Bloom Into You is full of characters who tell themselves lies – but are these lies we tell ourselves?
Watching Bloom Into You, despite finding Yuu’s struggle to reconcile her rational mind and her feelings fascinating and beautifully nuanced in the way it is presented, really makes me frustrated. I’m watching a character who is clearly genuinely in love with another, who has opportunity after opportunity to act on her emotions with few genuine obstacles, and yet time and time again, she creates a barrier between herself and the object of her affection.
It almost makes me wonder how they’ll play it at the end. If the end up together, Nanami probably deserved better than being strung along by Yuu for so long before Yuu finally accepted what was true from nearly the beginning. If they don’t end up together, than Nanami will be Yuu’s one-who-got-away and she’ll have nobody to blame but herself and her own self-deception and indecision. Either way, while it might seem sweet and it certainly keeps the story moving, the reality is that if this romance were not a fictional construct, this would be a really bad place for the characters to be in.
While it might seem fine to see it as only a work of fiction and to dismiss these characters as exaggerated for affect, these characters, like many others in anime, really do seem to echo their creators and when it comes to love, you have to admit, people do some pretty silly things.
So Yuu represents the first big lie that people tell themselves. It isn’t love. Yuu is hardly the first anime character to convince herself that what she is feeling isn’t love. She joins a long list of anime characters who insist that they just like the other person, or worse, that they are just playing around. For Yuu, she’s convinced herself that she admires Nanami for all of her outstanding qualities, but that is normal. It isn’t love.
We see a more extreme case of this in Ririchiyo Shirakin who not only doesn’t really she is feeling love (or at least strong like) but manages to self diagnose herself with potential arrhythmia. Now, I’ll admit that most people are at least aware enough of their own emotions to understand that they aren’t genuinely feeling ill when they get that tightness in their chest or their heart goes doki-doki, but Ririchiyo is a fairly special case in terms of being unaware of how to deal with emotions.
And when we ask why do characters do this and make statements about how dumb it is and why can’t they just be honest… You start to think why don’t people in real life. Why aren’t people honest about how they feel?
Which actually brings us to the second great lie that people tell themselves. I’m fine the way things are. This one is illustrated through Sayaka in Bloom Into You. As Nanami’s friend she wants more but for various reasons has decided that she’s fine with things the way they are. She isn’t honest at all about what she wants from Nanami but still feels jealous when she sees how close Nanami is getting to Yuu.
So why wasn’t Sayaka just honest about how she felt?
Because, like most sensible people, she was afraid of losing what she had. It wasn’t so much that she was fine with things, but more the loss of what she had was more than she was willing to gamble. If she’d thought she’d had a sure chance, she might have made a move, but there’s no certainty in love. And with Sayaka’s background, can you blame her? Dumped by her former senpai who then made her feel twisted and wrong about her sexual preferences, Sayaka isn’t exactly wanting to dive head first into another relationship. She’s got plenty of reason to doubt and more than enough reason to try to hold onto what she has.
But, Sayaka isn’t alone in this. In fact, she shares this trait not only with many anime characters and people, but she also shares this trait with another Sayaka. Sayaka Miki from Madoka Magica who uses her one wish to save the one she loves and allow him to play his violin again but in all the time he was hospitalised, despite visiting him, talking with him, being with him, Sayaka never once confesses how she feels. And then her friend announces that she’s going to confess and Sayaka is left in an absolute state of turmoil which more or less leads to her downfall.
So could Sayaka Miki have confessed? Was she fine the way things were? It is kind of too late to know but these characters represent the very real fear people feel about being open and honest with their feelings and the very real potential downside of holding off too long.
Finally, Nanami gives us the third type of lie people tell themselves in the face of love. Even if you don’t love me back, I’m fine just loving you. One sided, unrequited love makes for excellent story fodder but the reality of it is pretty crushing over time. No matter how generous a person is, pouring love and affection toward another and receiving nothing back is exhausting and for most not something that can be sustained (most, not all). Nanami tells Yuu it is fine if she doesn’t fall in love. Later she tells Yuu not to fall in love with her. Yet despite that, Nanami keeps pushing the relationship forward wanting more and more from Yuu.
No matter what Nanami says her actions speak louder than her words. Her request of Yuu at the sports carnival, that Yuu initiate a kiss, speaks volumes. Nanami wants Yuu to reciprocate. She doesn’t want to be holding up a one sided affection. While she rationalises and says that she’s fine just being in love, ultimately what she wants is more than that.
Looking at another anime character, Linda from Golden Time tries very hard to wish Banri the best. She loved him but because of his accident he forgot her and she left to let him move on with his life. Reunited, she tells herself that she honestly wants Banri to have the life he chooses but deep inside it is killing her to see the boy she loved not know who she is and with Koko. Admittedly, the amnesia aspect of that makes it somewhat less relatable to the average viewer, but it is still an interesting love story.
Bloom Into You is a beautiful anime. The direction, the music, the characters are all beautifully put together. But where it gets a lift beyond just being another pretty anime about high school love is in its exploration of people in love and the lies they tell themselves. This is what makes this story and the characters compelling and brings us back week after week. That and it is just really pretty.
Well, if you made it to the end of this ramble, I’d love to know your thoughts on love in Bloom Into You or in anime in general.
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