Bloom Into You isn't your typical yuri romance. This week, Nick and Steve explore what makes this unconventional love story so special.
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You can read our weekly coverage of Bloom Into You here!
Hey Nick, are you ready to discuss this show about big lying liars who like to lie?
Oh c'mon, cut Touko some slack. She can totally keep her cool--
Touko has never once in her life
kept it cool.
So yeah, we're finally getting to cover one of my most anticipated series of the season: Bloom Into You! We've covered yuri anime on TWIA before, but BiY is a different beast from past series like NTR and Citrus.
For one thing, it has way less Heybot voice.
Yeah, we've actually had a few more high-profile anime adaptations of yuri manga this year. Citrus obviously, but also the Kase-san OVA (which somebody BETTER license soon) and now Bloom Into You! Regardless of your feelings on the quality of each manga in question, that's pretty cool.
GIVE ME THAT KASE-SAN OVA. PUT IT IN MY FACE.
That said, I'd argue that Bloom Into You is shaping up to be one of the most nuanced and sympathetic looks at a bunch of high school kids figuring out their feelings for the first time, so it's fast becoming one of my favorites this season.
On a whim, I blind-bought the manga when it first got licensed over here, and since then I've basically been waiting for the inevitable anime to happen so others could experience it. Thankfully, I can say the adaptation's been knocking it out of the park so far.
It's a really well-directed show, but I also appreciate subtler touches, like the editing in certain conversations that manage to be painfully true-to-life. Like Yuu's reaction to her dad's bit of casual homophobia.
That little pause as his kernel of careless bigotry lands, but all you can do is hang your head—it's something I've experienced firsthand.
True that. And with Thanksgiving coming up for us Americans, I think we can expect a higher-than-average frequency of that head-hanging at the cornucopia of family dinners this Thursday.
Yeah! The central conflict of Bloom Into You, and more specifically the conflict between Yuu and Touko, strays from the stereotypical yuri manga in that them both being girls isn't the issue. Aside from some obligatory lip service paid to that trope, they're fine with that part. It's more that Yuu has never experienced love in the way that she's been socially conditioned to expect, and her initial connection with Touko came from her thinking that she had found someone who also understood that.
Unfortunately for Yuu, Touko does fall in love, though fortunately (?), Touko falls in love with her.
It's an interesting place to start, especially for a series billed as a romance. Your initial assumption might be that Touko and Yuu will slowly discover that love comes in many forms, and that everyone has their own way of relating to others. But then Touko dumps a confession in Yuu's lap seemingly out of nowhere. So suddenly the conflict is Yuu trying to figure out how to react to this. She's in denial at first and assumes it's a joke. But when Touko shows she's serious, it actually makes Yuu angry.
After finally thinking she found a kindred spirit, she's actually resentful that Touko can feel the "specialness" of love toward her so easily.
It's a meaty conflict that doesn't blow up into too much melodrama. The story genuinely feels in touch with being a teenager and feeling like you should know what it is you want right away, while simultaneously knowing absolutely nothing, of course. During that time, you're no better than a child, and in many ways you're a lot worse off.
And true to form, Touko does a lot things that she shouldn't, like steal Yuu's first kiss out of nowhere.
Note to teenagers: Don't do this. In real life, time doesn't freeze and turn the world purple. Also you'll probably get punched in the face.
But the show is equally sympathetic to both Yuu and Touko, and it's genuinely invested in seeing them work through these issues. I'm just glad Touko apologizes.
In some ways, BiY is like a less sexually-charged version of last year's Scum's Wish, in that it's a bunch of messed up teenagers trying to get a grip on their feelings while also handling burgeoning romance, and it also takes great pains to be empathetic toward all of its characters.
Okay, so far it hasn't done much to make Maki sympathetic, but he's at least interesting.
oh my god we need to talk about Maki
So Yuu and Touko decide to keep their sort-of-but-not-really relationship on the down-low, and like any teenager tasked with a secret, they immediately blow their cover. It just so happens that the person who found out is uh...
Honestly I'm not sure how to describe Maki.
It's pretty interesting, because the way the show is directed tends to yield a lot of these distant shots like someone's watching from afar, and Maki's whole thing is that he observes and absorbs other people's relationships while not participating in any himself.
Ultimately, this ties back into Bloom Into You's central theme, which is less about people deluding themselves and more about people consciously committing to their own delusions because it makes life easier for them.
