In commemoration of the passing of ‘Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week’ and the people still questioning their romantic orientation
Newly entered in high school such as she is, Yuu Koito apprehensively checks out the student council and is quickly introduced to the president of the council, Touko Nanami that is. Unsure if she is willing to join, Yuu is given a job as a manager for the upcoming presidential election for the council, but not before Touko confesses that she has developed feelings for her, much to both of their surprise. As if anime high school romances weren’t bad enough, from my experience with lesbian high school anime, they definitely lean in on all of the cliches that turn me off. Not to sound dismissive, but this would have to be very good for it to be worth seeing double the amount of anime girl “kyaaas” if that’s an adequate way of putting it, and certainly it was. Although the series goes for the usual anime format, with all of the subtle yet formative uses of cinematography, sound design, and voice acting that seem to make me instantly sick, I think Nio Nakatani’s, the author of the source material, decision to make Yuu initially reject Touko is all the more meaningful.
This review contains spoilers for the show including the series’ ending, so you know…
‘Bloom Into You’, from the director of ‘Re:Creators’, Makoto Katou, delves into the complexities of romance from an angle I have not seen anime take before, or any other tv-show or film for that matter. As she is confessed to, Yuu is once again reminded of the fact that she seems to be unable to fall in love with someone no matter how much she wants to. Not now, not when her previous classmate asked her out the semester before. We follow Yuu in what seems to be a long contemplation over what not feeling romantic attraction means to her and her relationship with Nanami, as a general theme of questioning who you are and who you want to be is explored. This approach to romance is something I again had not encountered before and compelled through its opening episodes. Speaking as an aromantic, I think there is a lot to be explored through the framework of someone who lacks more or less romantic attraction, and that the series handles very well. In scenes like when Yuu and Nanami share their first kiss and hold hands, they explore Yuu’s desire to find romantic attraction in a very striking way that has yet to leave my mind. Yet despite its length, the series quickly changes subjects making it feel well rounded without underdeveloping it to an upsetting extent. Maki, who outside of this element of the series doesn’t do much sadly, brings another perspective to romance that I personally could identify with. After a number of episodes, however, it becomes clear that the series has become something bigger than aroace rep, as much as I loved that.
A very important aspect of Nanami’s character is her assertion that she can only make up for her sister’s death by replacing her role as a family member and student. And although this is a very overused trope, I think this is made up for by how well it fits in with the series’ larger theme of identity. As Nanami struggles with her understanding of who she ought to be, Yuu explores our own idea of who we are. We see the assumption that she cannot fall in love make her bend over backward to excuse her behavior as to not make it a result of her feelings towards Nanami. And I can relate to having an idea of who you are, and that whether it is negative or not, that you don’t want to change that idea.
The last third of the series focuses on a stage play that they’ve built up until now. The play follows a girl who has lost all of her memories and tries to learn what her identity is through the memories of the people she cared about, only to hear of what seems like three different people. We see her struggle with not knowing who she really was, whether she wore a mask in front of others, concluding that her only real “self” was the one she shared with her significant other and adopts it as her identity. It’s a very easy and off-putting ending to an extent, and the series knows this. While Yuu gives a very technical answer to why it doesn’t satisfy us, at the core of it, the conclusion is simply self-evident. Of course, her most true self is the one who she felt comfortable sharing with the most important person in her life, what other answer could it have been. And I think Yuu wants to believe this, frustrated with Nanami’s refusal to “be herself”, believing that the self she shares with her can only be its true form. But I think Yuu realizes somewhere that we can’t live like this, thinking that we are only one person, playing up the rest. In reality, we are nothing but our surroundings, a never-ending stream of information and conclusions, and in the second to last episode, Yuu and Koyomi rewrite the ending to reflect this. Or, I can only speculate, because, in reality, I’m not sure if the series really knows.
The thirteenth and final episode of ‘Bloom into You ‘shows Yuu inviting Nanami to an aquarium, but there’s no way to really describe it as a conclusion. You could interpret their rehearsal of the rewritten ending for the play to be a sort of thematic culmination; I guess. I mean I am generally open to open-ended narrative conclusions, the series didn’t need to end with the final stage play, but so what? Was that Bloom into You? I’m not disappointed, but it was like I wasn’t allowed the last piece of cake that would satisfy me. Everything is still there, yet the lack of a real conclusion to the series’ central questions, is a new feeling, to say the least. I mean what is there even to say? What do we make of it all? Did it all disappear because the last episode felt a little incomplete? No, I mean I still think Maki’s pretty cool. I will undoubtedly be left with a piece of ‘Bloom into You’ after this point, whether I think it would be fitting for the tone of my review or not. But it’ll leave any excitement if you will for it that I might’ve had before this point, which is a shame.
Yet maybe there’s another perspective to look at this from, however, forced it may come. The people will be looking for more stories like this one, and the unsatisfied thirst left by the conclusion of ‘Bloom into You’ may only strengthen it. And if it can excuse my, however small it may be, pleasance for the series, then I’ll believe it