Bloom into You and Exploring Asexuality
What's originally a simple and sweet yuri story turns out to be much more complicated as these girls try to navigate their own sexuality!
I was in high school when I was first asked out. He was a little shorter than me: scrawny and flustered, a little cute, a little shy. I was surprised. I didn’t think anyone would ever ask. I impulsively said yes before I knew what I was doing and he darted off before I could even say thanks. I remember my heart thumping quickly in my chest as I messaged my friends, wondering what I should dress into. I bought makeup. I turned myself beautiful, just for him, a spectacle, in the hopes that it would please him.
The day of homecoming arrived, and with it, him: we arrived at the school a little early. With a flushed face, he turned to give me a kiss on the lips. I, surprised, pushed him away immediately, saying it was far too early for something like that, and we brushed it off with some nervous laughter as we entered the building. It was clear he didn’t think much of it as the festivities ensued, but that entire night, I replayed the scene over and over. I didn’t feel anything. Even as I danced with him, I still felt nothing. I didn’t understand kissing, or any of that kind of desire to be so physically close with someone.
“...She took it. It was stolen by a girl, just like that. I should be upset, shouldn’t I? But I’m not. I’m not even excited. Even though it was my first kiss.”
Bloom Into You stars female high school student Yuu Koito, who, for the most part, seems like your run-of-the mill shoujo protagonist. She loves romance manga, feels unfulfilled in her life since she’s never been confessed to, and wants to be in the ideal relationship. It is only when she gets involved with the student council, however, that she meets Touko Nanami, a second-year who seems almost too perfect: she’s confident, smart, well-spoken, and absolutely gorgeous. But one day, Yuu discovers her secret: despite being confessed to by so many people, Touko is unable to reciprocate feelings of love. In a twist move, Touko falls in love with Yuu for her honesty and kindness, and confesses to her instead. Yuu agrees to participate in a relationship, but still struggles with the void of not seemingly feeling anything romantic for Touko...
In a society where romance is often attuned with sex, it’s natural to think that when you fall in love, you want to be physically intimate with that person. There are varying levels of that kind of desire - you can develop it after getting to know someone, feel hints of it but never really act on it, or even pursue sexual desire itself without really wanting to connect with someone. Sometimes society tells us that we don’t deserve these feelings, and sometimes it encourages them. Sooner or later though, we all come to know one thing: as human beings, we crave the warmth and comfort of another person. We don’t want to be lonely. We wish to feel intimate with someone out there.
But what if you never feel the desire for intimacy at all? What if you see everyone the same way, and no one truly ignites that kind of pursuit of closeness? Without closeness, what is vulnerability? What are you, without intimacy? Bloom Into You tackles these questions. Whereas many adolescence-focused shows grapple with vulnerability through the theme of “you don’t have to do it all alone,” Bloom Into You takes that feeling, and explores it on a romantic and almost sexual level.
I’ve heard asexuality described as “seeing food at the table, but not ever feeling hungry.” I don’t know if that’s the most apt comparison, but I can say that being asexual is messy, and Bloom Into You targets this specific feeling with its protagonist. You often wonder if there’s something wrong with you inside, like maybe a deep and cherished thing was ripped away, or maybe you just don’t have the capacity to feel romantic emotions as intensely as others do. You’re obviously not a plant - you’re fully capable of having a sexual relationship, and biologically function like everyone else, but you just don’t crave sex. It does nothing to you. As a result, sometimes you feel like a ghost in the world; your feelings, incorporeal, your actions, deliberate instead of impulsive.
Yuu often spends her time determining if she truly “loves” Touko, because her actions aren’t based off a need for physical intimacy, and at first, even a romantic one. It is a harrowing depiction of someone who is possibly aromantic or asexual and struggling to fit themselves in society’s established definitions of what it means to be in love. Are we motivated by love to help someone? Does being in love mean that we need to constantly get riled up by the physical presence of that person? If romantic affection isn’t present, then are we just being “kind?” Is there truly no one that makes us tick as an individual, no one whom we determine as special, and thus no one who makes us special in return?
If Bloom Into You continued going down this path, it could almost be misconstrued as a story about how Yuu is considered a ‘broken’ individual, that her feelings are inadequate, and that her anxiety is nothing but a symbol of how girls should just “get it together.” Luckily, Bloom Into You goes beyond that. Yuu helped me realize that in spite of being asexual, there is nothing inherently wrong with being so. You can still live a fulfilled relationship where you seek affection and validation. The show shoots down the theory that either Yuu and Touko are girls that need fixing or help for their perceptions of falling in love. Rather, Bloom Into You focuses on how the two use their relationship like any other healthy couple would: to learn more about each other and progress towards self betterment. This is particularly powerful for Yuu, who struggles with the concept of love daily. A kiss does nothing for her, but through being with Touko, she can learn to love herself a little more and understand the desire to help and be with someone.
Today, I explore and relish the depth of any love, whether it be romantic, familial, or platonic. Being asexual has taught me that while a physical connection can be sacred, it certainly isn’t necessary to be able to fully connection with another human being. No one is perfect, but in our ability to love, we’re able to see the good in ourselves and each other, and Yuu’s journey to cherish her relationship with Touko is a visual message that reminds me of this every day.