He's sort of a logical endpoint to the same insecurities that Yuu, Touko, and the rest of the cast are dealing with. Being in a relationship can be exciting and wonderful, but it also means being emotionally vulnerable, and that risk of being hurt keeps basically everyone walled off in some regard.
Maki just takes this to the extreme by treating others like characters in a story he enjoys, to avoid looking inward himself. He's also kind of a shit-stirrer.
He sucks so much that I can't hate him even though I want to. The framing of him as a literal audience member is so good too.
He's a messed-up kid, and so far BiY hasn't really delved into his psychology, but at the same time there's enough thought put into his character that I can at least glean enough to understand him.
Plus, as we find out in episode 6, he is far from the most screwed-up character in this show.
So yeah, Touko is actually a big bundle of insecurity and anxiety (join the club), but she puts on the whole perfect student council president front because she feels pressured to live up to the expectations left by her dead sister. It's really heavy stuff, and Yuu gets close enough to see through Touko's veneer and understand how much it strains her.
But despite Yuu's reassurance, Touko can't abandon being the "special" girl she believes everyone wants her to be.
It's pretty intense, and it's the scene that originally cemented BiY as a favorite for me. In other romance series, this could be the climax, where Yuu realizes she's in love and Touko realizes she doesn't have to lie about who she is, but instead it's a lot more complicated.
Yuu realizes that nice words aren't really enough to change someone, but more pressing to her is that if she ruins her "relationship" with Touko, she's afraid she'll never find anyone else willing to love her.
Yuu's holding back because she doesn't want to lose Touko, and Touko's holding back because she doesn't want to lose Yuu. Neither of them are in a healthy relationship, but it's comfortable enough that neither of them want to risk anything that would damage it, even though it cannot grow without those risks.
It's brutal yet somehow delivered in such a quiet way that the intense pain of the sentiment doesn't immediately dawn on you. Touko's terrified of being isolated again now that she's been open with someone, but at the same time, she's even more scared of being "trapped" by that love.
I just want to say that Yuu enjoys teasing Touko way too much for them not to be girlfriends.
All good relationships are built on a solid foundation of giving each other shit for being cute.
But more seriously, a common sentiment among pretty much every Bloom Into You character is "why would anyone love ME?" Which is so real, especially when you're a teenager who thinks everything
is about you.
And it gets even more real when you're a queer teenager trying to figure out all this with the added societal baggage of people straight-up not believing you exist, which is where Sayaka's story comes to punch me in the heart.
I loved episode 6 a lot, but this was where Bloom Into You skyrocketed into "Best of the Season" territory, simply by how definitively it rejects the whole "it's a phase"/Class S bullshit by following up Sayaka's awful flashback with a loving adult lesbian couple.
It's pretty surprising. Even other yuri series rarely depict relationships beyond college at the oldest. But not only does BiY show adult lesbians co-habitating, we see Sayaka reaching out to them for reassurance that she's not "in a phase" and that her feelings are real.
The only other show I can think of that features anything like this is Yoshida taking Chizuru under her wing in Wandering Son, and that was seven years ago.
It's a beautiful demonstration of how queer solidarity and support across generations is so important.
Don't get me wrong, teens are always gonna stumble through romance, but having adults they can trust and admire is a big deal, so I was both surprised and delighted to see Bloom Into You address this seriously.
Sayaka's still certainly got her own problems. Even after talking things out, she admits that she's not ready to take the step to tell Touko how she feels, but it's still heartwarming to see her find somebody who she can be honest with, who takes her feelings seriously.
And that's why I'm loving Bloom Into You so much. There aren't going to be any easy solutions, and it's pretty much guaranteed that people are gonna get their hearts hurt, but it's about the nuances of that journey and the growth that lies beyond it. Yuu and Touko can't have a happy ending if they continue as they are. But at the same time, they're planting the seeds of mutual trust and honesty that can bloom into something more beautiful.
And there are at least some people around to support them. I do have to give a quick shoutout to Yuu's sister playing wingwoman because she's more observant than everyone else in the show.
A TRUE ALLY
So yeah, Bloom Into You is something special, and it's only going to get messier from here. If you're a fan of nuanced character drama, emotionally complicated romance, or just want to see something super-pretty, I'd absolutely recommend it.