Cocoa arrives at the cafe Rabbit House one day, excited for rabbits. She actually all but lives in that cafe. She meets lots of different girls there, including a tiny and cool girl named Chino, a tough and soldier-esque girl named Rize, a spacey and quintessentially Japanese girl named Chiyo, and the ordinary but dignified Sharo.
Growing up. Time passing. Nothing lasts forever, but you learn to cherish the memories you've made for the rest of your life.
Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka is a cute girls doing cute things series. Yes, it's been done so many times at this point, yet it's never become tiring to the dedicated fans of these types of works. However, not many of them delve deeper than the surface of just being adorable and about friendship, with minimal conflict and purely for comfort and easy reading. GochiUsa is essentially the same thing; some may compare it to most other popular cute girls series like Kiniro Mosaic,
Comic Girls, K-On, et cetera. This isn't meant to berate the quality of those manga, as they are quite amazing for their genre as well, but GochiUsa has something that I feel is missing from the rest of the lot. What is it...? It's... a life lesson.
To sum up the beginning of GochiUsa very quickly, Hoto Cocoa is a transfer student who is lost in the streets of Colmar, France, looking for her foster family when she stumbles upon Rabbit House, with the impression that it's a place full of rabbits (typical Cocoa, haha) only to find out it's a coffee shop, and she encounters Kafuu Chino, a timid little girl with periwinkle hair and a matching uniform with a... thing, on her head. Cocoa's quick to interact with her and she finds out that her foster family is actually the Kafuus, and she decided that it was fate that her and Chino met; and so, the surprisingly meaningful and beautiful story of GochiUsa begins.
Not much is known about Koi-san. He is a completely obscure figure in the manga industry, yet he has made one of the most recognizable series in Japan to date. GochiUsa is one of the few crown jewels of the Slice of Life genre, yet it's only been around for so little time. Despite that no one knows who he is - not even a signature, alias, or real life presence - he has a clear influence. With that influence, what kind of unique talent he has makes his manga different from everyone else's? It's his ability to convey a lesson to his readers that's even more prevalent on his fairly simple writing. I find it very interesting just how real GochiUsa actually feels when you think about what Koi wants you to understand;
In life, you will encounter many moments of happiness. None of them will last forever. However, even when they're gone, you'll remember and cherish every second of those blissful memories.
GochiUsa is one of the very few cute girls manga I've read where everyone actually matures and grows older as time goes on. Canonically, three years have passed. Chino was 13, and now she's 16. Everyone is older. Everyone gets more responsibilities, while still doing their best to enjoy life with their friends. From elementary to high school, from high school to college. There is a very realistic element to Koi's style that goes overlooked. Under that guise of precious character designs and personalities are what feels like real people. All the characters mean something to the story, even if it is minimal, because while their core never really changes, you can see that they've really changed over time. Every single one of the girls is taken care of delicately by Koi and all of them have their important moments. It's genuinely outstanding to see such dedication to making sure every character is at least interesting within their time on their respective panels. I feel sentimental thinking about it. In fact, Koi's art even gets more refined and delicate the more you read. Not only has he matured as a story writer, but as an artist he continues to excel beyond his own ability while remaining faithful to what he's been doing for well over 8 years now, and he shows no signs of stopping yet, even with how far the manga has gone.
I have a sincere appreciation of the atmosphere this series has. It's set in a real place in France, a town called Colmar with very particular buildings unique to its area. It feels authentic, and it leaves you with a guessing game of where the characters come from. Every character has been living in Colmar for some time before Cocoa showed up at Rabbit House in the beginning of the manga to be a transfer student living with a foster family. I have my own particular headcanon about the ethnicity of each character myself, but it's just something I've been doing in my free time at this point since I've read this manga so many times that I've become too fond of all of them. Hopefully many more people feel that same bond and value that I do with the manga's setting and characters. As I've said multiple times before, GochiUsa feels real. Characters I can relate to, characters I love, hell, I even started to like coffee after constantly reading this manga. This does way too much to you after you feel some kind of connection to it. It's almost magical. GochiUsa is a one of a kind experience for the cute girls subgenre of slice of life and it's stuck with me for five years now. Koi has made something that means a lot to many people, including myself, and I thank him for every moment he's been working his butt off to make what I genuinely consider one of the closest attempts I've seen to perfection in manga in his medium of work.