I’ve got to stop watching teenage romance anime. Seriously. It is amazing how easy it is to dredge up memories of 45 to 50 years ago. Bad memories
I need my teenage romance to have other elements to distract me. Comedy. Space aliens. Maybe an eyepatch and psychotropic saliva. Vampires or superpowers.
A spoiling we shall go!
Bloom into You doesn’t have those distractions. I can believe the relationship. I’m only into episode 6. It may be yuri but the memories of what I desperately wanted – and couldn’t have – still emerged. I suppose that is a sign of quality.
I am beginning to believe that a love story is a love story is a love story. Gender no longer matters so much to me. Yaoi, yuri, heteronormative, trans of some variety, who cares? It is all a universal human longing not to be alone and to be wanted by someone.
In enough ways to matter, I was Yuu. I tended to say things that were factually true but socially inadvisable. I didn’t understand subtle social signals. Didn’t judge people for their weaknesses. Wouldn’t have freaked out about having a same-gender relationship (though I would have faced much harsher consequences than she if I had and I’d been “outed”. Being a closet nudist was a bad enough risk!). I also learned about love from uber-romantic novels and movies.
Yuu has many things going for her I would have died to have; being good at sports, able to make friends, having enough social sense for proper grooming and style. In the anime she wasn’t considered as a bishoujo – altho she seemed drawn attractively enough to me.
An aside on the art: the backgrounds are sometimes beautiful in this anime but the faces are standardized and bland. Bishoujos are just the same face and figure on a taller body with longer hair. If you really want to see how a bishoujo should be drawn, check out Chihayafuru.
Most important is that Yuu had someone take an interest in her specifically for her brutal honesty. To someone who still hasn’t mastered the social white lie after decades, that is golden. I wish I had been Yuu.
Yuu’s main problem? She never seems to feel that fluttery crazy intoxicated feeling that love inspires in the novels. Or that she sometimes see in students around her. Nobody gets those endorphins and hormones flowing in her. She doesn’t understand love at all and fears she never will. Nor how someone could ever love her.
That “someone” is Touko Nanami. Touko is one of the two official bishoujos in the anime. She is brilliant in academics, athletics and appears to be perfect in every way.
Yuu is first interested in her because she sees her turn down a boy who confessed to her in a very polite manner. Many people, both boys and girls, confess to her and she very politely and gently turns them all down.
When Yuu asks her about it she says that nobody has ever stirred a romantic interest in her and Yuu thinks she has found a kindred spirit.
Well, uh, she hasn’t. Yuu turns out to be the first person ever to have set Touko’s heart aflutter. This much is obvious from ep. one. That leaves Yuu more than a bit confused.
Yuu doesn’t object to the attention. Lesbian or straight really makes no difference to her. It is just a surprise. She can’t imagine why Touko cares for her so much. She likes Touko and would not see her hurt for anything. But alas! Her heart does not flutter for Touko – or anyone.
There is a third player to make the inevitable triangle. Sayaka Saeka has been Touka’s friend for years. She is just as stunning and just as tall as her friend. When they walk down the hall together, heads turn and jaws drop. The two have known each other from middle school and both are now second years. Sayaka confessed to Touko at one time and was turned down. Touko’s heart just didn’t flutter for her. Now she looks on with more than a little sadness and some jealousy as Yuu is able to inspire what she could not. She still remains a loyal friend though. I’m not seeing any cattiness – well, maybe some in ep. 6 – but she has to be hurting.
One of the scenes in the anime shows Sayaka and Touko as a crushingly powerful combination in volleyball. Another shows them ranked one-two in academics.
With Yuu’s help as campaign manager and Sayaka working in the background, Touko is elected to the student council.
Where I grew up, each position had its own election. You’d have 5 offices, president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and member at large and lots of people running for them. In this show, only the prez gets elected and then gets to appoint all the other members. We end up with Sayaka as VP and three other unspecified offices. Yuu is one of them.
A pair of boys fill the other two slots. I get the feeling that the boys volunteered for the council because they were willing to work in exchange for basking in bishoujo beauty. Even if you know you’ll never be more than a helpmate and casual acquaintance, just being in the proximity of someone like that (and not being persona non grata) lifts a guy’s spirits.
Suguru Doujima appears to be a flake but the previous president recommended him as a good worker who will come through in a pinch. Given that the previous tenant of the office was famous for delegating everything while not doing much himself, that may be accurate praise. So far he appears to be a straight guy and the token megane on the council. As of yet, he has had a relatively minor role to play but the show is still young.
Seiji Maki is the other boy on the student council. He is a really interesting character. He claims to be completely aromantic (not aromatic). He is a kind of voyeur. He watches other people’s love affairs and enjoys seeing the passion and problems that other people have but has no desire for love himself. (This “I don’t feel love” thing seems to be a repeating pattern.) Straight, gay, bi, or asexual, who knows? At this point it hasn’t mattered and may never.
Seiji accidentally saw the two main characters kissing. He is a really nice guy and will happily keep it a secret from the world. And at Yuu’s request, a secret from Touka who might be upset by it. He could be a good friend to Yuu.
