Bloom Into You
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Bloom Into You ?
Episode 10 is pretty quiet compared to last week's romantic tumult, but with some surprising twists. The Student Council play finally has a finished script, and Koyomi manages to be weirdly perceptive yet completely clueless about the dynamics among the council members. Meanwhile, Touko and Yuu continue the weird dance around their feelings, and Yuu stews in denial while everyone around her (except Touko, of course) can already see the truth of what she feels.
I like that Koyomi goes such a weird route with her play. It focuses on an amnesiac girl and the people who are significant in her life—such as family members and a female lover—telling her who she was to them. She struggles with living up to those expectations and how much other people's perceptions determine her own identity. The main character is an obvious metaphor for Touko, working so hard to live up to her sister's image, the person she thinks other people expect her to be. We finally get some insight into Touko's family life this week, and they're just as disturbed by the way she's tried to subsume her identity into her sister as Yuu was. It's funny that Koyomi could manage to see so deeply into Touko's soul—even if she doesn't know the full story, she can tell there's something fake about Touko's persona—but completely miss guessing her real love interest. Koyomi casts Sayaka as the girlfriend character, referencing the school rumors that cast them as being like a married couple. The boys in the club get excited at the idea of a potential lesbian kiss, and Yuu is cast in a minor role as Touko's nurse. It's especially ironic because Sayaka, by taking care of Touko and hiding her own feelings, is more of a "nurse" to her best friend than Yuu.
Alongside all this, Touko and Yuu struggle to define their relationship. Touko has felt a need to "hold back," worrying about alienating Yuu. It's a concern she's voiced before, but it's given new weight by the fact that Yuu does indeed seem to be "pulling back" socially from Touko. She takes this as a sign of rejection, but the real reason that Yuu's been retreating is probably because she's having trouble making sense of her own feelings—in truth, she returns them more than she realizes. She doesn't know what to do with all these weird new emotions, so she chooses not to deal with them in classic teenager fashion. She can't even voice them in her wish for Tanabata! So it's unfortunate that this causes Touko to go back into her shell, but it makes sense that she'd react this way. I really wish these girls would just talk to each other, but having been an awkward teen myself, I know this is easier said than done. At least the lack of communication is realistic.
Yuu never quite makes it clear what her wish was, but I'm guessing it has something to do with wanting to return Touko's feelings. That's the thing she keeps verbally wishing she "could" do, after all. It's ironic the way that Yuu both desperately wants to feel the same way Touko does, but she's also afraid of the possibility that she's already doing that and doesn't recognize it. The way that she just keeps catching herself softly gazing at Touko tells all. Yuu is likely still hamstrung by the expectation that her feelings will be as dramatic as they look in shoujo manga, rather than the slowly "blooming" flower that's opening up to feelings of love. But I think she's also just terrified to take that step into the unknown; even if you know the other person likes you back, it can be scary to actually do something about that, not knowing what that might mean for you.
I like how this episode expands on the feelings that Yuu has for Touko by showing different variations of them. She likes delicately gazing at her. She yearns for her when they're apart—with Touko doing the same in turn, but deliberately resisting in order to give Yuu space. The best is when Yuu gets together with her middle school friend Natsumi, and the other girl is shocked to hear her complain about something. She recognizes that this means Yuu cares about the Student Council—and Touko—in a way she's never cared about anything before, given how casual she was about their softball losses. She's glad to see Yuu get invested in something, even if she wishes it had been her own hobby instead. Yuu was always just going along to get along, but now she's developing her own interests and passions. I like the knowing look Miyako gives her, as though she can tell what's really going on with Yuu's "interest" in Touko. On that note, I'm glad the adult lesbian characters aren't going away; Riko and Miyako got a great flirty scene during Riko's phone call with an old classmate. It was just fanservice, but it was great fanservice.
All that brings us to that disturbing final scene. Besides Yuu's shaky feelings, the biggest barrier to Yuu and Touko's relationship is how much Touko struggles with that favorite axiom of teen dramas: Just Be Yourself! Everyone from her best friend to her almost-girlfriend to even her family, who Touko is most terrified of disappointing, only wants her to be herself. But she pledges even harder than before to become her sister in a really upsetting moment that drives home the depths of her trauma. Touko wakes up from a nightmare flashback of her sister's death, finally revealing the content of the dream she was discussing to her friends. It's not just a matter of insecurity, but possibly full-blown PTSD from the experience, and who could blame her? Losing a family member is one of the most heartbreaking things that happen to people, and she's clearly got some issues to work out before she can really give herself to anyone, including Yuu.
This scene crystallizes what I love about Bloom Into You. It's common in romance anime for characters to struggle with relatively mundane issues that get blown up into melodrama, but Bloom Into You's characters have real problems that teens from all walks of life can find deeply relatable. It makes the relationships in this story feel that much more closer to the heart. I can't wait to see these girls get closer together as a result, but I also want Touko to heal from her painful past. I care about these girls both inside and outside their relationship, and that's what makes Bloom Into You a cut above its peers.
Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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