Monday, October 1, 2018

Bloom Into You Volume 3 by Nakatani Nio is my favorite so far (Manga Review)

Touko and Yuu
I was pretty skeptical of Bloom Into You volume 1 and a bit less so for volume 2. So I am pleased to say that Bloom Into You volume 3 by Nakatani Nio (and published in the US by Seven Seas) takes another step forward on the quality scale.

Yuu's friend Koyomi is writing the script for the student council play. She pushes Yuu to identify some flaw in Touko that she can use to craft an interesting character. Yuu knows she can't spill the beans that Touko is actually a hot-mess inside and demurs. While discussing the play and other arrangements at a local cafe, Yuu, Touko, Sayaka and Koyomi see their female teacher who seems friendly with the female owner. Sayaka later asks the owner, and discovers the teacher is in a relationship with her. Sayaka also exposes her feelings for Touko to the owner after this revelation and we get to learn a lot about Sayaka's past relationship with a girl in middle-school.

This is the setup to a volume that mostly focuses on two things: 1) kissing and 2) the field day.

There is really good kissing. I won't lie. It's really well done.

Due to all the preparations, Touko and Yuu don't connect often, so Touko creates some alone time for them, and despite Yuu still not feeling romantically attracted to Touko, she seems to genuinely enjoy their make-out session.

This is what I'm starting to like about this series. Yuu is presented as a-romantic but not a-sexual. Maybe she is sexually attracted to girls or maybe not, but she is able to enjoy the physical contact even if she doesn't experience romantic love at it. We don't often get nuanced representations of the romantic spectrum in manga, and I'm liking this take on it. It also leads to a volume-concluding interaction with Touko that will stay with you for it's heat, but is also consistent from a characterization standpoint and maybe even moves it along a bit. Well done.

The art continues to be consistent in style and well done, even if not exactly my favorite type - I like it a bit more realistic than cute. There is good use of contrast with a regular balance of stark white, middle-gray, and black on the characters. Other than that, screentones are used to create "color" differences in the backgrounds, but not in the fantastical way of some classical shoujo (I'll admit to being a classic shoujo screentone fan - lots of starbursts and sparkle - so I probably notice and miss this more than the average person). Basically, I'm saying the art is good, but a bit on the cutesy side.

I also liked this volume's balance of inner narration, multiple character perspectives, a bigger cast, action and plot with the field day, and THE KISSING SCENES which were pretty beautiful - especially the final ones.

Overall, I was really pleasantly surprised that this volume felt more focused in its plotting and character development and has made me hopeful for the whole series. I give it an easy 7/10! Nice job Nio-sensei.


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