“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
All good things come to an end, and on Boxing Day, the last GochiUsa episode released. Their vacation over, it’s business as usual at Rabbit House, but Chino now has a fervent desire to take photographs of Cocoa and her friends. After a short-lived photo frenzy, Cocoa decides to continue working and while dusting an image, finds a treasure map of sorts. It turns out to be a “Ciste Map”, where participants utilise clues provided by said map to locate a hidden cache of treasure, and subsequently must provide a treasure of their own alongside of a new map to perpetuate the game. After learning that Cocoa’s never partaken before, Chino, Maya and Megu decide to join up with Cocoa; it turns out that such a treasure hunt is how Chino became friends with Maya and Megu. They eventually stumble across a hidden garden, and, with Cocoa too broad to fit through the small gap, Chino, Maya and Megu swap out their treasures. Later that evening, Chino reveals that her desire to take ordinary photos was motivated by Mocha’s request. Moved to tears by the truths that the two respectively bring out, Chino and Cocoa share their mutual appreciation for one another and embark in a pillow fight of sorts. With Maya and Megu, Chino later organises another Ciste Map for Cocoa and Rize, and back at the Hoto Bakery, Mocha reads letters from Cocoa and Chino. Last week’s episode felt distinctly like a finale, but as with life itself, there is no finale, allowing the series to continue for one more episode to really illustrate just how much has changed since Cocoa arrived more than a year ago. Having matured as a result of working at Rabbit House, Cocoa has also a nontrivial impact on those around her, bringing joyfulness and even change into the lives of her friends and co-workers.
Cocoa’s influence and gradual maturity therefore forms the main theme for all of both seasons of GochiUsa: though she’s rather airheaded and can be quite clumsy, her ceaseless spirit and energy brings people together. In doing so, she gradually becomes more dependable, more mature (even if she does not realise it). Were it not her friendship with Chino, Rize and Chiya, Sharo, Megu and Maya would not have entered the main group to share numerous adventures and experiences with one another, bringing everyone together for Christmas, inadvertently settling the rivalry between Ama Usa An and Rabbit House, and most significantly, acting as the driving force to open up Chino to the others, who has become more expressive with her emotions relative to the first season. While season one might have presented Cocoa as a seemingly-generic, energetic and happy-go-lucky sort of individual, the second season adds more depth to her, suggesting that she’s long desired to mature and become more capable through acting as an older sister for others. Moreover, she’s also prone to jealous streaks, but is resuscitated by her friends on all occasions (whom she had a hand in bringing together in the first place). Thus, the very bonds she builds both hurts and helps her to mirror the dynamics of friendship, helping her mature in the process, and this is where GochiUsa truly shines: people are complex, multi-dimensional beings, and GochiUsa allows its characters to fully experience the good and bad. Far from being static characters common to most slice-of-life anime, the characters of GochiUsa‘s second season feel alive and unique; the first season excelled in crafting a workplace comedy with its setting, and the second season makes use of this to explore more facets for each character.
Because the characters are reasonably familiar after the first season, GochiUsa‘s second season is able to waste no time in setting up various combinations of characters to see how their interactions play out. In doing so, rather than resulting in the same sort of end result that may arise, different opportunities for comedy are created by varying the groups up. Cocoa and Sharo is one such example; the latter ends up decking the former to motivate her after Cocoa laments falling behind her sister. Similarly, watching Megu and Chiya hunt for wild edibles together was quite entertaining, and Rize spends time with Maya to tail Aoyama. These are merely examples of the second season diversifying which combinations of characters form a part of the episode progression, allowing different personalities to bounce off one another and creating new opportunities for comedy that would otherwise not arise. Therefore, by season two, the town merely becomes the backdrop for all of these events to occur, and the focus becomes shifted towards the characters themselves. Seemingly-familiar characters gain new dimensionality, and far from being yet another generic anime about “cute girls doing cute things”, GochiUsa‘s second season is able to keep things novel and refreshing with each passing episode; at no point does the anime ever feel repetitive or stale.
Screenshots and Commentary
- As the finale post, there will be thirty images here; I’ll use the figure captions to comment on both events within the episode, as well as make broad remarks about elements from GochiUsa as a whole. To kick things off, it’s been an incredible ride from start to finish: GochiUsa began during Thanksgiving and ended on Boxing Day, with each episode being an absolute delight to watch. Originally scheduled to come out tomorrow, I had a bit of time today to get the post out, and moreover, my copy of the OST’s arrived, allowing me to listen to it and learn which tracks correspond with the pieces of background music I enjoyed the most.
