Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bloom into You Volume 2 improves the emotional believability of Yuu (Manga Review)

Yuu and Touko
Bloom into You volume 2 by Nakatani Nio and published by Seven Seas picks up after the student council election in volume 1. Where I struggled to really buy-into the two characters and the overall tone of volume 1, I felt that volume 2 was quite a bit more honest with itself and the two lead characters, particularly Yuu.  In volume 1, Touko has confessed to Yuu the first day she met her. Yuu doesn't seem to have any interest in anyone, yet seems stuck to Touko in a strange way. Check out my review of volume 1 for my concerns with the setup. Moving on to volume 2...

Yuu's senpai, Touko is the new student council president and continues to make it very clear she loves Yuu. Yuu continues to be drawn to Touko, but also doesn't feel the hormonal lust that Touko feels. Yet, she does regularly enable Touko and Touko's feelings/actions quite a bit, encouraging a kiss, accepting public hand holding, etc... Despite my concerns with the setup in Volume 1, it actually feels more emotionally honest in volume 2. Part of the support for that comes from Yuu's narration in this volume.

Throughout volume 2, Yuu thinks about her desire to feel something towards anyone. She makes it clear to herself and Touko that she believes Touko is the only person who could possibly like her and so she's content to explore what it means to be near someone with Touko even though Touko doesn't make her heart throb. She wants to feel, but she can't. That was a clue. Combine that with an interesting reference to her sister that might not be her sister and I got to thinking: what is Yuu's background? Will there be some big reveal that will explain this strange enabling of Touko, the complete lack of feelings for anyone, and make sense of Yuu's selflessness in protecting Touko? There is something very unnatural about what Yuu does, yet volume 2 presents it as consistent, and that is perhaps our hint that there is a background story that will justify the uneven volume 1's setup.

If I had a hunch (and this is probably because I've been reading so much on the topic for work) I would guess that Yuu is adopted and/or has had some other significant trauma in her early life. I bet she's created some sort of mental blocks, distancing herself emotionally while also allowing someone to have their way with her even when she's not interested. It feels sort of like reactive attachment disorder (in its low-intensity manga expression). Obviously I have no idea what's really going on yet so that's just arm-chair psychology. But I did feel like Yuu's motivations were more consistent and although still wishy-washy, at least potentially grounded in a plausible emotional reality in this volume. Even though she doesn't have feelings and still lets Touko do stuff, she's pretty clear that she wishes she could feel something for someone and is happy that Touko is the one she gets to push her exploration. There is some sort of affection for Touko, even if it isn't love or lust.

On the down-side, although the characterizations came into better focus, the story is so heavy on Yuu and Touko's "relationship" and particularly Yuu's lack of feelings that it doesn't leave much room for plot or other meaningful aspects of character development or backstory (although we get a little bit about Touko). I like a love story situated in a bigger picture, however Bloom Into You feels a bit myopic. This has been a struggle for me with other series lately too. Maybe it's the school setting, but I have to think there are other thoughts on their minds and things going on that could broaden our understanding of the characters and give them more situations to play off of. Further, in this volume, the focus on eventually putting on a school play, the student council setting, etc...just feels like trope after trope. Yes, they're done slightly differently, but I still want to see more diverse stories in yuri. That doesn't mean this isn't well done, just a comment on its lack of novelty.

The art continues to be nice, serviceable, but not extraordinary and not my favorite type, but certainly appealing and probably many other peoples' type of art. There were a handful of really beautifully drawn character faces that show Nio-sensei's art talent.

In the end, it was better than volume 1 and so I'd give it a low 7/10 or a high 6/10. The series is starting to show some promise and maybe some greater character depth. I do think it's okay that Yuu's confusion is going to last a while, because it really might not be confusion at all but instead a significant sign of what she (might) have been through prior. We'll see if my theory comes to bear or if I'm full of it (probably). I'll keep reading though, because it's not bad, and I am curious about Yuu's psychology.


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