Bloom Into You

So after watching Citrus recently, I got pretty curious about what an actual good Yuri anime might look like, and so I decided to go and give Yagate Kimi ni Naru a try (also called “Bloom Into You” in English). The premise is that the protagonist, Yuu, accidentally stumbles upon the soon-to-be student council president Nanami rejecting some guy’s confession. The two become fast friends and eventually Yuu confides with Nanami about how she was confessed to by her friend from middle school and needs advice on how to turn him down gently, since she is—as she puts it—incapable of feeling love. She turns the dude down finally over the phone with help from her support group, and then Nanami suddenly confesses outta nowhere (which we later learn is because of the protagonist’s inability to love as seen from Nanami’s perspective). Yuu doesn’t feel the same way and feels understandably confused but eventually decides Nanami is worth staying around to see if their friendship can eventually become something more, etc. Alright, there’s a lot to digest just in that opening segment but first I ought to mention the really fantastic art and animation on display here, the art style itself is very nice looking and it’s been realized excellently. There are a few hiccups (such as the uncanny first-person-perspective scenes and this one scene where the angle of the shot makes it look like the protagonist is walking on stumps instead of feet), but for the most part it’s easily one of the better looking shows I’ve seen. The music is quite good as well, nothing super crazy but it fits the theme and it’s used well with perhaps the exception of the first episode which is a bit overdone. In general, I think the first episode is a bit of an awkward opening; immediately we are shown the aforementioned awkward first-person perspective for starters, and even beyond that it is difficult to learn everybody’s names and personalities and follow everything that’s going on because there isn’t really anything that hooks you. In fact, one of the biggest issues with Yagate Kimi ni Naru is its pacing. This show is incredibly slow, so slow that it results in an incomplete fucking CLIFFHANGER ending, god damn man I thought we were done with that shit after Blood Lad! All other problems with the show aside, this is easily its biggest one; not only does it result in a piss-poor ending—manga notwithstanding because the anime needs to stand on its own separate from its source material—but the whole show is filled with so much nothing that I couldn’t help but be bored by it. Little to no humour of any kind has been injected into the narrative and so nothing at all breaks the constant monotony, making the whole show incredibly dry, like I’m watching something just to study it as opposed to being entertained by it. And I’m not saying that shows like these need comedy, but in the absence of comedy you need a damn good narrative. Naturally, that begs the question—does this show have one? Honestly, that’s a tough one; in terms of my own personal viewing experience, I did feel a staggering amount of apathy towards what was happening onscreen, but I was also trying to pay close attention to the narrative out of a desire to dissect exactly what it was trying to drive at. Yuu is a fun and interesting protagonist who I liked—the whole dynamic of her character revolves around her perception of what love is, resulting in a misunderstanding of her own feelings and thoughts. She assumes that she acts the way she does purely because she’s good-natured and that anyone else would do the same in her position, never considering the possibility that what she’s feeling is love because she sees love as being something completely foreign to her—the sense of utter fulfillment and downright obsession that we see in poorly written fiction when the two love interests exchange looks for the first time. The fact that both characters are girls only makes this approach more potent, and it’s a really great concept for a romance. So what exactly goes wrong? Let’s talk about Nanami, the protagonist’s love interest; I don’t think she’s a poorly written or flatly unlikeable character, but I do think her portrayal here was not really done justice. Maybe part of that just has to do with the growing bias I’m developing against characters of her particular archetype; Yukino Yukinoshita, Mei, and now this girl too all with backgrounds, self-defeating motivations and even appearances far too similar to one-another like they were all constructed using the same template. Putting that aside, one of the first major interactions we see between Yuu and Nanami is when Nanami confesses to Yuu immediately after helping her through the rejection of her old friend from middle school. At first no real reason is given for this, but eventually we learn enough to deduce that Nanami likes Yuu specifically because Yuu doesn’t have feelings for her; or rather, because Yuu is—as Nanami sees it—incapable of liking her. Even later we learn the reason why this matters in the first place—throughout the story, Nanami is struggling to try and become a replacement for her older sister who was killed several years ago in a traffic accident, doing her best to adopt the persona that she believes her sister embodies; utter perfection. That comes at a detriment to her personal mental well-being, but regardless of the stress she’s put herself under by trying to make up for her sister’s premature death, she continues to stubbornly pursue the path heedless of any advice given because she’s convinced the alternative—the disappointment of everybody who trusts her to accomplish great things in her sister’s place—is worse. She’s deluded herself into believing she wants to live life to the fullest by fulfilling the dreams of her departed sister; but she also hates herself as a result. We’re not directly told why, but it’s clear enough; she sees the role she’s playing as a scam utterly divorced from her true self. In turn, we can finally understand why Nanami is so intent on finding a partner who is incapable of ever loving her; she states herself that she can’t love someone who loves the things that she hates, such as, you know, Nanami herself. Stepping away from all that drama and back into reality, obviously that’s a highly flawed opinion, but it’s a very realistic one; it is not the problem, not at all. In fact, it’s really interesting, and I think this show really did have the potential to be great (even if Nanami’s stubbornness can be undoubtedly irritating from an outside perspective). The real problem is the inconsistency of Nanami’s character—there is a very clear motive here behind Nanami’s decision to confess in the way that she did, and legitimate reasons as to why she grows to like Yuu further and further as the show progresses. She sees herself as being unconsciously manipulatory and controlling because of how much she confides in the protagonist, and there are sections where it is implied that her seemingly true and unconditional love is