Will these two classmates find love in one another, or is there more at stake?
Title: Bloom Into You (Yagate Kimi ni Naru)
Genre: Romance, Yuri, School Life
Publisher: Kadokawa (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Story/Artist: Nakatani Nio
Translator: Jennifer McKeon
Serialized in: Comic Dengeki Daioh
Original Release Date: May 16, 2017
In my review of volume one of Bloom Into You, I said that this series did a few things differently than other yuri manga; I speculated that this was more because this is Nakatani Nio’s first yuri series rather than deliberate subversion. I continue to hold onto that thought, and if it wasn’t for the fact that the series is explicitly considered a yuri title by its publisher, I would be questioning calling it a yuri at all after this volume.
As mentioned in the previous review, Yuu feels startlingly close to being asexual but again, given the niche understanding of asexuality (at least here in the US; given that Japan’s overall LGTBQ representation in media is much smaller than in the US I’m inclined to apply this broad stroke to them as well) I doubt this is intentional. In volume one we also see the series’ other lead, Touko, rejecting a boy with a crush on her and pursuing Yuu instead, so it’s logical to think “Oh, Touko’s a lesbian or possibly bi” but Nio dances around this idea. We see a flashback to Touko having previously being propositioned by a girl and while she’s not put off by the gender, she still doesn’t want to accept it since Touko has some Very Deep Issues About Being Loved. At this point it’s difficult to suss out Touko’s orientation at all, it seems as if her previous rejections had less to do with the confessor’s gender, or even Touko’s own personal interest in them, but due to past griefs.
It frankly feels rather cliched; in the flashbacks we see we can see that the death of Touko’s older sister Mio hit her very hard and that Touko took all of the “You’ll have to do what she couldn’t!” comments to heart a bit too seriously — to the point where she strives to do what her sister could not and denies any experience that would be solely her own. Perhaps some of the adults in Touko’s life really were pushing her to become Mio 2.0 but, without seeing proof of that so far, it seems like Touko is just martyring herself. Which means that despite her lovey-dovey actions around Yuu, in truth it’s not really about attraction. Touko doesn’t want anyone to reciprocate her love and given Yuu’s lack of romantic interest in anyone, Yuu seems like the safest bet.
In short, Touko’s character writing rubs me the wrong way. I could fully understand a character with hangups about being loved, especially at a younger age when she’s is still growing mentally and emotionally and just hasn’t had the time and experience to sort things out, but tying it so strongly to her dead sister is just so, ugh, anime. Frankly it reminds me of many of the problems I have with CLAMP’s character writing; the characters aren’t “gay” they’re “If it’s you it’s okay!” when, ultimately, there are ways to make these relationships honest and representative — few creators seem to be queer enough to know about that, though.
I’m frankly disappointed with this volume, after the first volume I had a lot of hopes for a relationship with an ace-spectrum protagonist but I’m left feeling very frustrated by the writing surrounding Touko. Nio still has opportunities to right the story and show Touko with a depth of self-doubt and uncertainty that makes her character makes sense, but otherwise Touko’s character writing feels like a real betrayal to the promise in the first volume.