Bloom Into You is an anime about two young, high school girls, Yuu and Touko, who find themselves kind of, sort of dating. This ill-defined relationship spurs them to consider all sorts of things, not just their sexualities (which is kind of a given), but who they are and who they want to be as people. Please watch this show if you haven’t already. It’s a really special anime, one that’s thoughtful, sensitive, and refuses to fall back on the tried-and-true, yet oh-so problematic tropes that plague the yuri genre. Today I will be talking about Touko Nanami, one of Bloom Into You’s two heroines, and a big part of what makes this show so amazing.
What first drew me to Touko was just how direct she is. She knows what she wants and pursues it – doggedly. Yuu is a prime example of this. Touko decided that she liked her, so she confessed to her, all within Bloom Into You’s first episode! I’ve seen hundreds of romance anime, so trust me when I say that a confession of love during the very first episode is an exceedingly rare thing (let alone from a girl). That’s usually reserved for the show’s finale, if at all. So it came as such a breath of fresh air for me to watch Touko skip the drama and cut right to the chase. Time is money and, Touko, you saved me a lot of time, so cheers!
That being said, though Touko actively pursued Yuu, she did so in a way that was mindful of Yuu’s boundaries. Save for their first kiss, which Touko initiated without Yuu’s consent (and immediately apologised for), Touko always sought Yuu’s permission to initiate anything physical. And whenever Yuu seemed uncomfortable, like with Touko’s request to kiss her, she didn’t push the matter or throw a tantrum, but immediately let it slide. Not only was this the right thing to do, but it also demonstrates that more than Touko wanted Yuu, she wanted Yuu to feel safe and comfortable. This shows a level of respect and maturity that’s almost unheard of in the yuri genre.
Something else that drew me to Touko was the fact that she presented as a walking contradiction. In her attempts to emulate her late sister, Touko strives for perfection. She’s top of her class, a friend to all, and student council president… And she has said that she would rather die than give up on this assumed persona. Yet, in spite of these words, Touko seems most happy and at peace when allowing herself to be weak and vulnerable around Yuu. Sure, while this might not make a lot of sense, since when has human behaviour followed rhyme or reason? If you ask me, this is just another part of what makes her such a compelling, believable character!
Touko is also very relatable! There are several aspects of her character that I really identified with while watching Bloom Into You. The first is her ongoing struggle to attain perfection. I, too, am a major perfectionist. I know that it’s ultimately untenable, but, all the same, my desire for perfection fuels almost every single one of my actions. It’s exhausting and I’m not surprised that Touko sought solace in the arms of another! The second is her many insecurities. The entire reason why she asked Yuu not to fall in love with her (despite how she felt about her) is because she considers herself unlovable (and how can she continue to love somebody who loves something she hates?). I suspect I’m not the only person to have wrestled with this same conundrum during some point in their lives. Interestingly, this isn’t where the similarities between Touko and I end…
Watching Touko and Yuu struggle to decipher their feelings for each other all while keeping their relationship a secret from other people helped me to realise that I’d been keeping a secret of my own. Like Touko, I, too, am attracted to women. I’ve alluded to this before, but to put it in such a straightforward way feels so strange… I’m also a married woman, who loves my husband very much, not to mention a committed Christian. I’m not sure how these three aspects of my identity reconcile with one another, or even if they can, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re all a part of what makes me me. It’s a little confusing and, like Touko, I face the challenge of deciding whether or not to let the mask slip and reveal that part of myself to others, but I think I’m up to the challenge!
My journey with Bloom Into You isn’t quite over, as I’m still reading its manga, but I sincerely hope that Touko comes to accept, even love, the parts of her that don’t fit into the perfect image of herself that she’s trying to convey, because I think that every single part of her, even the messy, broken parts, rock!