“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.