase is meant to suggest the melancholy of the end of a day and sunset. However, sunrise always follows, and so, Elliot is lamenting that relationships cycle endlessly between a joyful start and a sadness-filled closing. This is relevant to Fireworks, where Norimichi’s final attempt to be with Nazuna saw him share a conversation while the skies took on a pink-purple hue. In the case of Dear My Sister, the lighting is probably meant to indicate a sort of melancholy that Cocoa is not around.
- Despite the violet hour’s implications, Dear My Sister presents the summer festival as a happy moment. While walking about, the girls take in the sights, sounds and smells, and Sharo demonstrates another aspect of her character. Spending time with the others have improved her confidence: when Rize asks if there’s anything she’d like as a prize after being drawn by a shooting game, Sharo recalls her own talents with blowdarts and so, challenges Rize to a showdown that the latter accepts.
- At the festival, Megu demonstrates a hitherto unknown talent for winning at ring toss. These games, like casinos, are slightly rigged so that they favour the vendor’s gain, but for folks familiar with how they work, they are certainly winnable. Megu consistently wins in a ring toss game and earns a small collection of prizes here that she feels is a good set of souvenirs for Cocoa: we recall that Megu’s got a talent for spinning (which, by the way, is a good trick), and giving the rings a slight, level spin can help boost their accuracy: she applies the technique here to land consistent hits on the prizes.
- A quick glance at the various folk in the background show that only Chiya, Megu, Chino, Maya, Sharo and Rize are wearing yukata, with everyone else wearing more conventional clothing. It stands to reason that elements of Japanese culture are uncommon where GochiUsa is set. The girls thus stand out quite a bit, about as much as one would stand out while wearing cowboy hat and boots to a Japanese festival, but the colours of the yukata and festival work very nicely together to create a scene that has not been seen in GochiUsa until now. Despite the predominantly French-German cultural aspects in GochiUsa, the inclusion of Japanese elements into a festival for Dear My Sister is integrated very smoothly without breaking immersion.
- Sharo becomes the life of the party after eating coffee-flavoured shaved ice, speaking in a joyful and somewhat slurred manner while waving a small firework. It’s actually quite fun to see Sharo in this manner, and I do not believe I’ve mentioned this thus far: Sharo is voiced by Maaya Uchida, whom I know as Yuru Yuri‘s Mari, Rei Kuroki of Vividred Operation and Slow Start‘s very own Hiroe Hannen. Hard-working, frugal and practical, she’s also a character who deserves a bit more screen-time in GochiUsa.
- The five kilometre hike to and from West Wind Pass took around two-and-three-quarters of an hour in total. Once the hike concluded, we returned to 514 Poutine, Canmore’s premiere poutine spot (previously known as La Belle Patate). Here, I ordered their deluxe poutine: it’s a blend of succulent chunks of Montréal Smoked Meat, bacon, sauteéd onions and mushrooms on top of their poutine. Every time I’ve visited, I am impressed with how flavourful and generous the helpings of the Montréal smoked meat is. Coupled with the smokiness of bacon, the sweetness of the onion and the plain fact that I love mushrooms, it’s the perfect poutine that quickly restored my energy. Their Spruce Beer Soda is also a fantastic accompaniment for lunch: with a distinct pine and slightly sweet flavour, it is superbly refreshing and perfect for after savouring a hearty poutine.
- It was a bit of a later lunch: we finished at two-thirty, and with more than half the day passed, we decided to do a simpler walk around the Quarry Lake area of Canmore. With negligible elevation gain, this walk was very relaxing and also allowed us to loosen off from the morning hike: Quarry Lake itself is only five minutes from the parking lot, and surrounding the area are a series of well-marked trails that line the grass fields beneath the mountains. Back in Dear My Sister, as the evening grows later, the girls begin making their way up to a secret spot for viewing the fireworks that Aoyama’s informed them of. An overhead view of the town by night can be seen from here, and while the town is quite large, it’s definitely not Colmar, France: inspection of maps show that no river runs through the actual city, whereas a river dividing the town in two is clearly seen here.
- Despite being noticeably absent from the proceedings, Cocoa manages to meet up with Chino and the others right as the first firework flies into the night sky. While the others initially look to be reacting to the fireworks, prompting Cocoa to wonder if they’ve even noticed her, it soon becomes clear that everyone is in fact aware of Cocoa’s arrival, and warmly greet her. Rize and the others are somewhat surprised that Cocoa managed to find them, but it would seem that Cocoa returned to Rabbit House, spoke with Aoyama and then changed into her yukata before heading off to reunite with the others.
- Many moons ago, when Mocha was shown downing milk in a beer mug, one individual wondered why GochiUsa would “censor” alcoholic beverages, but never received a satisfactory answer. While the fireworks progress, Aoyama and her editor share some beers, decisively showing that GochiUsa has no aversions to showing alcoholic drinks on screen. The alcoholic offerings from Takahiro’s bar is also quite visible, and he is shown preparing alcoholic drinks, as well. Quite simply, there is no censorship. I’ve previously remarked that Mocha took milk as a comfort drink for her personality and preferences – just because someone can legally drink does not mean that they will.
