Bloom Into You
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Bloom Into You ?
When you notice how "warm" someone feels to you, and you think it's just about differing body temperatures—well, "denial" is more than a river in Egypt. That's where we're at this week, as Yuu and Touko huddle together under an awning during a downpour. This is far from the first time that they've touched each other, so it says something that Yuu's reaction has changed. Yuu's feelings for her senpai have been blooming for a while, but this week they really blossom.
Bloom Into You starts out focusing on a different relationship this week though, the one between Sayaka and our two main characters. Our newly sympathetic "rival," who might now be my favorite character, runs into an unexpected old "friend" while shopping: the senpai she dated in middle school. The girl is still insistent that her old attraction to Sayaka was an aberration, and she wants to be reassured that she didn't somehow "turn" Sayaka gay. Luckily, Sayaka—likely emboldened by her new friendship with Miyako—does what every self-respecting lesbian should do in this situation and rub it in her old girlfriend's face. As Touko rounds the corner, Sayaka grabs her and pretends that they're together. Normally, I'd be skeeved out by this deception, but I think Sayaka's doing it for a good cause. I understand feeling nervous about telling the girl you like that you're gay, worrying about where that conversation might lead. Touko also admits later that she doesn't "mind" touching Sayaka, something that I'm sure set the poor girl's head spinning for days later.
The more important relationship this week is between Sayaka and Yuu, who've been paired up for the student council's relay team. Most clubs don't take the school relay too seriously, but in typical Touko fashion, she really wants to win. However, Sayaka's resentment of Yuu is getting in their way. So Yuu decides to be the one to reach out by inviting Sayaka to get food with her at "Y'Donald's," which might be the weirdest anime variation on "McDonald's" I've seen yet. While the two don't become best friends, they do seem to reach an understanding about each other and their mutual friendship with Touko, as well as recognizing that they each have feelings for her. Sayaka doesn't outright admit this but doesn't deny it either. Of course, Yuu tries to deny her feelings like she does all episode. I hope that more people stepping up to tell her the obvious truth finally helps lift the fog from her eyes.
Another thing this interaction reveals is that Sayaka knows Touko better than Yuu does. Yuu gets to see some sides of Touko that even Sayaka doesn't get to see, but there are some ways that Sayaka is clearer about her friend, and one of those has to do with Touko's relationship with her "real" vs. "fake" selves. Yuu hopes that after the play, Touko might act more naturally, but Sayaka knows that won't happen, because Touko doesn't want it to happen. It's not just that Touko can get somewhere by play-acting as her sister, but that she genuinely wants to be like her. She hopes to fake it until she makes it, until she becomes her sister to the world as much as possible. That's why she had such a strong negative reaction to Yuu's confession last week, and that will likely be Yuu's uphill battle going forward—along with acknowledging her own feelings.
Those come into focus in this episode's second half, titled "Rained In." The students leave school to find a downpour, and they're all struggling with what to do if they find themselves umbrella-less. Yuu thinks she's set heading home with Akari, but when she sees Akari's crush struggling in front of the door, she encourages her friend to go share her umbrella with him instead. That leaves Yuu stuck, and while the idea to call Touko occurs to her, she exhausts every single other option before running into her. It seems to me that if Touko were "just" her friend, she wouldn't feel that way. The only people I've felt that apprehensive about spending time with were crushes or people who had unrequited crushes on me.
The scenes between them later are sweet and affectionate, building on previous scenes like last week's and their first kiss early in the series. A lot of what makes these scenes work so well is the soft lighting and how their feelings flit across their faces, as well as the little gestures of affection that the camera focuses so closely on—as though viewers weren't doing that already. But what sells the scene most is Michiru Oshima's score, which was already playing at the top of its game throughout the show. Bloom Into You uses music so masterfully because it also uses the score sparingly. The only time the music plays much this week is during the scenes focusing on relationships, whether they're platonic (Sayaka's with the main two) or romantic (between Yuu and Touko). It tells us things the script can't without being too obvious, like the playful melody during the Yuu-Sayaka scene showing that they're finally getting along. In Yuu and Touko's scenes, the swell of the notes underlines their budding romance.
I've said in the past that I had trouble emotionally connecting to Yuu and Touko's romance, but I think this episode finally fixed that problem. It was hard during their rainy day scene not to feel your heart beat along with the romantic music, straining for those two to touch more every time the camera panned to their hands. As Yuu's feelings get more and more obvious, I'm finally as invested as Bloom Into You wants me to be. The show's visual and aural presentation does a lot to sell that, blooming beyond the limitations of the manga to make their love truly heart-rending.
Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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