Episode 4: The Distance Between Fondness and Kisses / Not One of the Characters | 好きとキス距離／役者じゃない
Bloom Into You is nothing if not a slow burn, but even “burn” has been an exaggeration when protagonist Yuu hasn’t had even a modestly lukewarm shade of attraction toward Touko. But are we slowly starting to see the beginnings of what could potentially become the suggestion of maybe perhaps an almost flickering of a cheap votive candle’s worth of flame, if the lights are out and we squint really hard?
Touko, the newly-elected student council president, starts her reign of power by proposing the student council rekindle an abandoned club tradition of putting on a stage performance at the upcoming student Cultural Festival. Her vice president Saeki and the other senior member are thrilled about the idea, but the two first-year students, Yuu and a boy named Maki, are reluctant to put themselves in front of a crowd.
Maki is a cutie, and while he made background appearances in the earlier episodes, his role as a lead is cemented when he gets a little bit of backstory. He enjoyed sports clubs in elementary school, but was more interested in being the team manager than an actual player, and he feels more comfortable being in a supporting role than in the lead. (Meta as fuck.) He also grew up the only boy among a slew of sisters, so is comfortable listening to “girl problems”, especially in terms of romance. Goddamn, Maki, you may not want to perform on stage but you were typecast for this role.
Touko hits on Yuu again when they are alone in the student council building. She is nice about it, or rather, as nice as one could possibly be when they are persistently hitting on someone who has already clearly rejected them. Touko politely asks Yuu if she can kiss her. Yuu bristles at first, but then says it’s fine, because she doesn’t exactly… hate it.
Slow burn, fam. We’re taking baby steps.
They kiss, because Touko is inexplicably mad for Yuu and Yuu is willing to passively tolerate it.
But guess who sees them from the window – it’s our boy Maki.
Maki is surprised to see them, and there’s minor suspense where we wonder if he’s going to be disgusted, homophobic, and/or jealous, and therefore cause problems. But don’t worry, Maki’s the ultimate wingman. He gets another artsy scene exploring his inner thoughts, where he admits he really enjoys when girls come to him for relationship advice, because he likes being in on the gossip and watching love stories unfurl. No, he’s not just trying to get laid – in fact, he hates it when the girls in question end up confessing their feelings to him instead, because he is only interested in being an onlooker. Which might be odd, but this is a series about teens maturing and developing feelings at their own pace, so cut the kid some slack.
Anyway, Maki tells Yuu that he saw her and Touko kissing, and asks if they are dating. Yuu freaks out, and envisions this rumor spreading and causing trouble for Touko by ruining her reputation. She begs Maki not to tell anyone what he saw for Touko’s sake, and Maki cheerfully agrees. He points out that Yuu must care about Touko quite a bit to show concern for her so quickly.
YUU’S BLOOMING STATUS: A TAD
Yuu continues to be prickly toward Touko, and verbally rejects her again. She also berates Touko for standing so close to her when they walked down the school corridor, criticizing her intrusion of personal space and noting it could be misinterpreted if anyone was watching. But when Touko tries to describe her feelings for Yuu – inelegantly saying it’s “Yuu’s fault” she wants to kiss her, because Yuu is willing to accept Touko for the way she is – Yuu comments it must be nice to feel that way, and that’s a feeling she herself would like to experience. Yuu then gives Touko permission to kiss her, and says that she doesn’t exactly hate it, and it isn’t exactly that she doesn’t have interest. But at Maki’s inquiry, Yuu immediately worries about Touko’s reputation, and spares no thought for the potential negative repercussions she herself might face.
With this in mind, Yuu telling off Touko earlier for standing so close to her in a public space can be framed under a more noble light. Yuu does care about Touko, but it has never been a question whether or not Yuu cares about her friends. Yuu, as far as we can see, is a caring person. The question remains whether or not Yuu is actually attracted to Touko, as the first half of the episode’s title suggests in “The Distance Between Fondness and Kisses.” Overall, Yuu remains cool and disinterested toward Touko, despite being warm and friendly toward everyone else.
On the flip side, Touko’s attraction to Yuu is still given an underwhelming answer. Touko appreciates Yuu for accepting her flaws, but a) Touko has supportive friends, such as Saeki, who would surely be understanding of Touko’s insecurities, and b) Touko admitted attraction to Yuu back in episode 1, before her insecurities were ever revealed to Yuu. It was Yuu who had the courage to open up to Touko about feeling pressured to date a boy she did not have real interest in.
ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE
The key theme this episode was stage performance, illustrated on three levels. The first is the literal: Touko wants to have the student council perform at the Cultural Festival, but Yuu is too afraid to put herself before an audience. Since the Cultural Festival is the most important event the student council plans, we will probably get more into this later.
The second is Maki’s metaphor of preferring to watch instead of participate, where he imagines himself literally sitting in a theater watching characters struggle through their romantic dramas. And when the fourth wall is broken – that is, when a girl struggling with love turns to him, an audience member, and confesses her feelings, the immersion makes him uncomfortable.
And finally, the social performance, in which Yuu feels that Touko must maintain a certain persona in order to hold her crown, and if Touko’s relationship with Yuu is revealed, she may face resentment: for dating when she had said she wouldn’t date anyone, and a first-year girl at that, and the one whom she let be her campaign manager.
The art is still stunning. The world oozing into inky-black when Yuu realizes that Touko might suffer for her feelings for her was an artistic highlight. Occasionally, a visual gets a little cheesy – like Maki envisioning Yuu and Touko as butterflies, which brought a bit of a creepy element to what is undoubtedly supposed to be a sweet and supportive character. But overall, watching Bloom Into You is an aesthetic indulgence.
Which is great, because I truly can’t express how much I don’t care about whether or not these kids perform on stage at the Cultural Festival. The literal plot is languid and mundane. But that’s fine – or at least, it has the potential to be, because Bloom Into You is clearly intending to tell a story about emotions more than a story about events.
WHERE TO WATCH (LEGALLY): HIDIVE (dub and sub)