I touched on this briefly in my review, but I wanted to talk a little more in-depth about the representation in the excellent Bloom Into You. In particular, the way it deals with some sides of the LGBTQ community that are often either misunderstood or outright erased. So, let’s dive right in!
During the series, we meet Riko Hakozaki and Miyako Kodama. Riko is the staff adviser for the Student Council (which our leads are part of), and Miyako is the manager of a café that the student council members frequent. They are also in a happy relationship.
Now, the first thing to note here is that the two women are both adults. I bring this up as LGBTQ relationships often seem to appear in anime through the eyes of teens. Whether it be the atypical ‘coming out’ tale or as the ‘comedy side character’ role, we rarely see adults already secure in their orientation. That was really quite refreshing. Equally so was discovering that Riko is bi.
The thing is, until we see Miyako start to show some jealousy at Riko working with Tomoyuki to help the girls get their acting skills up to scratch, we had no indication that this was the case. And therein lies something that you often see in real life: if you weren’t aware of the characters or source material, would you have picked up on Riko being bi before this moment?
Bi erasure is something I wrote about back in 2017. Honestly, I feel like it’s part of why people never even really consider bisexuality for a character until it’s brought up. We’re kinda conditioned to assume that everyone is straight until we see that they’re with/interested in someone of the same gender. Then, we’re conditioned to assume that they’re gay. The possibility that they may be interested in more than one gender never really comes up.
And boy does it cause issues in real life too. When people find out that you’re bi – or indeed pan – there’s the risk that they’ll turn on you. Case in point, I saw a tweet that read ‘Dear Coronavirus, please take all the bi girls first, signed, all the lesbians’. This is, of course, not what all lesbians think. But it does apply to some. The same thing comes into play in the MM end of the spectrum too, with plenty of gay men believing that bisexuality simply doesn’t exist at all.
That’s why I view these two as being really important. They’re a positive representation of a same-gender relationship where one member is attracted to more than one gender. The key being that, despite stereotypes, Riko is more than happy being with just Miyako. There’s no need to ‘be with both’, there’s no real distrust, there’s just a stable couple who can discuss issues and be happy together.
And what issue do they discuss? Whether Riko has a preference for men or women. This too was well dealt with, with both women having a simple chat about it and why it doesn’t actually matter in the context of their relationship. In a way, it reminded of a similar scene with Thirteen and Foreman in House M.D.
Riko and Miyako are excellent mirrors for the reality that many simply don’t see. So, well done Bloom Into You, this made me smile so much. Not only because they’re a lovely couple, but because they remind us that we shouldn’t just assume someone’s sexuality based on their current relationship.
Now, this one is really at the forefront of the series, but isn’t outright stated. You see, Yuu has been raised on the standard romance stories. She knows that you’re supposed to feel something during your first kiss. And that the idea of physical contact with a romantic partner is supposed to make you excited. But she just doesn’t feel it.
But that’s not to say that she doesn’t feel attraction at all. Throughout the story, it is clear that she has feelings for Touko. Sure, she may not be entirely certain all the time, but it’s there. She worries when they aren’t close, she doesn’t want to think of them being apart, and she enjoys being with her. But she’s confused, largely because she knows that you’re supposed to feel something more than she is.
The thing is, that’s symptomatic of the lack of representation in popular media. How many people grew up thinking the only right way forward in a relationship was one man, one woman, a big white wedding and then childbirth? Plenty. And then times changed and we began to see that this wasn’t the only way a relationship could work. Or the only type of relationship.
What Yuu feels is perfectly normal. Like I said, she clearly has romantic feelings for Touko, but she has no real desire for physical closeness. That is, on a base level, asexuality in a nutshell. And, like many asexual people, she does engage in some physical activities because she knows that her partner enjoys it.
Yuu has also never really felt a true romantic attraction until now. In that respect, she had kinda been viewing herself as aromantic, I think. As it goes, her attraction to Touko would potentially say otherwise, though it is worth noting that aromantic people can sometimes feel romantic attraction, just as asexual people can sometimes feel sexual attraction. It really depends on the person and the circumstances. Seiji would be another good example of this in the series as he genuinely seems to feel no romantic attraction to people at all.
So, this is where gray-A comes in. This is the spectrum between asexuality and sexuality and includes people who do experience sexual attraction but only under particular circumstances. The most well-known term under the umbrella would be demisexual, whereby a person only experiences sexual attraction after forming a strong bond with a person.
That kinda fits for Yuu in a way because, while kissing Touko after the sports day, she says that it would be wrong to say that she doesn’t enjoy it. Her bond with Touko has grown stronger by this point and so, while still not drawn heavily towards physical intimacy, she doesn’t not enjoy it.
In short, being ace is complicated. And it’s made more complicated by the way we are raised to believe that certain things must be present in a valid relationship. That is a point that Yuu keeps going back to, and it really does show the struggle that a person can feel when faced with a personal reality that is disparate to what society tells them should be correct.
Personally, I think that Yuu is somewhere between asexual and demisexual. However she does or does not identify though, one thing is clear to me. Much like with Riko and Miyako, Yuu is an excellent example of representation. She embodies how hard some things are to understand, even when you’re living them. And, most importantly, she shows that the way she feels is not only normal but can absolutely fit within a healthy, sweet relationship.
Bloom Into You is an excellent piece of queer fiction, and one that should be seen as important in much the same way as Shimanami Tasogare: Our Dreams At Dusk (see my reviews here: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4). It shows modern relationships and helps shine a light on often misunderstood areas of the LGBTQ community in a way that is positive and affirming.
But what about yourselves? Did you get the same message from the series? Do you agree with my points? Let me know in the comments below.