Review for Bloom Into You Collection
Yuri is a prevalent aspect of anime and manga, that is to say lesbian characters and storylines. It’s just as prevalent as BL, or gay fiction. The problem is that we just don’t see a lot of it over here. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t watch an anime show without tripping over lesbian characters, even in the comparatively limited UK anime scene. But the thing is that they are usually side characters, done with comic relief in mind, and seen through the male gaze. It’s about as realistic and as heartfelt as a gay character in a Carry On movie. When it comes to shows that approach the subject with emotional honesty and dramatic realism, there aren’t that many in the UK. You can have the completely esoteric Yurikuma Arashi, or the rather far-fetched Sakura Trick. The best such show I have seen, I had to import from the US, but Aoi Hana – Sweet Blue Flowers is an example of just how good such a story can be, if done with empathy and emotional honesty. With Bloom Into You, it looks as if MVM are finally bringing such a show to the UK.
Yuu Koito starts high school with a problem. She’s read all the shojo manga, heard enough in the way of love songs to have fallen in love with the idea of falling in love, but when her friend finally confessed to her, she didn’t get the feeling of flying that she expected. She’s still trying to figure out how to respond, worrying that she might be incapable of love. Touko Nanami is a second year at high school, a member of the student council, with ambitions for more. She’s elegant and pretty, and boys have been confessing their love for ages. And never has her heart raced the way that she has expected. That’s until the day that she meets Yuu Koito, who has been convinced to join the student council as an extra-curricular school activity. For the first time, Touko’s heart races. The only problem is that Yuu’s heart doesn’t. Maybe Touko can give her wings...
The thirteen episodes of Bloom Into You are presented across two Blu-rays from MVM.
1. I Can’t Reach the Star
2. Heating Up / Application for First Love
3. Still Up in the Air / The One Who Likes Me
4. The Distance Between Fondness and Kisses / Not One of the Characters
5. The Problem With Choices / The Problem With Choices (continued)
6. Words Kept Repressed / Words Used to Repress
7. Secrets Galore / Sparks
8. Intersection / Rained In
9. On Your Marks / The Unheard Start Signal
10. The Incomplete Me/Daytime Star / Mirage
11. Centroid of the Triangle / Lit Fuse
12. Suddenly Suffocating
13. To The Last Stop / Lighthouse
Bloom Into You gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on these discs. It’s a nice transfer of a recent show, with no visible compression, aliasing, and given that it’s a bright vivid show, not much in the way of digital banding either. Bloom Into You gets some really pleasant character designs, while the warm pastel colour palette really heightens the romantic drama sensibilities of the show. The background art is nice and detailed as well, while the animation is smooth.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with player locked subtitles and signs. I was happy enough with the original Japanese audio, with distinctive voices given to the characters. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos, while the stereo isn’t taxed by the light dramatic nature of the material. The music really suits the story well, and the show is complemented by some very agreeable theme songs.
The discs present their content with static menus, and each episode is followed by a translated English credit reel.
The extras are on disc 2, and comprise Textless Credits, 2:27 of Japanese Promos, and trailers for Love Stage!!, Kase-san and Morning Glories, Golden Time, and Tada Never Falls In Love.
It’s inevitable that I’m going to compare this show to Aoi Hana, given that is to date the best such show I have seen, telling a story of romance between high school girls. It’s still the best show, although it is a close thing. Bloom Into You isn’t quite as strong when it comes to the relationships, but it has got a stronger story, a dramatic hook to hold the attention even if the love story isn’t quite as compelling.
It is an understandable question for young adolescents. Just how do you know if you’re in love if you’ve never experienced love before, and if all you have to go on are fictional depictions and descriptions of an abstract concept? For Yuu, she’s decided that love should make her feel like she’s flying, an experience that remains frustratingly elusive. For Touko, she’s set herself the milestone of meeting someone that will make her heart race, and she first experiences that physical symptom when she meets Yuu for the first time. She decides that she’s in love with Yuu, while Yuu’s increasingly certain that she herself is incapable of falling in love. And so begins a story of first love.
It’s mostly told from Yuu’s perspective, as she tries to understand what she is feeling. It seems like infatuation and a little obsession on Touko’s part. She will take Yuu any way she can get her, and even agrees to a one-sided love, as long as Yuu stays a permanent fixture in her life, although she’s always trying to push the relationship forward in some way. But there soon comes a sticking point, when Touko declares that she absolutely does not want Yuu to fall in love with her. It seems like the usual fear of loss, a worry about things changing, but it turns out to be deeper than that, and key to the story.
There is a story beyond the romance in Bloom Into You, which is actually the strongest aspect of the show. It revolves around the Student Council, of which Touko quickly becomes elected president. It turns out that Touko has a very specific ambition when it comes to the student council, connected to a trauma in her past, something which has led her to close herself off to everyone else. Yuu is finally the one person that she can open up to, and Yuu takes an active role in trying to help her heal. For me, this was the most interesting aspect of the story, and the anime develops it really well, even if the show has no explicit resolution. It does leave you with the sense of a relationship moving in the right direction, and that is a refreshing change from a trite happily ever after.
Bloom Into You does have a few issues; not least in that it has to exist in that narrative fantasy world where a warm, gentle, lesbian romantic comedy drama can take place. Other than a quizzical moment with Yuu’s dad, the only threat appears to come from a boy on the student council named Maki, who sees Touko and Yuu kissing. Yuu thinks he might be a blackmailer, but his motives turn out to be a lot more benign. The other thing is that this is a story where like seems to attract like. One of the teachers in the school, and the advisor to the student council turns out to be in a lesbian relationship with the owner of a cafe that the girls frequent, and Touko’s best friend and student council vice president Sayaka turns out to have been nursing a crush on Touko, and had previously been in a relationship with an older girl in middle school. It’s a narrative convenience and a rather obvious one, but I guess it serves to contrast with Touko and Yuu’s relationship, and show just how dysfunctional it is.
The relationships in Aoi Hana felt more genuine and realistic, despite that show’s tendency to de-emphasise the drama. The characters in Bloom Into You can slip into the stereotypical at times, but this show really does have a strong story at its core, which makes it a better show in a fundamental way. Bloom into You is more evocative, moving and meaningful because of its story, and it gets an impeccable presentation in this Blu-ray collection. It’s well worth seeking out, as it’s certainly the best such show available in the UK (and it probably would be even if there were other genre shows available here for it to compete with).