The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Bloom Into You
How would you rate episode 1 of
Bloom Into You ?
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How was the first episode?
Bloom Into You was one of the shows on my radar heading into the fall season, based mostly on the strong reputation of its source material. Bloom Into You is generally regarded as one of the better yuri romances of the last few years, and if this episode is anything to go by, that's no surprise. Though never truly dazzling, this episode was convincingly written and smartly executed throughout. If you're looking for romance, this seems to be the season's strongest option so far.
You wouldn't necessarily know this is going to develop in a romantic direction based on this episode, though, as heroine Yuu Koito seems unsure if she can really experience love at all. Her fanciful conceptions of what love will feel like are a little extreme, but they fit perfectly for her absent-minded, perpetually daydreaming character, and are illustrated with an eye for visual splendor that only sometimes tripped over into the outright saccharine. That was actually my impression of a great deal of this episode; its direction is purposeful and visual design generally effective, but I often felt it hammered a little too heavily on the chosen tone of its moments, like when Yuu's emotional displacement from her friends was represented by her actually sinking underwater. The show's emotions ring true, I just wish it pounded on the tonal piano keys a little less aggressively.
Fortunately, while the visual execution sometimes felt a little overbearing, the show's dialogue nicely counterbalanced that. Yuu's internal voice is totally convincing, and her conversations with her classmates felt natural as well. The show's separation of internal voice and public voice was clear and compelling here, and its prioritizing that distinction made sense as well - after all, this whole episode was constructed around Yuu's inability to articulate her feelings.
Overall, Bloom Into You offers a very solid romance premiere in nearly all regards. My only real complaints with the show pertain to its overbearing lighting and awkwardly on-the-nose directorial cues - issues I also had with director Makoto Katō's last show, Beautiful Bones. I'm doubtful those complaints will fade, but the show's writing and overall visual execution are strong enough to earn an easy recommendation regardless. If you're looking for a gentle and slow-paced romance, definitely give it a shot.
I went into Bloom Into You with a pretty limited amount of prior knowledge, having only skimmed a review or two of the original manga. That might be why this episode came as a pleasant surprise for me, though in all fairness the bar for yuri anime has not been set especially high lately. This story looks set to avoid many of the trashier, more dysfunctional tropes of the genre, giving the characters space to sort through their feelings instead of just throwing them headlong at one another. That makes for a nice change of pace, and this episode does a reasonable job of settling into that more introspective atmosphere.
Yuu is an intriguing main character, and it feels like the series is going out of its way not to spell out why she hasn't been able to find the kind of romance she's looking for. At the moment, it's possible to interpret her ambivalence towards love in a few different ways. Maybe she just hasn't found the right person, maybe she's looking for a kind of whirlwind romance that's rare outside the realm of fiction, or maybe she doesn't experience love and attraction in the same way as her peers. Whatever the case may be, this episode succeeds at depicting her feelings of isolation without being overly dramatic about it. Yes, Yuu's confused and wants to figure this stuff out, but she seems quietly determined to sort through it all at her own pace. That's an interesting mental space for a protagonist to inhabit, and it makes me curious to see what sort of answers she comes up with.
Nanami, on the other hand, is a little less engaging at the moment. This episode does enough with her characterization that I can understand why Yuu would want to open up to Nanami about her problems, but I'm not sure we get a credible explanation for why Nanami suddenly develops feelings for Yuu. Her shift from calm confidant to would-be suitor is so abrupt that it's tough to figure out what Nanami is thinking here. Part of that is down to the fact that we don't get to see Nanami's perspective in the same detail as Yuu's, but I'm a little worried this narrative could unravel if we continue to only get one side of the story.
Visually, Bloom Into You is a mixed bag. The character models aren't terribly impressive, and the same could be said of the animation in general. In a story that seems likely to rely on nonverbal cues as much as spoken dialogue, that could be more of an issue than usual. On the other hand, this episode makes good use of color and lighting to set the tone of important scenes, so hopefully the direction can make up for the average production values. I've been starving for a good romance series of any kind lately, so I'm all in on Bloom Into You unless something truly spectacular comes along. If you're looking for a slower, more thoughtful love story, yuri or otherwise, put this one on your list.
Ms. vampire in my neighborhood might well end up being an implied yuri series, but Bloom Into You leaves far less doubt about its intent. Before the end of the first episode, one of its two leads confesses to the other, and while the confessor quickly tries to pass it off once she realizes what she's said, it's clear that she was letting slip her true feelings. Hence we have another story where the viewpoint character might spend most of the series trying to figure out if she can actually accept a confession from another girl.
But is that going to be enough to actually make this series interesting? This is a far less sensationalistic approach than Citrus for example, which means that appreciation for a mellower story is definitely going to be required. Even accounting for that, I didn't find the conflict anywhere near as involving. Yuu is so hung up on an idealized image of love that it comes across more like simple immaturity to me. If the story ends up being about her growth out of that phase, to the point where she can appreciate the other girl's feelings even if she doesn't accept them, then that might be interesting, but lamenting over how what you're experiencing doesn't match up with your ideal just sounds like drudgery. None of the other characters introduced struck me as being interesting either, so the series' success is going to depend entirely on avoiding that pitfall.
Another thing that might be dampening my interest is the character design aesthetic. It tends to favor extra-big eyes and much sharper features, which is a look I don't much care for. Although the artistic quality is average in general, I will concede that the storyboarding gives many shots suitable impact, including some unusual use of first-person perspectives. Overall, there's probably a good series lurking here, but on a packed day in a packed season, only the yuri aspect is currently offering a draw for watching it, and that's not enough for me.
Count me as one of the people who reads Yuu as asexual and homoromantic. That's not just in a desperate bid to see ace representation in entertainment, either – both Yuu's lack of understanding of sexual attraction and her feelings of isolation from her peers because of that ring very true in the story's high school setting. While it is tempting as of this episode to also read her as aromantic, knowledge of Nio Nakatani's original manga upon which this is based leads me to say otherwise. Regardless, Yuu as a heroine sets Bloom Into You up to be a different kind of yuri story than we typically see animated, and viewers who were disappointed with Citrus are likely to find this more appealing.
Of course, it definitely helps that this is a beautiful episode. From the idyllic sylvan campus to the soft colors and the smooth, gentle movements of the characters, the art and animation really work well to capture the feel of the story. Yuu's discomfort and uncertainty put her in a symbolically in-between time of life, and the spring-time sensibility (along with the actual season the episode takes place in) of the artwork help to highlight that. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for the “symbolizing loneliness by showing the character underwater” trope, but it really does work well here, with the drifting of Yuu's desk away from her friends' and the already muted palette enhancing the character's feelings nicely. The soothing orchestral soundtrack does help as well, but at times it can feel a little bit much, like the show's overdoing the symbolism or cues that this is a yuri series a little.
The catch here is Nanami. Her confession to Yuu feels much too abrupt, to say nothing that it ignores what Yuu has just been confiding in her. Yuu explicitly told Nanami that there was no one she could talk to about her discomfort with love and that she was really hurting about that, so Nanami's sudden confession has the hallmarks of basically ignoring the girl she claims to like. That she does leave it alone after her admission is a good sign, but her words are at odds with the gentle atmosphere that the rest of the episode is trying so hard to establish and bear keeping an eye on in terms of consent.
That said, this really is a lovely first episode. Bloom Into You is setting itself up to stand apart from other recent yuri titles adapted to anime, and even if it wasn't so pretty to look at, it would be worth checking out for that alone.
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