- The finale appears to begin similarly enough to the first episode: this time, it’s Chino who’s photographing everything around her. Upon first glance, it appears as though Chino’s taking after Cocoa, who was photographing everything in sight during GochiUsa‘s first episode: this decision was probably deliberate, chosen to illustrate that for her mature and collected mannerisms, Chino can resemble Cocoa at times as a consequence of how much time they’ve spent together.
- Some discussions erroneously state that the cameras are old-school, dating back from 2005. This is false, given that most cameras from 2005 have a bulkier frame. I have already identified the cameras as a Sony DSC-W630 Cybershot based on the aperture, flash and autofocus lamp placement during the first post; the cameras are not meant to evoke nostalgia, being present simply to allow the girls a means to photograph their friends and surroundings. As further evidence, the DSC-W630 Cybershot does come in blue.
- As a clever callback to the eighth episode‘s recursive tailing, as Chino tries to photograph Tippy, Cocoa decides to photograph Chino. Rize then aims to photograph Cocoa, and Sharo photographs Rize. Chiya outdoes everyone, capturing the perfect shot with all four of her friends.
- Besides the farewell party for Mocha, Rabbit House has remained quite quiet this season. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the seemingly low patronship at Rabbit House seen in GochiUsa is probably a consequence of the anime deliberately choosing to depict more relaxed moments: rendering many patrons on-screen would doubtlessly be expensive from a technical side of things. It’s been remarked that Rabbit House normally isn’t crowded, but there probably is a sufficient number of patrons, given that Rabbit House has stuck around for a non-trivial period of time.
- While dusting a frame, a map falls out. I remark that the puzzle that Chino and the others built during the previous season does not appear to be visible anywhere, so it’s quite likely that Takahiro rotates the decor every so often to keep things fresh at Rabbit House. Cocoa learns that most everyone has been on a Ciste Hunt and grows teary-eyed at the prospects of being left out, so Chino decides to bring Cocoa on the latter’s first-ever hunt.
- The notion of a Ciste hunt became popular in Europe during 2007 and the rules are succinctly described in GochiUsa. A map is used to locate the treasure box, and upon finding it, one must take one item from the box, replacing it with one of their own. The word ciste is derived from Greek, referring to a basket used for ferry gifts to Gods, and cite hunts in the real-world are quite popular, with thousands of participants coordinating hunts using online communications.
- The point of these hunts is the thrill of the chase, and the activity is functionally similar to Geocaching. Thus, that GochiUsa manages to distill out the core essence of a ciste hunt: that the journey matters more than the destination, is no surprise, although the anime takes things one step further and removes the electronic component, forcing the girls to carry out the activity using just their wits. Together with Megu and Maya, Chino and Cococa explore parts of their town that the audiences have never seen before.
- The subject of numerous photographs and paintings, a door covered with vines is but one of the many hitherto unseen locations that Cocoa and the others encounter during their ciste hunt. There’s a special sort of magic about locations such as these; while browsing calendars for 2016, I came across a garden calendar that featured these doorways. I eventually went with a calendar featuring mountain paintings: there’s a mysticism to see traditional buildings from an older age under the mountains, and a part of me yearns for a simpler time, despite my own love for technology and sciences.
- It turns out that Chino’s friendship with Maya and Megu result from a innocuous mistake, where Maya misinterprets “barista” as “ballista” on account of the phonetic similarities between the “r” and “l” sounds” and imagines Chino to be strong-willed, resembling an ancient missile launcher. They go on their first ciste hunt but eventually lose motivation, and it’s thanks to Cocoa that everyone’s excited to do another hunt.
- I’ve remarked previously that each character’s namesake is related to their contributions towards GochiUsa: Maya and Megu were already friends before meeting Chino, and their friendship with Chino has helped the latter open up to some extent. Looking around some recipes, I’ve found that nutmeg can be used to spruce up both Jogamaya tea and Cappuccino, suggesting that the girls’ friendship forms a sort of synergy that’s helping each individual mature.
- The GochiUsa season two soundtrack came out on Christmas Day, and my copy only arrived recently. I’ve had a chance to listen to it in full now, and it’s a fantastic complement to the anime. Like the first soundtrack, the music is quite diverse, ranging from distinctly French pieces that capture the regional spirit (木組みの街〜雪解けと春のはじまり and Rabbit’s Time), to gentle pieces like 大好きな笑顔 and おやすみ前のラテアート, which convey the sort of lightheartedness associated with Cocoa and the others. There’s also more tense music for when the girls grow anxious, or when Tippy mounts a one-rabbit assault on Ama Usa An (後ろに気をつけろ!! and 覚悟しろっ, respectively) The piano version of キリマンジャロだね turned out to be 可憐な乙女心, and it’s become one of my favourite tracks on the OST.
