The Secret Garden
Love can often bloom in the most unexpected places. It’s a trope that romance fans know all about, how the meet-cute between two protagonists at a café or some sort of once-in-a-lifetime event transforms into a beautiful love story. It becomes clear the couple in question was fated to be together, and watching them progress is addictive and mesmerizing. The same situation can be seen in the beautiful yuri love story, Bloom Into You.
Nio Nakatani’s sweet and melodramatic romance (originally published as a manga, available in English from Seven Seas Entertainment) focuses on two high school students who meet and interact in some truly interesting ways, then finds them gravitating together as potential romantic partners. It’s a diamond in the rough for the genre, and a story built on love that truly dazzles, especially in an age where more same-sex couples’ representation in anime is something we’re looking to see more of.
Meet first year high school student Yuu Koito, who’s always idealized romance as some sort of fictional, aspirational concept. She’s been searching for most of her life for the type of relationship you see in shojo manga—the kind that takes your breath away. It seems she may get her chance to see what it all feels like when a friend from junior high gathers the courage to confess his feelings for her. There’s just a pretty huge problem in the way when he does: Yuu doesn’t really feel anything from it.
Yuu isn’t blown away like she thought she’d be by this surprising declaration of love, and she has no idea how to respond. It’s not because she’s not interested, but more that she doesn’t feel anything at all. She has no idea if this is how things are “supposed” to be, and they certainly don’t match up with the idea of love that she’s gleaned from manga and other media. So instead of responding right away, she just lets the situation fester. She doesn’t offer an answer to her confessor, opting instead to let things stagnate. Occasionally, she hears from him, looking for an update, but he apologizes for “rushing” her.
When it’s suggested Yuu join the student council during her first few months of high school, she goes along with it because she finds herself in something of a haze. She has no clue what to join, so she decides to check out what student council has to offer. On her way to a student council meeting, she runs into the council president, Touko Nanami, right in the middle of turning down someone who’s chosen to confess to her. She turns him down gracefully, explaining that she’s just not interested in being in a relationship. When Yuu runs into her, Touko realizing what she’s seen, this chance encounter becomes the foundation for something beautiful between the two.
Yuu ends up consulting with Touko (since she overheard the rejection and all) about her own love life, thinking she may have found a confidante who she can speak to without fear of rejection or ridicule from her classmates, who are already talking about boyfriends and love and all the other things that come along with relationships in high school.
Touko explains to Yuu that she’s looking for that special person who makes her heart pound in a profound and affecting way, and her warmth and direct response is enough to help Yuu finally deliver the reaction her confessor was asking for.
Petals of Passion
From Yuu and Touko’s initial meeting, Bloom Into You reveals its delicious slow burn of a romance between the two female leads. Touko begins to see she has feelings for Yuu, but Yuu isn’t so sure she’ll feel anything from Touko’s advances, even as the two communicate and spend more time together. It’s a love story that doesn’t revolve around the same “love at first sight” tropes that happen in so many romances, where both are immediately smitten. Yuu takes some time to realize she’s “caught feelings,” so to speak, for Touko, as she thinks more and more about the student council president and spends more time with her.
But Bloom Into You is confident enough to let things go at their own pace. It gives Yuu the space and agency to lean into her relationship with Touko, and the series lets us watch them grow together, rather than giving Yuu immediate, loving feelings for Touko and dumping them into pointless situations to give the fans comedic romantic drama. This is a story that could very well play out in real life, and it’s all the better for taking it slow.
Learning about Yuu, her feelings of disillusionment, loneliness, and warped ideas of romance can actually be quite helpful for viewers feeling as though they’re stuck in their own loop in terms of being “late bloomers” or confused about their own role in their love lives.
Touko has her secrets as well—though she’s the picture of a calm, confident, and popular student council president, she’s still nervous about speaking in front of crowds, finding the right person she connects with, and relationships in general.
If you’re looking for fan service, in fact, yuri or otherwise, you’re not going to find it in Bloom Into You. While there’s kissing and touching, it’s more romantically inclined, and hardly sexual. It’s a series solely about the exploration of feelings between Yuu and Touko. Series wholly dedicated to those things are great when that’s what the story warrants, but this story, unfettered by focusing on those things, is able to accomplish more because of it.
A Beautiful Bouquet of Yuri
Bloom Into You is a slow-paced, methodical melodrama that’s sure to tickle anyone’s girls’ love fancy, especially since it values realism over spectacle. With believable problems, characters, and plot threads, it’s an excellent series that deserves your time and attention. Watching two former strangers gravitate toward each other the way Yuu and Touko do is positively intoxicating, and you’ll be begging for another season soon enough.
Bloom Into You is available from Sentai Filmworks and HIDIVE.