by Rebecca Silverman,

Bloom into You

GN 1

Bloom into You GN 1
Yuu has always idealized the process of falling in love, but when it comes to actually dating, something just doesn't feel right. When she enters high school and meets Nanami, she thinks she may have found a kindred spirit – Nanami also doesn't date any boys. But then Nanami admits that she's falling in love with Yuu – how will Yuu handle it?

Asexuality is perhaps one of the least represented sexual orientations in fiction, and a yuri series is certainly one of the last places you might expect to find it. And yet the first volume of Nio Nakatani's Bloom Into You has overtones of one of its heroines, Yuu, being asexual, and even if that doesn't last as the series goes on, it offers something by way of representation that could be recognizable to an underrepresented group and set this title apart in its genre.

The main heroine, first year high school student Yuu, has always idealized romance as presented in shoujo manga. She dreams of finding the kind of love that will make her feel like she's walking on air, but when a middle school male friend confesses to her, she finds that she's left cold. Not only did she in no way see his confession coming, but she also can't reconcile her ambivalence to his love with her dreams – it just isn't the way she's been lead to believe it's “supposed” to be. Because of this, she's let the situation drag out, from his graduation day confession to her first months of high school. Her friends are heavily into boys, so she doesn't feel that she can share her mixed feelings with them for fear that they'll just push her into dating him when she knows it's not right. This sentiment alone instantly makes the book relatable to non-heteronormative readers, who may have been grappling with similar issues and conflicted feelings in early high school. When Yuu meets Nanami, a member of the student council, she thinks that she may have finally found someone who will understand, since she witnesses Nanami turning down the latest in a string of boys to ask her out. From here, however, things get complicated once again: Nanami isn't dating boys because she likes girls, Yuu in particular. Unfortunately, Yuu isn't any better equipped to deal with Nanami's confession than she was with her male friend's.

Whether or not Yuu is actually asexual remains to be seen, but some lines are likely to lead readers to that conclusion, such as Yuu commenting that she feels nothing from Nanami's kiss or when they hold hands, and even experimenting by taking hold of Nanami's hand herself to see how her body language and facial expression change. She seems willing, at least from the preview of volume two, to continue experimenting to see if her physical feelings change, which could take the series in a few different directions. It's difficult to say if Yuu is toying with Nanami's feelings at this point, because she herself is so conflicted about any romantic relationship. Yuu likes the idea of love and romance, but she's more comfortable with keeping them safely between the pages of a book, at least when push comes to shove.

This may in part be due to the fact that author Nio Nakatani doesn't think of herself as a yuri mangaka. She says that she writes stories about girls, but not romances, so she was surprised when she was asked to create this one. What we could be seeing is an author experimenting with a genre she's not entirely comfortable with yet, which will also make seeing how this plays out very interesting. As an additional point of interest, this is Nakatani's first official series; previously she was a doujinshi artist.

The story's art is fairly simple, with clear panels and linework and more backgrounds than you might expect. While there is a slightly generic feel to the characters, particularly Nanami, who has the basic “beautiful high school girl” character design with her long, straight dark hair and put-together appearance, faces are also a little sharper than usual, and Yuu's facial expressions are easy to read. In a nice change from most yuri, the girls attend a co-ed school and boys are very much present throughout the volume, including another first year who looks like he may complicate things by developing a crush on Yuu. This intermingling of genders helps to highlight Yuu's confused feelings versus her expectations based on reading manga; in a co-ed situation, she's got a lot more to think about than the usual questions of whether or not it's okay to fall for another girl.

Bloom Into You's first volume opens a yuri story that's just different enough from the genre norm to be intriguing. Unlike Citrus or NTR, there are no “forceful” tropes, and Yuu's uncertainty isn't exclusively because she's concerned about dating another girl. Whether or not it's intentional, Yuu's potential asexuality adds a dimension to the story that gives it the potential to reach a unique audience, and depending up on how Nakatani develops this story, it could be about understanding yourself romantically as much as a romance between two girls.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : C+

+ Story is different enough from other yuri titles to be interesting, offers different representation than we usually see
Art is fairly generic, Yuu's family may be off-putting

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Story & Art: Nio Nakatani

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