- The clues on the map points to a small hole that Cocoa can’t fit through, and there is mention of Hobbits here. First conceptualised in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Hobbits are known for their short stature and fondness for comfort, but also their incredible resilience: Gandalf remarks in The Fellowship of the Ring that Hobbits are quite surprising despite his own knowledge of their customs and lifestyle. I imagine that the comparison is drawn for Chimame’s smaller size, allowing them to go where Cocoa cannot.
- Arriving in a secret garden of sorts, Chino, Maya and Megu find a treasure box located at the end of the plaza. Resembling the one seen in GochiUsai‘s opening sequence, it appears that this episode’s been foreshadowed since day one. However, given the complete lack of discussion or even recollection, it’s definitely fallen from the viewers’ minds since the first episode, only to return in a big way in the finale. This is why I remark that there could be hidden tidbits inside the opening sequences of anime; sometimes, the opening sequences offer insights into an anime in ways that viewers do not consider.
- Amongst some various articles in the treasure box, a discount coupon and massage voucher can be found. The girls quickly pick their treasure and leave behind the items they’d brought with them, as they wish not to keep Cocoa waiting for too long.
- In contrast to the first season, GochiUsa‘s second season completely dispenses with visual fanservice, instead, making use of a good balance of humour and more touching moments to drive the story forwards. Bloggers elsewhere have remarked that something like GochiUsa would be immensely difficult to write about because purportedly, nothing happens in anime such as these.
- This holds true under some cases, and slice-of-life anime are often overlooked simply because typically, they lack a cohesive narrative from which literary analysis might be carried out. However, GochiUsa‘s second season in particular seems to manage just fine, subtly conveying a moral or lesson through the events in each character’s everyday life. Although it is presumptuous for me to say so, it takes an uncommonly keen eye to pick these elements out in an anime prima facie about “cute girls doing cute things” and write posts that are distinct from one another, to step away from any notions of saying the same thing too frequently.
- With that being said, it’s more than acceptable if audiences can’t pick out the more subtle thematic elements from anime such as GochiUsa: although authors may have worked them in to impart a particular interpretation of life lessons, their intent is for the show to be relaxing overall. Thus, audiences can most certainly enjoy GochiUsa without thinking too deeply about what all of the girls’ actions and reactions entail. The photo here was taken back during the previous episode, and Cocoa has difficulty recognising that it’s her.
- Although Chino never calls Cocoa onee-san of her own volition, it’s clear that by this point in time, the two have definitely become closer to what sisters as can be, having a minor fight of sorts when they misunderstand the other’s feelings. The conflicts on GochiUsa are always on a small scale, being readily solved within the space of minutes. On the note of it seeming difficult to effectively make episodic discussions for anime such as GochiUsa, I’ve found that the anime’s given no shortage of topics to discuss with each episode, and I’ve found myself referring to physics textbooks, Tom Clancy novels and even Survivorman in previous posts to augment discussions.
- With the season now over, the reception in the places I frequent has been overwhelmingly positive: other viewers similarly remark that GochiUsa is a relaxing, fun anime that was over all too soon and also come to the conclusion that the characters themselves might be likened to rabbits. 2015 has been a solid year for anime such as GochiUsa (Hello! Kiniro Mosaic and Non Non Biyori Repeat come to mind, alongside the first two Tamayura: Graduation Photo movies).
- At episode five’s end, the bar below is shaking from an unseen force that’s dislodging dust from the ceiling. It foreshadows the massive pillow/stuffed animal fight that Chino and Cocoa are having. Contrary to their relatively small stature, the effect implies either that the two can be quite rambunctious at times, or else, Rabbit House is an aging building, allowing for the girls’ activities to be noticed in the bar below.
- It turns out that the reason why Chino was particularly keen on photographing things earlier was in response to a letter from Mocha requesting conventional photographs in and around Rabbit House: the photographs that Cocoa take tend to be more spruced up, and while fun, might not necessarily be the best representation of life at a coffee house. One of the strengths in GochiUsa is that details seemingly forgotten over the course of an episode are neatly incorporated into things at an appropriate time. Thus, nothing is left unanswered, yielding closure for things that do happen.
- For those wondering, the reason this post did not come out on the day of the finale’s airing was because said airing coincided with Boxing Day: I got up bright and early so I could visit one of the larger malls in the area to pick up 2016 calendars on discount, along with a new three-piece suit for myself, new gloves, a toque and scarf. I also bought a hardcover on JSOC’s operational history for a third off. The next day, I spent most of the time working on the publication: we’re getting close now and merely need to trim some sections so it fits within the four-page limit, then attended my first-ever Zoo Lights. Then yesterday, I finally got around to watching Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
- After enjoying the results of their own Ciste hunt, Maya, Chino and Megu decide to rig a new hunt for Cocoa and the others. They craft new maps and invite their senpai for a hunt that is not shown on-screen as thanks to Cocoa for having helped them complete their own hunt. The notion of Ciste hunting is remarkably fitting for an anime such as GochiUsa, as it reinforces the notion that moments are memorable because of who one is with, rather than anything material.
