Bloom Into You
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Bloom Into You ?
This episode of Bloom Into You is a breather in many ways. Things slow down to focus on the student council (plus Koyomi) enjoying their summer play retreat. While there's lots of hard work to do, we also get some relaxing scenes of the characters indulging in classic summer hobbies—fireworks and relaxing hot baths. This series' brilliance lies in managing to find small ways to advance its character drama even during this "off" week. We needed a breather after last week's disturbing ending, but I'm glad the show found a way to do this without dropping these important story threads.
The focus is on all three of our main characters—Yuu, Touko and Sayaka—grappling with their feelings. For all of them, that involves a crush on another member of the trio, only feeling deterred from acting on it by the "centroid of the triangle," as this first half of the episode is called. That's implied to be Sayaka, the unlucky member whose feelings aren't returned. Yet it could also refer to any of them, during their bedtime scene when they all wonder if they should make a move. All three conclude at once that they're thankful there are three of them, referring to that "centroid."
One of the notable things about this scene is how indistinguishable Yuu's feelings are from the other girls' at this point. Earlier in the series, as she was still "blooming into" her love for Touko, it was careful to frame her struggle as something separate from those of Touko and Sayaka, whose crushes are not in doubt. Now the story emphasizes how similar they all are. They think they all have different problems, but they're actually all quite similar. They may manifest in different ways, but in the end point, crushes are pretty similar emotional experiences.
I was surprised how much I liked the hot bath scene and the way it adds to this drama. High school anime and manga can linger on girls in the bath comparing their body parts in ways that often feel voyeuristic and unrealistic. Teenage girls are insecure about their growing bodies for sure and want to "keep up with" the other girls in their grade, but the weird leering obsession isn't true to most girls' experiences and feels like something certain creators wish was happening. However, there's a notable exception to this trend for lesbians and bisexual girls. When you're attracted to other girls, you are tempted to stare at their bodies, making locker rooms awkward and stressful spaces for queer teens. We're so tempted to look and yet also afraid of the side of ourselves that wants that. Thankfully, these girls aren't grappling with the same flavor of internalized homophobia I was in middle and high school, but the fear of being "too obvious" yet desperate to take opportunities to look never goes away completely.
In the second half of the episode, we dig into the other fount of character drama from last week: Touko and her desire to "become" her dead sister, Mio. She gets a chance to learn more about her sister when Riko brings in a former student council member to help them. Touko knew him as "Yuki-kun" when he was Mio's classmate, as the council often came over to the Nanami family house. She learns that Yuki never saw her sister as some perfect creature. Mio did push the student council hard, and she was likable enough for them to appreciate her despite that, but she also needed help with her homework from time to time. Part of why Yuki is struck by the current student council is how much better Touko is as a leader, and he tells her that despite them being sisters, he doesn't think the two girls have much in common.
This obviously crushes Touko on two fronts. For one thing, it shows she hasn't been as successful in her effort to "become" her sister as she had hoped. Secondly, it knocks her heroine off her pedestal. It makes sense that in a little sister's eyes, she would have missed a lot of Mio's faults; Mio was also likely making an effort to appear like a good role model to Touko, but this shatters everything Touko has built her high school life around, to find out that her impression of her sister was wrong. I doubt this will completely shake her mission to "become" Mio or at least be the driven Type A super-student we've seen her as so far. But will she change course a little? Or focus on surpassing Mio? How will this affect her relationships with Yuu, Sayaka, her family, and with the rest of the student council?
Both Yuu and Sayaka could sense that something was up with Touko near the end. What's more interesting is the revelation that Sayaka had to piece together at least some of the details about Touko's sister and her history on the Student Council by herself. While Touko has told Yuu everything, she's at least a little more reticent with her best friend. That suggests Yuu is replacing Sayaka in more ways than one. I can't wait to see the dynamic between these three girls come to a head in these last few episodes. I have confidence that Bloom Into You will pull off its climax in the best way possible, avoiding obnoxious "rivalry" clichés for something that truly does its characters justice.
Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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