Title: Yagate Kimi ni Naru/Bloom Into You
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Romance, drama
Year of release: 2018
When distilled to its essence, character development, or any development particularly as a proponent of relationships (platonic, romantic or otherwise), is the medium conveying to us what the characters know, what they choose to do with that information and to whom they share it with. That’s a pretty simple definition, but that’s essentially it. Obviously it gets complicated by trying to build a world and tell a story, but it’s still frustrating how many series fail to understand this key concept. Yagate Kimi ni Naru (henceforth: Bloom) sets its sights solely on developments – and it does so with grace to spare. Bloom’s mission statement is in complicating and furthering its drama with nuanced developments in its character constellations. It even manages to do that while blindfolding its characters to their own feelings.
Bloom is a love story set in adolescence, and really captures the atmosphere of young love. There’s bitterness, confusion, confounded adoration, the fear, the unknown, and each emotion is given the appropriate build-up and ad-hoc presentation to not only be justified, but make the series’ characters feel living and breathing. It’s deeply relatable, especially as a queer media piece: each character self-vilifies themselves and wants desperately to change, and watching them change, both internally for them to understand, accept and take pride in their feelings, and externally for a very specific audience to see, makes this series a powerful drama with cathartic solutions.
The most interesting character is unsurprisingly the one given the most perspective: Yuu. Serving as the protagonist, she is a girl who did not feel any fluttering feelings when confessed to by a boy at the end of her middle school years, and fears that she simply can’t feel love because of it. It’s heartbreaking seeing her relate to her senior and favourite for the upcoming Student Council President elections, Nanami, who she initially thinks is like her and wants to get closer to to not feel so alone, because she’s quickly betrayed by Nanami’s romantic feelings for her. What makes Yuu so compelling is that she’s locked the words away because she’s so afraid to admit her feelings, even though her character is one who generally gives it their all when riled up, and both sides of her contradicting sides compliment beautifully throughout their presentation.
Nanami herself is a hard one to lock onto, and the series portrays Yuu trying to understand her as a central conflict and mystery. Perspective is an important aspect of Bloom, and it becomes apparent just how much the story changes when she is finally given a chance to monologue during a post-credit scene around the halfway point; everything begins to fall into place, as we learn just how many characters are channeling their emotions in the most personally destructive ways possible. While Bloom has moments of uplift, as it digs into its depths, it can become a difficult watch.
The supporting cast feature two members who quickly rise to prominence. The way both are elevated to the status of major players is impressive as a constant vision of the series’ main themes and developments. There is an absolutely important distinction to make between these characters and their juxtaposition to the leads, but the series cleverly keeps its cards close to its chest as it lets each individual’s internal space bubble over long beyond boiling. Perhaps the greatest strength of these arcs is showing the LGBT+ spectrum in a positive light and the effect of positive support from adults, though it can become frustrating that such a rarely seen identity is given a fairly small part.
More impressive than the underpinning writing of the show, however, is the presentation. Despite some occasional distance-shot art-hiccups, and red-to-earthy colour palette being a point of contention for some, Bloom is an audiovisual tour de force – despite the director being a relative newcomer. The original manga’s visual metaphors have been expanded upon and appear more frequently, symbolically and strikingly presenting the turmoils of its characters – but it is the sharp editing and precision of the series that lets it do this. Despite an inherently slow series pacing, the frame-to-frame pacing encompasses a huge range of speeds, never overusing imagery and choosing to let it linger just enough to allow the intensely personal romantic scenes to shine. Even comic scenes are sharp in their timing, yet absolutely genuine and true to its characters. Paired with some of the best sound mixing you could find in a drama like this, accentuating its dynamic spectrum to a punchy but still subtle degree, Bloom excels at every emotion it attempts: the subdued; the powerful; the fearing; the conflict; the silence; the ear-ringing aftermath of its bombshells, and perhaps more importantly than any other for the romance genre, the gorgeous tenderness of its young love that you simply can’t avert your eyes from.
And o, is Bloom a tender romance. Lesbian romances in anime often veer a little on the wayside when it comes to physicality, either cheesily overdoing it or stopping short of even touching hands. This series explores a plethora of physicalities, whether it’s sneaking in public displays of affection, private, passionate kisses, or even simply taking the time to hold one another and run a hand through the other’s hair. It all comes together with a sense of heart-pounding attraction as a result of the excellent storyboarding and timings. The subtext of what its characters are trying to feel versus what they are feeling means these scenes often leave you on edge, but you can’t help but be impressed by the nuanced character animation and deft voice performances that sell the delicacy of the developments at hand. Nor can you be surprised by the increasingly positive, ironic developments out of the rut the characters search for.
Bloom is a story about character development, and aces its key concept through intense juxtaposition to give deep exploration of its key relationships. With powerful depictions of self-loathing and young love, Bloom is a rollercoaster ride between the gut-wrenching, the heart-fluttering and the cathartic. Being a manga adaption, it sadly isn’t over, nor does Bloom even make a strong attempt to conclude its ongoing story, though it suggests thematic conclusion to some of its arcs. This is a series that’ll tear you apart, build you back up and ready you up for round two – and I’m here, waiting, poised, and absolutely hungry for more, because, simply, Bloom is too good to end here.