Bloom Into You
Episode 13

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Bloom Into You ?

Bloom Into You ends in the sweetest and most romantic way possible this week, and I couldn't be happier. It's the perfect way to go out for a series that increasingly surprised and delighted me as it went on. I'd heard lots of fandom chatter from manga readers about the "aquarium date," but it was even cuter than I expected. The only thing missing was just one more kiss, but in a series that gave us a number of kisses already, I can't complain too much.

Before that, we get a little more Touko soul-searching. Her identity crisis has become as compelling and heartening as her relationship with Yuu, so I'm pleased to see it moving in the right direction. She's still stuck on the idea of "becoming" her sister, but armed with both greater knowledge of herself and the support of her friends, it seems like Touko is gradually moving away from that pursuit. Of course, the events of this episode give her a big push, as Yuu discusses the changes to the play and acts them out with Touko. Even before that, we get a sweet scene at the café between Touko and Sayaka, where Sayaka encourages her best friend/crush to share her memories of who Mio was to her. We don't actually see how the conversation goes, but it's obvious that some important revelations came spilling out, given Touko and Sayaka's fraught separation as they make their way home from the café. I also like how similar their meetup is framed to Yuu and Koyomi's earlier in the day—complete with the opening shot of the ceiling fan.

Speaking of the café, I like that we get to check in on our adult lesbian couple one last time. I also appreciate Bloom Into You's decision to make Riko bisexual, showing an awareness of the variety of identities and experiences that make up the LGBTQ community. It never actually uses the word, but the implications are clear from the questions that her girlfriend asks her. (So is Miyako jealous of Yuki-kun from Riko's theater troupe? She approaches this too lightly to suggest that, but I wonder what else would have spurred this on.) Riko likely wouldn't use the term, insisting that Miyako is her "exception" and that she's not usually into women. However, when taken along with Riko's hesitation at being too open about her relationship, I'm going to guess it's more of a case of internalized homophobia in this case. That's especially true when you consider the history of the "it's okay if it's you" trope in yuri and BL, which can be a harmful cliche that keeps characters from being connected with any outright queer identity. However, Bloom Into You seems too interested in debunking those kinds of tropes to play this one completely straight.

Going back to our main couple, it's hard not to share in Touko's delight when Yuu texts her out of the blue to ask if they can hang out. Touko's text at the same time just so happens to come off as a reply to her. The two end up going on one of my favorite romance anime traditions: the aquarium date. Maybe it's because, like Yuu, I have a longstanding love for marine life and going to aquariums myself. Maybe it's because of how all that dark blue lighting from the tanks provides such a soft romantic ambiance. Or maybe it's because one side of the couple inevitably ends up geeking out, sharing their knowledge of sea creatures like Yuu does here. But aquariums just make such a good date spot in fiction. I wish we saw them in more stuff stateside too! Bloom Into You makes the most of this setting in a way that's especially heartening for manga readers. The manga series has beautiful art in its own right, but can't quite capture the delirious fun of getting splashed at a dolphin show in the same way that color and animation can.

It helps that, as with most of these girls' excursions together, there are some personal revelations in store for them too. While they sit down at the aquarium café, Touko confesses her love for the umpteenth time to Yuu. She expresses delight that she can fall in love when she never saw Mio do it, and how that means she knows that part of her is real. They're both surprised that Touko is so relieved by this, given how much she hates herself and wants to be just like her sister. Yuu responds to this with "I think it's fine for people to be self-contradictory," and that touches something in Touko—perhaps she's finally realizing the extent to which Yuu holds her own feelings for her?

Even more revelatory is their scene in front of the penguin walk. Yuu proposes going over their scenes in the play and surprises Touko with some improvisation. This leads her to spill the beans about Koyomi's changes to the script, telling her about how the heroine needs to find her own way rather than becoming someone else. Touko responds in-character that she still thinks she'd need to pick a "version" of herself to become, because she barely knows herself yet. But as Yuu leads her to the penguin walk, Touko has another moment of shock and realization, reaching out to the girl she loves. I like the way that Bloom Into You keeps conveying character development through body language along with dialogue, and leaving at least some things up to audience interpretation.

We get the last few scenes over the credits as the two finish their aquarium date, with cute and funny moments like Yuu comparing eel plushies in the gift shop that cover her eyes. As the credits roll and we briefly check in on all the other characters, we end up with Yuu and Touko on the train. Yuu finally comes up with a title: "Only You Know"—a message she clearly wants to send to Touko too. All of Yuu's actions—from her softly admiring Touko while she sleeps to hesitation before she takes her hand—make it even more obvious that her feelings of love are continuing to bloom. It's a soft, sweet, and heartening way to end this series. Even if we never get more of Bloom Into You, this would be the perfect bow to tie around it.

All that said, I do hope there's more. I'm not sure if there's enough in the manga yet for another cour, but if we could wait just long enough to get another season of material, I'd be fully on board. This anime has lived up to its title not only in describing its two protagonists' personal journeys, but also my feelings for the show. While it initially felt like a predictable example of its genre, Bloom Into You slowly revealed itself to be something far more special. The series repeatedly eschews teen romance clichés for a far more realistic story that viewers can find themselves in regardless of their own background. It deeply understands the variety of emotions involved with first love and the struggle to form an identity that comes as part of adolescence. It's a romance that shows teenagers how to handle their own real-world relationships. As an adult, it's hard not to wish this was the yuri series I had when I was struggling with my sexuality just like Yuu. Putting all that aside, it's also just a well-crafted, heartwarming, and eye-catching show. Even if I have to wait patiently for another season, I hope I won't be leaving Bloom Into You behind in the years to come.

Rating: A+

Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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