Bloom Into You Collection (Cert PG)

2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 318 minutes approx.

Release Date: April  6th

Love in real life is never as it is portrayed in fiction (not that I would know), so anyone expecting to hear violins and see giddy hearts whenever somebody catches their eye is in for a big  shock. So, it is with some irony that we have a fictitious tale of young love based on that very premise.

Yuu Koito has always wondered if love as described in songs, films, and manga is true to life when a boy confesses to her and she doesn’t feel anything in return. Is she incapable of loving or has media been lying to her? Having started high school, Yuu is struggling to find an after school club to join, taking up a suggestion to join the Student Council which is in need of fresh blood.

On her way to the student council office, Yuu witnesses the president Touko Nanami eloquently reject the confession of a boy, letting him down without causing undue upset. After getting to know Touko, Yuu confides in her about the confession she has yet to respond to and asks for advice. Touko’s reaction is not what Yuu expected – a confession by Touko towards Yuu.

For all the horndogs reading, Bloom Into You is not a salacious, graphic yuri tale but a gentle, almost chaste character study about self-identity and acceptance that just happens to feature an all-girl cast as the romantic leads. Adapted from the manga by Nio Nakatani, this is as shoujo as a show can get and actively unsexy for those looking for Sapphic sizzle, and all the better for it.

As the opening paragraph alludes, the launching pad for this tale is one that has long needed addressing in film or anime, so in many ways it is a little disappointing it is just a start point and not one explored for the duration of 13 episodes. However, by choosing an allegorical route the path is left open to chart the journey of somebody unsure of their feelings dipping their toes into the vast oceans of romance for the first time.

Touko is two years older than Yuu, and as the Student Council president is in a position of great responsibility, which makes her attraction to Yuu not just surprising but maybe even inappropriate. I suppose the idea is that love, or crushes, can strike anyone at any time, but in this case, Yuu hardly did anything that we can see to ignite such feelings in Touko. 

Naturally, Yuu is shocked by Touko’s confession but doesn’t reject the idea of friendship with her either because of her inability to feel love. The portrayal Touko is careful not to make her predatory towards Yuu or a persistent nuisance; the closest we get to Touko asserting her council rank is to assign Yuu as her campaign manager for the upcoming presidential election, upsetting her long time friend Sayaka Saeki, who is also in love with Touko.

Yet, Sayaka is willing to step aside for Yuu if she makes Toujo happy, so where does the drama and tense frisson come from? The “will they won’t they” tease between Yuu and Touko is extinguished by the end of episode two and not dragged out for the entire run, bucking one trend of the romance genre, and there is nothing explicit or fan servicey to heat things up either.

Here is where the story subverts expectations – Touko seems to be suffering from an identity crisis, first hinted when she asks Yuu if she can be in love with her but Yuu has no obligation to love Touko back. Touko admits she can’t be the person Yuu deserves to fall in love with, an odd thing for somebody so smitten to conclude let alone declare. But this is congruent in carrying the theme of acceptance, as well as planting the seeds for Yuu’s dormant feelings to finally bloom (pun very much intended).

When the student council stages a play for the upcoming arts festival, Yuu’s aspiring writer friend Koyomi Kanou produces a script about a girl with amnesia who is told by three different people what sort person she was, leaving her to choose which is the real her. This triggers something in Touko and during rehearsal, Yuu notices the effect it has on her, eventually learning the truth about Touko’s past.

Even with these conventional plot beats, the real essence of this show is the huge steps forward taken in positive LGBTQ representation in anime. Not only does it eschew the lasciviousness of adult yuri, but also lesbian relationships are posited as commonly accepted, with a female teacher in a same sex relationship. Male characters are mostly secondary and even they don’t sexualise or scandalise any of the girls, a subtle way of encouraging acceptance within the tawdry male demographic.

Given a PG rating for this UK release, the content does often get a bit twee at times but this lack of unnecessary excitement simply allows the characters to grow and connect with the audience, a good thing as this is an internal monologue heavy affair, relaying their thoughts and concerns, Yuu in particular. And its handling of the kissing scenes is tender and sensitive even when it seems Touko may be taking Yuu for granted.

A relatively new studio, Troyca’s work on the production is suitably sweet and luscious, with backgrounds and artwork Makoto Shinkai would approve of, and a colour palette of warm hues to give everything a comfortable aura. The animation is rather economic in comparison but character driven shows usually are.

One notable gripe is the Bloom Into You manga was still running when this was made, thus we don’t get to see the play take place, despite it being a crucial plot point. This leaves us hanging after the last episode without a resolution, a frustrating ending to just as it was about to peak. A second series or OVA conclusion to this gentle, empathetic, and forward-looking show is a must.

 

Extras:

Japanese Language DTS Master Audio 2.0

English Language DTS Master Audio 2.0

English Subtitles

Disc 2 Only:

Clean Opening Animation

Clean Closing Animation

Japanese Promos

Disc Credits

Trailers

  

Rating – *** ½  

Man In Black