- After Sharo sets off the lone firework, Cocoa determines that with the obscure location, that’s where everyone else must’ve been. There’s been a surprisingly limited amount of buzz out there for an OVA that’s been so long overdue: the original release was supposed to be May of last year, and this got pushed back to November. Normally, there’s a six-month gap between the theatrical opening date and BD releases, but the BDs were released eight months later this time around. It is a bit disappointing to see that so few are aware of this OVA, and while it is a bit of an achievement to hold what is the internet’s only Dear My Sister review, having this title also means that very few GochiUsa fans have had the chance to enjoy the OVA.
- Dear My Sister marks the third series that I’ve written about of late that features fireworks: Fireworks and Amanchu! Advance also featured some stellar fireworks shows. Once reunited with the others, Megu gives Cocoa a rabbit mask that eerily resembles the rabbit mask seen in GochiUsa‘s second season, and subsequently spars with Rize about older sisters in a friendly manner. With the fireworks in full swing, the girls watch the fireworks performance. Throughout the scene, the fireworks are actually out of focus or otherwise not the subject of focus, reminding audiences that for Cocoa and the others, their friendships and bonds come first.
- After struggling to express herself, Chino manages to overcome this and welcomes Cocoa back, as well. The ending song, “The World Has Become a Café”, is a fantastic ending song performed by all eight of the characters: both Petit Rabbits’ and Chimame-tai come together to form the unit Petit Rabbits’ With Beans, and the lyrics are joyful, spirited and upbeat, signalling the joy of having everyone together once again. It’s a happy ending to Dear My Sister, and at this point, one cannot begrudge me for including one more MCU-style reference to the table – there’s a post-credits sequence that, like those of MCU films, serve an important purpose.
- We’re very nearly at the end of this post, and as this talk on Dear My Sister is likely to be my largest single post of the year, I figure it could be a fun way to wrap things up with some statistics about this post. With a total word count of some 8300 words, it’s definitely no slouch, but writing for the OVA was very enjoyable, as well. It turns out that Rize had also made a stuffed rabbit for Cocoa, as well. This brings my long-awaited, long-overdue talk on Dear My Sister to a conclusion, and for my final score, Dear My Sister has earned a 9.5 of 10, an A+; highly entertaining, Dear My Sister brings back everything that made the earlier seasons so enjoyable and introduces new character dynamics among a familiar group, while at once providing spectacular artwork, animation and music.
- In short, I enjoyed Dear My Sister the same way I enjoyed Infinity War. With Dear My Sister decisively in the books, the immediate other post on the horizon will be for Amanchu! Advance now that we’ve hit the three-quarters mark. We’ve also entered the month of June now, so the spring anime series will be concluding quite soon. I will be writing for Amanchu! Advance, Comic Girls and Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online as their respective series close off. Finally, Battlefield 1 is running a “Road To Battlefield V” event, and I’ve yet to tell the story about how I got an Urban MDR in The Division – I will naturally be writing about both.
The long-awaited OVA to GochiUsa is finally in the books, and my final verdict is a strong recommendation. Dear My Sister brings back all of the aspects that made the originals so enjoyable to watch, capitalises on the summer weather to introduce a distinctly Japanese style of festival that suggests a highly multicultural area that Cocoa and her friends live in, explored another dimension of friendship that shows how interpersonal interactions go both ways, and upped the quality of artwork and animation in a series that already was technically superb. The masterful combination of all aspects result in an OVA that was worth the wait, and so, Dear My Sister is something that anyone who enjoyed GochiUsa will not want to miss. For folks who’ve yet to watch GochiUsa, I would count Dear My Sister as being similar to Avengers: Infinity War. Much like how various jokes and event references in Infinity War require some familiarity of previous movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (e.g. Loki echoing that they have a Hulk and Captain America’s “I am Steve Rogers” to Groot’s “I am Groot”, to name a few), Dear My Sister adapts chapters from volume five of the manga, and there are events and specific jokes that occurred in the seasons that require a bit more context to have the maximum impact (such as Aoyama being hauled off by her editor, or Chino’s unconscious making of iced cocoas). Both share the commonality of being quite enjoyable standalone, but are also clearly intended for audiences who’ve seen earlier instalments. With all this being said, Dear My Sister is an excellent adaptation of the chapters following the Ciste Hunt, and as the manga is ongoing, another season could be on the horizon. Having tested their mettle with Dear My Sister, I feel that if production doA were to be given the responsibility of creating a third season of GochiUsa, they would do a spectacular job. There certainly is enough material, and the series has had a strong reception. As such, I would imagine that a third season is a matter of when, rather than if, and this is an encouraging thought.