a front, or even that her initial confession was more of a strategy than a spur of the moment decision. All very interesting and neat—so why is this exact same thing played so god-damn straight? And no, Nanami pegging herself as self-contradictory is not a satisfactory explanation. Do you know why Yuu is incapable of understanding love? It’s because we as a society have romanticized it. In case you haven’t noticed yet, real life doesn’t work that way; our eyes are not capable of seeing red strings of fate, and we can’t peer into the hearts of men six seconds after meeting them. And look, that’s not me trying to be pessimistic or anything. I don’t claim to be a philosopher or an intellectual; I’m just as much an idiot as everybody else, only a very opinionated one. I think part of why we have romanticized love in the way we have is because we see ourselves as coming to sudden and profound realizations about life, but life doesn’t work that way either—it’s not defined by specific milestones or particular moments. Regardless, we assume that we are eventually supposed to come to the sudden and profound realization that we are in love with somebody. But we’ve had families and friends we’ve loved since we were fucking children; everybody’s circumstances are different of course (primarily in regards to family), but I’ve become thoroughly convinced that what I feel for my closest friends is love. And how about our pets? Do we not love them? Of course we do; so how exactly is that different from “true”, “romantic” love? The truth, of course, is that it’s not, not in the slightest—and before you smart-mouth me about how you don’t fuck your dog, sexual attraction doesn’t have anything to do with love, I mean for god’s sake I thought Yukino Yukinoshita was attractive looking despite her behavior. All that rambling wraps us back around to our protagonist, who assumes that love is some kind-of profound feeling she’s supposed to experience, not realizing that the reason she gives a shit about Nanami’s situation and fragility is because she loves her. So knowing everything we know about Nanami and her motivations for what she does and why she cares about the protagonist, why is it that her character is simultaneously portrayed as being traditionally, hopelessly “in love” when confronted with the object of her affections? *sigh*. No matter how many times I ask the question, there’s no good answer. Therein lies the problem with the story; the inconsistency of its voice. The way that Nanami’s character is ultimately portrayed is a disservice to its entire concept. Theoretically, it’s incredibly interesting, but it’s the execution that fails and ultimately makes it feel like I’m studying an opinion piece rather than watching a piece of entertainment (and that’s aside from my self-assigned task of reviewing everything I watch). Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this show is bad. If there’s anything here that’s clear, it’s that they tried very hard to write something unique and truer to reality than its peers. There’s some really interesting dialogue in here; one particular scene that really stuck out to me as being well done was Yuu’s observation of her friend Akari and her willful self-delusion in regards to her insistence on chasing her crush—in Yuu’s words, as if she’s practiced her speech on her own, over and over, getting it just right until she’s convinced herself. Yuu’s highly accurate deduction of the truth is quickly undercut by the irresponsible encouragement of her friend group who would rather feed into Akari’s self-delusion as opposed to advising that she move on for the sake of her own well-being. Like damn, that’s really good writing, more of that please. Speaking of side characters, there are two other relevant ones, Maki and Saeki. Saeki is basically Nanami’s yes man and Yuu’s love rival, forming a highly unnecessary love-triangle that I personally feel detracts noticeably from the core narrative especially considering the nature of Saeki’s own hopeless attraction towards Nanami. Maki is much more interesting but under-utilized, a guy who sees himself as a side-character and finds fulfillment in helping along the love-lives of others—it goes deeper than that and it’s a shame his character wasn’t explored further, he was really neat. Pretty much all the other side characters are unimportant and not worth mentioning, they’re just kind-of there (with of course the exception of the legendary Fan-kun, best character in the show). Also, since I somewhat glossed over the terrible ending I mentioned earlier, all of this shit that I’ve been babbling about this whole time is never resolved, which is hugely disappointing; the whole show spends an absurd amount of time slowly building up to a whole fuckin’ load of nothing whatsoever. If you’re gonna make an anime in the first place, it is not acceptable to end it so unsatisfyingly and basically just tell people to read the manga without telling them to read the manga. But enough waxing poetic about love and shit. Honestly, I’m tired of it; it’s getting really exhausting talking about this same subject matter over and over. In the end, all of this kind-of nonsense boils down to immaturity. That’s the trend I really wish we could buck; high school settings and stories told about immature children. That feeds into a bit of a Japanese cultural phenomenon in which kids are often portrayed as being more mature than adults; or rather, maturity itself is seen as being flawed. Sometimes that can actually be done well—Persona 5 is a great example. More often though, it leads to stories like this one. You could argue that the show’s ability to make you think and the way in which it obfuscates the true nature of its narrative speak to its good qualities, but that’s a very subjective thing. Let’s ignore all the contentious shit I’ve said up to this point and boil down my feelings into simple statements. When I watched the show, I felt utterly indifferent and apathetic. I think it’s interesting, but poorly told. Afterwards, doing things I liked made the contrast between that apathy and happiness seem particularly stark; like, I can get emotional watching a god-damn video-game documentary but not watching this. I’m actually pretty weak to tear-jerkers as long as they’re good ones, which I’ve discussed a bit in the past. At the end of the day, I just didn’t care for this show at all, even if I can recognize a lot of its good points and respect it to a certain degree. If you think differently, that’s fine; I can understand why a lot of people are into this show in particular. My opinion doesn’t really mean shit to anybody aside from me, but it’s important to remember that reviews are inherently opinionated, something I often feel is lost upon today’s “professional” critics. I don’t personally recommend this one, but depending on what kind-of shows you’re into you might consider giving it a shot—if nothing else, it has the ability to get you thinking.

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