A few other people have been important to the story. Yuu has a loving and engaged family, pretty damned unusual for anime. Grandma owns a book-store where Mom and sometimes Yuu work. She likes to analyze people by the books they buy. When Touko buys a novel with heavy lesbian scenes in the middle, Yuu is nonplussed, wondering if that is what Touko is looking for in her relationship. Later she learns that Touko didn’t know about the hentai when she comes back to apologize profusely, insisting it wasn’t what she thought it was. It was a funny scene.
Mom and Grandma bring the news of Yuu’s new friend to the dinner table. Her sister makes a big deal out of her “girlfriend” while Yuu indicates it isn’t “that” kind of relationship. Dad makes a joke out of it.
Of course, there are her friends from school. While she isn’t Miss Congeniality, Yuu has good friends. (Oh – and a guy it took her two months to say “no” to when he confessed to her.)
Koyomi is the bookworm/nerd of the show. She says she prefers older men, in their 20s. (Or is that really a way of saying that she doesn’t find any of the boys around her mature enough?)
Koyomi is also a nonconformist, refusing to wear the official school ribbon on her uniform among other things. She has some serious writing skills and is submitting a novel to a contest. These skills will play an important role in the upcoming student festival. (There is ALWAYS a student festival in anime. None of the schools I attended has ever had a school festival.)
Akari Hyuuga does not have the Byakugan. She is a tall buxom girl who loves and plays softball and was a former teammate of Yuu’s. She is very much into a guy who tells her “Not now. Maybe when basketball is over.” This not-quite-refusal to her confession keeps her going and bubbly.
If there is a ditz in the story, it is her. She turns down an opportunity to study for the midterms a week before because she feels that if she studies so early she’ll forget everything by the day of the test.
Riko Hakozaki is a teacher and the student council’s advisor. She just happens to be Miyako Kodama’s somewhat secret lover. Miyako runs the cafe that the student council likes to frequent. What a coincidence!
There is a lot of yuri in this show. Nothing erotic, just lots of feelings and longing looks and hugs and kisses. Not a lot of moral conflict here either. I don’t get the sense that being a lesbian in this reality is anything radical or extreme. This makes me happy.
I suspect the production company will keep it “safe” for a general television audience. I don’t really have a problem with that. Once you have set a tone you ought to keep it consistent.
You could have an extremely torrid sexual relationship and have just as good a product. You would not have a television audience to see it though. Any American export would be heavily censored and I might have to go to disgusting pirate sites to find the original. You can catch all kinds of diseases from those sites.
Sadly, I do not expect every otaku to have the emotional maturity to watch something like that without screaming “Hentai!” at the tops of their blogging lungs. Ah well!
And then there is the intermediate state. Kuzu no Honkai did it well. Showing the passion and tenderness of a lesbian relationship without getting too explicit for television. There were quite a few who couldn’t even deal with that much.
I don’t care to what level you take the sexuality, just give me characters I can sympathize with. It isn’t “fan service” unless it is gratuitous. There is nothing wrong with displaying any honest human relationship to any level of realism the plot suggests as long as you keep it honest to the characters and the plot.
Touko has a secret. Inside she is weak. Inside she is insecure. She is a fake. She puts on a show of confidence and perfection but in reality she is chasing her dead sister’s spirit. Trying to be her in her absence. Only Yuu and Sayaka know this side of her and Yuu knows it better than any other. Yuu keeps telling Touko when she breaks down, “This is normal.”
Why is Touko attracted to Yuu? It is because of the very characteristics that are off-putting to other people. Yuu is brutally honest. She tells the truth without the social lies that are necessary in a political setting, yet it has no judgement value. If she says, (just for an example) “You are weak.“ it is a plain statement of your relative position on a bell curve of possible states with no judgment attached.
Most people will shade the truth or come up with alternative facts because they have a negative emotional reaction to “weakness”. Others will say “You’re weak!” in a voice full of judgment and disdain – or pity. Yuu isn’t that way. There is no malice or pity or discomfort in her statements, only data. Accurate, dispassionate, data.
Conversely, Touko can say anything she feels she needs to Yuu because Yuu only knows friendship. She doesn’t know love or status seeking. She doesn’t play the social game. She does know compassion (which is a kind of Platonic love) and can keep a neccessary distance (that a fluttering heart would not allow) while offering support. When Touko confesses her secrets and shows her weakness to her, she knows she’s safe.
The “plain” girl becomes the strong one and the bishoujo with the world at her feet, the needy one. I could put on my Aspie goggles and see the better qualities of high-functioning autism at work here. But it is a vague, fuzzy sort of quasi-Asperger’s. Not like the textbook high-definition vision of it in Kimi ni Todoke.
Did you notice that the school uniforms are not specifically designed to enhance the sexuality of the girls? Rather, it is quite frumpy. There is no fan service here. Granted it has only been 6 episodes but there hasn’t been a single hot spring, beach or swimming pool episode nor has anyone been hanging out in a bikini or scenes of obnoxious panty shots. (Maybe later?) And just maybe we aren’t intended to be focusing on the girls as objects of desire.
The title in English is Bloom into You. As in, become the flower that you are. What it suggests is that the protagonists are still undeveloped, flowers still in buds, struggling to burst forth. That process is never easy. It is suggesting that these girls are trying to become women, trapped in the twilight zone of adolescence between childhood and adulthood and needing to take the next step. It is one of the seven fundamental plot lines (Rebirth), and part of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (Crossing The Threshold).
And I can’t wait for the rest of the season!