Bloom Into You
Episode 4

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Bloom Into You ?

This episode of Bloom Into You puts more wind into the sails of Yuu returning Touko's feelings. It might not be as intense yet, but she clearly wants her back in some way. She even tells her that she wants her to kiss her, albeit in the most roundabout way possible, and Maki points out that she seems to think of Touko first whenever trouble is afoot. At this point in the story, it gets a little frustrating how much Yuu insists she doesn't have feelings when she clearly does, but that's a pretty typical teenage experience. So much of adolescence is about wanting to "catch up" to everybody else, and if it feels like you're "behind," it can feel like there's something deeply wrong with you. In that rush, it's easy to get confused if your feelings don't manifest the same way as everybody else's.

The other students' perceptions don't help. I like the way that episode 4 zooms out for a bit to consider how these characters look to the other students. Sayaka is the one they speculate about being Touko's girlfriend, not Yuu. As for Yuu, most students are puzzled she's so close to Touko in the first place. This could be a testament to how unpredictable and illogical crushes can be, but I think we've seen clues to the real explanation: Sayaka and the other student council members are just too in awe of Touko. They buy into the mystique of her as the perfect student. Yuu sees the true Touko and gives her room to show Yuu her faults. That's what explains their connection—even if it's still puzzling that Touko was into her before she knew any of that about her.

This is an important part of Touko's character that we'll see explored further as the story goes on, but we're already starting to see the cracks. Touko gave Yuu a glimpse at her backstory in the previous episode, suggesting a dramatic event that pushed her to become the Type A personality she is now. Now she's pursuing reviving this play with an intensity that surprises even the other club members. What's more, none of them really want to do the play, but Touko keeps pushing forward with it. Considering Yuu's big discovery this week about the play being a yearly tradition that abruptly stopped several years ago, maybe it has something to do with that mysterious turning point in Touko's past?

Bloom Into You has been almost slavishly faithful to its source material so far. At the same time, I think it adds something in terms of its music and visuals. The bouncy woodwind-heavy score gives the story a playfulness that can be lacking in the manga, which plays a lot of these moments far more seriously. (Or at least, that's the impression when you don't have a musical score to help mold the mood.) It can be over-dramatic at times, but that also helps this relatively soft high school drama feel larger for older viewers like me. I also like the way that the soft pink hues help add to the romantic ambiance. At the very least, the colorful aesthetics justify the need for an anime version.

Maki makes an interesting addition to the class. Like Yuu before Touko, he doesn't seem to have ever been interested in anyone crush-wise. He specifically says he's not into girls in his conversation with other boys in the student council, but that seems to extend further in his movie-theater daydream. What separates him from Yuu, who desperately wants that shoujo-style romance, is that Maki is fine with things this way. He states early in the episode that he prefers to play a supporting role in school clubs, and that also seems to extend to love and romance. He loves cheering on couples and helping clueless people like Yuu realize their feelings, but he doesn't really want to be in love. He feels like he's in the audience, and it doesn't make sense for audience members to get love confessions from those "on screen." Now, I'm not saying I'll be shocked if it turns out that Maki gets some sort of love interest down the line (particularly if it's a boy, considering his lack of interest in girls). But so far, it feels like Maki is here as a foil to Yuu. While Yuu thinks she can't get those sorts of feelings, even as she slowly does, Maki doesn't seem to at all. His difference in experience plus his direct comments to Yuu about what she feels can maybe help her see the light sooner rather than later.

That brings us to the big kiss in this episode! Considering we get a sort of Yuri on Ice-style obfuscation—with the positions of their bodies making it look like a potential hug—it didn't feel quite as momentous as it could have. (In fairness, the manga frames this kiss the same way.) But it's an important moment, as Yuu is finally able to confess something of how she feels, and Maki first learns the truth of the central relationship. Bloom Into You can be agonizingly slow at times, particularly from Yuu's end, but this week we finally have a catalyst for change.

Rating: B+

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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