Bloom Into You
by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Bloom Into You ?
Well, it took her long enough, but it looks like Yuu is finally realizing what we've known all along: She does have feelings for Touko. Sure, they might not be as intense, but they are growing at least. She gets pretty into their passionate kissing in their much-anticipated final scene of the episode.
It's interesting that she takes a few steps backward at first. While talking to Maki, Yuu insists that she doesn't actually return Touko's feelings, after he wonders if her loneliness is because Touko has been less available. Maki remarks that she's "just like him," referring to the way he roots for love but doesn't feel like it's something he can ever experience. I've seen people suggest that Maki is a creepy voyeur, but I don't see him that way. Maki may be asexual, or maybe he just finds it easier to be on the sidelines of other people's romance for now because he has yet to get a full-blown crush on someone. It's not so different from people who take comfort in fictional shipping rather than pursuing a relationship. Yeah, maybe it can be harmful if you convince yourself that no one would want you if you put yourself out there, but even then I wouldn't call it "creepy," especially coming from a confused teenager. Maki also seems set up to be a foil to Yuu—even if he recognizes that she's not really like him. She looks genuinely lonely, as she subconsciously yearns for Touko.
This situation is not helped by Touko's actions earlier in the episode. While she and Yuu gather materials for Sports Day from the school shed, she closes the door and kisses Yuu up against the wall. It's sweet—maybe even a little hot—but Yuu is left feeling flustered, insisting they need to get back to work. Touko promises to "behave" if Yuu will kiss her after Sports Day is done. Yuu never initiates these things, since she still believes at this point that she doesn't have those kinds of feelings, but Touko wants to feel wanted this time. This hangs over Yuu for the rest of the day, but in a positive way. Touko's enthusiasm for her and for the race itself pushes her to put her all into the day's events. Even with the weird push-pull of Yuu's slowly-blooming feelings crashing against Touko's frustrated passion, I love how positive and healthy this relationship has been for both girls so far.
This episode also indulges that time-honored yuri and BL tradition of "straight relationships as parallels to the main gay relationship." We've seen a little of this before, but mostly as contrast, with Akari being sure of her feelings for her senpai against Yuu's insistence she can't get feelings for anyone. This time, the two girls' crushes feel more similar than different with the way they're both rooting for their senpais, and Akari's complaint that she doesn't get to pass off the baton to her hot older man is clearly echoed in Yuu's feelings. As Akari cheers for her team, Yuu also comes to a sudden realization watching Touko run that last lap. Maybe she does have feelings after all.
This is made most obvious by the music, which is at top-form this week. Michiru Oshima's score gets to do more than usual this week, with the plot development taking a backseat to the hustle and bustle of Sports Day. Her music reminds me a lot of her score for The Tatami Galaxy, with its frenetic scenes of college sports clubs—but here she adds notes of youthful optimism to fit this show's teenage characters. During the actual relay race, we get an insert song, which builds to a climax as Yuu watches Touko and has her big epiphany. The lighting also gets brighter as everything fades around her, focusing on her look of surprise. It's a thrilling moment that I definitely would have chosen to screenshot if not for all the kissing in this episode.
Before we get to that moment, I also wanted to say that I liked Miyako's cameo. Most yuri only get straight couples and crushes as their foils in the rest of the cast, but Bloom Into You is stronger for showing other queer people outside of the main characters. I like how happy and well-rounded Miyako's relationship has been. Not only do they clearly love and support each other, but they have a sense of humor about things, as Miyako jokes with Sayaka about how her girlfriend gets into these things. They'd be a good model for these confused teenage lesbians on how to build adult relationships.
So with Sports Day over and the Student Council taking third despite Touko's preparations, (a bit of realism I appreciated, since how can they expect to beat the actual athletic clubs?) it's time for that big kiss. Despite her epiphany earlier, Yuu keeps insisting that she doesn't have the same kind of feelings, which keeps her from initiating the kiss that Touko wanted. But Touko is undeterred, settling for taking the kind of kiss she wants from Yuu. Yuu admits that she likes it, and as they keep kissing, it turns pretty passionate. If Yuu wasn't totally assured of her attraction before, I sure hope she's willing to accept it now. All this "'I don't like Touko that way' *holds her hand* 'I can't get those feelings for anyone' *passionately kisses her*" stuff is getting a little ridiculous; even Maki called it out in his scene with her.
Touko may have said that she doesn't want Yuu to actually fall for her, but I get the feeling Touko won't complain too much as their situation changes. As a viewer, I'm glad that we're finally getting a real payoff on all these episodes of build-up. As much as I rag on Yuu for her obliviousness, Bloom Into You is incredibly refreshing in a world of yuri that often has too little build-up, where stories can often feel like a clumsy excuse to get girls into each other's arms as soon as possible. Bloom Into You has the pacing of what we could reasonably expect from confused queer teens falling in love for the first time. It's all the more heartwarming and cathartic for its realism.
Bloom Into You is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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