Bloom Into You
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Bloom Into You ?
For a while, we've known that the school play is a metaphor for Touko's own conflict. While she might not be a literal amnesiac, she's obsessed with trying to live up to others' expectations of her. Last episode made it clear how much the play was also a metaphor for Mio, the girl Touko is trying to become. It wasn't until Yuki-kun's revelation last week that we learned what a different person Mio was to everyone who knew her. She might have been the picture of perfection to her family (or at least her younger sister), but her classmates saw a much more flawed yet approachable person. This leaves Touko at a standstill. Which version of Mio should she try to become?
Of course, Yuu knows the real answer: Touko should give up trying to "become" anyone else and learn to be herself. But as with the amnesiac girl in their play, that's easier said than done. In the play's case, the amnesiac girl lacks an internal sense of self because of her lost memories. In Touko's case, she is mired in self-hatred—which can also feel like a kind of emptiness. I thought Bloom Into You was going for the idea that Touko is most herself when she's with the person she loves, with Yuu, but I found myself liking the conclusion it actually reached far more.
First, we get some of the most beautiful and evocative scenes that Bloom Into You has ever delivered. It starts from the beginning of the episode, with Yuu slowly waking up on the last day of their summer retreat to find Touko outside. The colors in this scene are beautiful, breathlessly evoking the soft rays of early morning sunlight. I got the feeling of waking up slowly on a summer weekend: relaxing and yet with a weird tension in the air, not knowing what the day will bring. For all that happens this episode, it sets the stage for a relaxing slowness that makes all the tumult that much easier to swallow.
Then we get one of the most emotional scenes in the episode, as everything about how the play relates to her life comes to a head for Touko. As Yuki-kun's words float through her head, she gives her most impassioned performance so far in a scene with her family. Later on, it's clear her heart isn't as into it; she can't capture the thrill of revelation again. Yuu asks Koyomi if she's still dead-set on changing the ending, and she tells her that she thinks it's fine, but Yuu remains unconvinced. It's clear from Koyomi's resignation and Touko's feelings that something has to change.
Then there's more soft slice-of-life stuff between Touko and Yuu, culminating in an important confrontation. Yuu is frustrated with the way that Touko keeps "holding back" for her sake, so she tells her that she isn't going to hate her if she gives into her feelings. In fact, she wants to spend more time with her, and she really missed her during the time before the retreat when they didn't see each other. To me, this was pretty obvious, given how pushy Touko was before and how that only seemed to make Yuu fall further in love rather than shoving her away. I can see how Touko felt confused with her getting the advice to back off. What's different about her situation is that despite what Yuu says, she is starting to fall in love with Touko. It's just a more gradual kind of love than the kind she's used to, but hopefully she'll realize the nature of her feelings soon. That said, I'm finding her denials less frustrating lately. Both girls are struggling with their feelings in different ways, and it's a quieter sort of drama that complements Touko's bigger struggles perfectly.
So the two girls end up going on a date of sorts in Yuu's bedroom. Of course, with Touko promising to "indulge," things get physical very quickly. What Yuu doesn't seem to realize is that she's "indulging" too. I like how she seems both confused and a little miffed when it seems like all Touko wants to do is put her head on Yuu's lap; Yuu was expecting things to go further. That quickly changes when they start kissing on the bed. If you've been starved for physical affection between these two, this is the episode for you, running the full gamut of what they can reasonably show in this anime. Bloom Into You is too honest to leave things here though, so this physical intimacy leads to the emotional kind—and some important revelations for Yuu.
While Yuu is holding her, Touko cops to her frustration about Yuki-kun's comments: which version of Mio should she try to become now? They're so different she can't possibly emulate them all. Yuu tells her that she should stop trying to "become" anyone. That's when Touko gives us the real reason behind both this whole act and the reason she claims not to want Yuu to fall in love with her: Touko deeply hates herself. She says she can't be with someone who loves something she hates, so she hopes that Yuu never comes to love her as she is. Clearly, Touko wants to become her sister completely and then have Yuu return her feelings. She wants Yuu to love the "right" version of her.
But Yuu already loves Touko on some level, so she springs into action. She wants some way to help Touko see her as she sees her, and this soon becomes as obvious to Yuu as it is to us; the play is the thing. She runs to Koyomi's house to tell her she's found the better ending they were looking for. Instead of choosing between three different versions of herself, the protagonist needs to embrace who she is now and follow her current desires. If Mio is the protagonist's past, Touko is her future, and Yuu hopes with the play uplifting the future self, Touko can see the truth about who she really "should" be. Whether this works or not, Koyomi quickly agrees that this is the ending she was searching for, although she's annoyed that she didn't think of it herself. While she's suspicious as to how Yuu came upon this eureka moment, the two girls get to work.
I've been raving about Bloom Into You for weeks now, but I think this might actually be the series' best episode. It perfectly balances all the show's different moods, focusing on the heart of its drama: Touko's self-loathing and Yuu's developing feelings. I love how it blends the lazy breeze of summer vacation with its characters' emotional tumult. It also perfectly sets all its stories into motion for a climax in the next episode, the last one for this cour. I'm going to really miss Bloom Into You after next week, but I'm glad it's all set up to go out with a bang.
Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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