I’m trying to broaden my horizons when it comes to manga, so I’ve specifically been searching out yuri and BL titles. Seven Seas has recently ramped up their yuri offerings, and I was drawn to the cover of Bloom Into You, a title which has three English volumes currently in print and is currently ongoing in Japan. There’s been a lot of positive buzz about this specific title, and Nakatani is an author I’ve heard good things about, although I gather she is mostly known for her work with the doujinshi circle Rireba. Oddly, Bloom Into You runs in Dengeki Daioh, which is a shonen manga anthology from ASCII Media Works. Dengeki Daioh is a big source of licenses for Seven Seas, but because it’s a shonen magazine, my expectation for any yuri title published there is that there would be plenty of fanservice, male gazey kind of stuff. That, pleasantly, turned out not to be the case.
Part of the success of Bloom Into You is the well developed protagonist Yuu, a freshman in high school who transfers into a new school system. A good friend at her middle school confessed his feelings for her, and while she’s always wanted to experience a romance like the ones she’s seen in shojo comics, she can’t figure out what to do. She meets a sophomore student Nanami, who helps her figure out how to turn down this boy, but then almost immediately Nanami is confessing her feelings for Yuu. This is the point in the story where any of the standard cliches would set in, but a defining characteristic of Bloom Into You is that Yuu is that she isn’t interested in Nanami. No romantic intentions, no heart flutter, etc. Nakatani builds a strange, strained relationship between the two lead characters using this unreciprocated affection as a lynchpin to tie the series together.
Nakatani’s art is serviceable, if a little low key. There’s a level of detail in these comics that I found appealing, and there aren’t any places where the art counteracts the slow-moving storyline, but there aren’t any eye popping moments either. One of the nice things about Bloom Into You is Nakatani’s attention to detail with regards to backgrounds. Plenty of manga artists would leave out a lot of the staging that is included in this manga, relying more on screentone and gradients. Perhaps because this is a monthly series, there’s less of a drive to get pages churned out quickly, and so this kind of detail can flourish. That small positive aside, Nakatani’s art is well executed, but kind of dull.
The two main characters of Bloom Into You are built in such a way as to play off each other well, and I think this is the backbone of any successful romance manga, whether that’s comedy or tragedy. Nanami’s outward strength and charisma hides a selfishness that she only lets Yuu see. And Yuu, for her own part, is naive and overly generous with her time, falling neatly into Nanami’s hands. Still, her hesitancy is the key to the tension of the comic, and I think that’s what makes the series tick. There’s a push and pull to the relationship as Nanami tries to get closer to Yuu while Yuu tries to figure out what she wants. There’s a lot of introspection and double-guessing in this book, and Nakatani keeps the pacing tight. The comic is something of a slow burn, but you could guess that with a title with the word bloom in it. For anyone that’s looking for a good romance comic that defies expectations and is relatively chaste, Bloom Into You is a good choice, even if it isn’t spectacular.