Based on a popular yuri manga, Bloom into You is unexpectedly one of the Fall/Winter Season’s contenders for best anime. While I’m not really a fan of Yuri and Yaoi anime, this series surprisingly won my heart and drew me back to it again and again with its beautiful visuals, in-depth characterizations, amazing music and stunning prose.
The story follows Yuu Koito (Jap: Yūki Takada, Eng: Tia Ballard), a 16-year old girl who loves Shojo manga and longs to experience the light of love depicted in those novels and songs because she feels empty and hollow on the inside. During middle-school, Yuu eventually gets to experience this when a close male friend of hers confesses his feelings to her on their graduation day. However, unexpectedly, Yuu doesn’t end up reciprocating those feelings and because she doesn’t know how to reject someone, she ends up stalling until the start of high school to give him an answer. One day, upon her friends’ suggestion, Yuu decides to try out for the student council. As she heads over to the small building, she comes across an older female student being confessed to by a guy. This student is revealed to be
Touko Nanami (Jap: Minako Kotobuki, Eng: Luci Christian), a girl who is vying to become the next student council president and hasn’t experienced the “flutter” or “fireworks” of love yet. Impressed by how coolly Touko rejects the guy, Yuu decides to go to her for advice and eventually works up the courage to ask Touko for her help. Willing to help, Touko agrees to help Yuu and guides her through giving her first rejection, only to discover that she has suddenly fallen in love with Yuu. The series then explores the course of their developing relationship, as well the minds of the others around them as they go through the drama of love, high school life and searching for one’s true self.
Yuu is a rather interesting character. While she is a bit plain and unfeeling at times, she also reminds me of Shinoa Hiragi from Owari no Seraph, in that while, while they can both be comedic and a bit sarcastic, they can also be rather sad and emotionless as they both restrain themselves in different ways and of course for different reasons. Furthermore, both of them have trouble dealing with love, an unknown emotion to both of them. The troubles that Yuu has in dealing with Touko’s feelings and understanding why she is being loved by her is quite relatable for those who have experienced love before, but its hard to tell what she is feeling at times.
Then on the other hand, you have Touko Nanami who is also an intriguing character, but in a different way. Touko is someone who doesn’t long for love. She distances herself quite a bit from it because she hates herself and longs to be like her admired, but deceased older sister who was basically the perfect honor student and the family favorite in her eyes. The trauma stems from her childhood when her older sister who was in high school died just before performing in a play done by the then student council. After her sister’s death, Touko felt like she had to step into her older sister’s shoes and become just like her, discarding her old self in the process. She is so obsessed with her being like her older sister that she becomes stubborn about it and equally becomes obsessed with completing the one thing that her older sister was unable to do, which is completing the high school play. The crux of Touko’s characterization comes to a climax during the training camp arc where Touko has a conversation with one of her older sister’s former classmates and discovers that her older sister was nothing like what she had imagined. The shock of this revelation then makes her question about her true self and the futility of the goal which had been aiming for, for most of her life; which is the focus of the second half of the show.
Amongst the mayhem of this search for identity is also Sayaka Saeki (Jap: Ai Kayano, Eng: Shanae’a Moore) who is the vice-student council president, Touko’s best friend and the jealous love rival in this story. Sayaka (who has her own spinoff manga and clearly identifies herself as a Lesbian) used to go to an exclusive all-girls high school and had a relationship with a girl there. However, during their last year of middle school, the girl dumps her and makes out their relationship to be just an act. This leaves Sayaka heart-broken and angry until she falls in love with Touko during their first year of high school. Now, Sayaka is a lot different from Yuu. She is rather intelligent, observant and friendly as she has good social skills, but can also be rather aloof and bluntly direct with her opinions. She also has a low sense of humor as she hates slackers and occasionally bottles up her negative emotions – so she can be unapproachable at times. Unlike other love rivals, Sayaka’s redeeming quality is that she doesn’t act like one of those love rivals in Shojo manga. While she does gets jealous of Yuu and Touko’s relationship, she doesn’t act on it by pulling pranks and stunts or by bullying the main protagonist and instead is fine with being the supportive best friend. Moreover, in contrast to Yuu who wants Touko to change, Sayaka is more supportive of Touko and her decision to not change, even preferring it.
The theme of identity is very crucial to this show, as each of the characters including the supporting ones like Maki explore this at different times within it. But the main symbol of identity appears during the school play arc. The play is about an amnesiac girl who wakes up in a hospital and realizes that she has forgotten everything about herself and yearns to discover who she truly is. Upon the nurse’s suggestion, the girl decides to consult a family member, her friend and her lover for their perspectives on what she was like and winds up with three different accounts of what she is like, leaving the protagonist to have decide between the three. Now, the original ending that Koyomi Kanou (Jap: Konomi Kohara; Eng: Brittney Karbowski), one of Yuu’s friends writes is that the protagonist sides with the lover’s account of what she is like. However this ending is unsatisfying to all parties as it leaves Touko with more questions about her true self and forces Yuu to question what Touko really wants. The answer that Yuu comes up with is to write a new ending where the nurse offers her opinion that her current self which is the one searching for her true self is her truest self. Of course with 13 episodes, the actual play isn’t shown which is disappointing to say the least, so we don’t know the actual ending that was chosen, but I rather like Yuu’s interpretation which I think is the more correct one.
Now, as mentioned above, the animation is of stunningly high quality. The architecture, character designs and even the lighting in all of the environments including the depictions of water which both symbolizes and depicts the chaos within the human heart are all equally detailed and consistently beautiful, so much so, that the viewer can tell that the animators put a lot of work went into it. Even the opening theme song animation’s most stunning trait is the twilight-lit classrooms filled with beautiful hyacinths, morning glories and other flowers. Likewise, the ending theme song is also bright and cheerful with colorful child like drawings that incorporate the use of paper cups. Casting-wise, I thought that both the sub and the English dub staff did a wonderful job in choosing its cast. Minako Kotobuki and Yuuki Takada were both lovely and wonderfully unique as the main protagonists, while Ai Kayano did a good job at displaying Sayaka’s darker side. With the English cast, Tia Ballad’s depiction of Yuu is both lively and energetic and at the same time does an incredible job of expressing Yuu’s lifelessness, while Luci Christian does an awesome job as Touko. However. Clint Blinkham’s Seiji Maki does a better job at showing how observant Maki really is.
Music-wise, the music is also incredibly beautiful with amazing piano music finely used to express the subtle emotions and thoughts within the characters’ minds. While its your standard pop song, the opening theme song ‘Kimi ni Furete (Touched by You)’ by Riko Azuna does an excellent job at expressing the drama of growing up and school life, while at the same time also depicting the warm feeling of love. In contrast, the ending theme ‘Hectopascal’ which is sung by Yuu and Touko’s seiyuu is bright and cheery while also depicting their feelings of wanting to be close to each other, but being afraid to. The only major gripe that I really have with this series was that we didn’t get to see the play in its entirety, but Bloom into You is an excellent romance series that even if you are not a Yuri fan, you’ll be drawn into watching it again and again.