- Aoyama and her editor are seen walking around the town’s streets. Although GochiUsa‘s second season places more empthasis on the characters rather than their environment, the town is still lovingly depicted. With all of the activities described earlier, there’s been very little time for blogging thus far, but today, I’ve had an opportunity to sit down and hammer out the posts. GochiUsa‘s second season marks my first attempt at doing episodic posts, and it definitely was a fun experience to figure out what each week’s episode was about and put that into words. While a little tiring, it was well worth it; I’ve a respect for anime blogs that do episodic reviews owing to the effort it takes to make them each week, and being able to experience that allows me a bit of insight into how larger blogs necessitate more than a single author.
- The Hoto Bakery is seen again as GochiUsa draws to a close, and as per predictions, Mocha does indeed make another appearance in some form. A ways back, I came across a disagreement on whether or not Cocoa and Mocha’s last names were more appropriately romanised “Hot” or “Hoto”, with some less-informed individuals opting for the former in order to make obvious a pun. The preferred romanisation is “Hoto” on the sole virtue that the “o” sound in -to can be silent, so the pronunciation still allows for the pun to be kept. However, this way allows for the Kanji, 保登, to be retained: translating roughly to “always rising”, it would double as a metaphor for the Hoto family business of baking rising bread.
- Careful inspection of Cocoa’s letters show that they were sent via air mail. This might serve to compound the mystery of where the Hoto family bakery actually is: it’s definitely deep in the mountains, sufficiently far away for Mocha to take the train to visit Cocoa, but that air mail is used suggests they’re either quite far away, or else Cocoa was merely itching to send her letters quickly.
- Cocoa and Mocha’s mother is also shown on screen now, so the only person whose family hasn’t been shown is Sharo and Maya. Voiced by Yuuko Minaguchi (Kanon‘s Akiko Minase and CLANNAD‘s Kouko Ibuki), Cocoa’s mother is hitherto unnamed, but it was quite the pleasant surprise to see family for most of the characters in GochiUsa. So, seeing Sharo and Maya’s family on-screen might be left for a third season.
- With this post nearing its conclusion, I remark that GochiUsa‘s second season has had a phenomenal run, bringing all of the elements that made the first season so enjoyable and finding new ways of elevating things to new heights. At present, the manga is still ongoing, so there’s definitely enough material for a continuation, and should sales for GochiUsa be strong, a third season will almost certainly be made at an unknown point in the future (although I stress that this is merely my own speculation).
- Given that it was mentioned briefly that everyone was moving up a year back during the fourth episode, it is quite conceivable that Rize will be graduating soon, and a third season will follow Cocoa et al.’s journey towards their own graduation. If this is to be the case, then the third season might become a little more serious in nature as the girls figure out what they will be doing after high school ends, and for Chino’s friends, as they make the transition from middle school to high school. This could make for an interesting third season, although given that there is a manga, one could check that out to catch a glimpse of what a continuation will be like.
Consequently, GochiUsa is something that can be recommended quite easily to a diverse audience. Naturally, slice-of-life fans will find this to be most enjoyable, but GochiUsa is also an excellent accompaniment to the lives of anyone who’s quite busy, acting as a relaxing, cathartic countermeasure to the hustle of their daily lives. There are numerous anime, dubbed “iyashikei” (lit. “healing anime”), that strive to serve such a purpose, but amongst a crowd of technically excellent anime (K-On!, Tamayura, Kiniro Mosaic and Non Non Biyori), GochiUsa is able to find its place in the sun and distinguish itself from the others. Through its charming setting, life-like characters, high animation and artwork quality and a soundtrack with tracks to accompany a wide array of situations, GochiUsa masterfully makes use of each element to bring Cocoa and the girls’ world to life. Taken together with solid writing, GochiUsa earns a strong recommend: I cannot readily think of any strikes against GochiUsa that detract from it, hence my assessment. Looking forwards, the manga is still ongoing, and so, there is definitely a possibility for continuation if GochiUsa‘s sales in Japan are good. I imagine that any third season will likely follow a similar pattern as YuruYuri San☆Hai!, which was released three years after the second season but managed to similarly keep things sufficiently novel to impress audiences. For the present, though, GochiUsa comes to an end, and it was an incredible experience to watch and write about it.