- Author : Hitoma Iruma
- Publisher : Seven Seas
- Genre : Yuri, School
- Published : February 2020
A New Heroine Steps to Center Stage (No Spoilers)
We’ve seen it many times before in literature (and anime) when one of the side characters seem so compelling that you just wish there was a way to spend more time with them. The Kyoto Animation’s film Liz and the Bluebird is an example of that in the world of Sound Euphonium. KyoAni takes it to an extreme considering they take two background characters and built an entire story around them. We don’t have anything so drastic here as Saeki Sayaka is one of the most predominant characters in the Bloom Into You. She is the best friend of, and secretly in love with, co-protagonist Touko Nanami. The Saeki Sayaka light novel is about the young and very serious Sayaka’s well-ordered life in elementary school and middle school and what happens when her understanding of life is completely tossed into chaos when she feels the first flutters of love. The result is a sweet coming-of-age story about a young girl who always walked the straight and narrow life awaking to find out straight and narrow isn’t the only way to live.
Sayaka as a middle schooler shows quickly that she is an old soul. She lives a relatively solitary life focused on study. She is carefully raised to be a proper young lady that will make her parents proud. The 5th grade Sayaka, as we would expect, is a model student who’s the best at everything. Sayaka to the outside may look like a genius or prodigy because of the apparent ease she picked up new skills, but that ease was only apparent. She works and works at something until she gets it textbook perfect, whether it is math, piano, or swimming. Sayaka relies on the rules of something to give her understanding and the order she craves. A person who broke the rules was, in her mind, undesirable. The catalytic chaos element is introduced into her life one day at swimming class when she meets a “happy-go-lucky” girl who seems more interested in playing and having fun than learning. Sayaka is at a loss as to understanding the girl's attitude especially when the new girl seems to be very interested in becoming friends. The friendship of the silly girl and the studious girl beginning a change in Sayaka that we culminating in her true awakening in middle school.
1. Saeki Sayaka is Main Heroine Material
We know it’s not just us, we’ve visited the fan sites and Sayaka is for a lot of fans more popular than either of the main heroines. We may have identified with her steadfast understanding that despite her hard work she’ll always come in second or her unrequited love would always just be that, unreturned. We also just knew despite her stoic and proper personality she had a lot more going on than just being Nanami’s best friend. Sayaka has all the things that should make her an interesting enough character for her own story. She is smart, pretty, mature, and when we first meet her in Bloom Into You is very comfortable with who she is. She is the kind of person who can step forward in any situation and take charge. Sayaka is the very rare type of person who can set their personal feelings aside, as much as it may pain the, in order to help the person they love to be happy.
2. A Slow Walk to Awakening
The four years that this story covers is a personal journey for the protagonist. Sayaka finds she’s confused balancing what the world expects of her and her own slowly developing sense of self. Sayaka’s understanding of wants and desires as she grows ebbs and flows. She feels attraction for the girl in the pool but when that time is over begins to settle back into her comfortable and conformist view of the world. She then meets Yuzuki-senpai who confesses to her and whom she then goes on to has a short relationship with. We see her get her heartbroken when Yuzuki graduates and goes to high school and eventually tells Sayaka she was done “playing” and that “I guess I wasn’t thinking straight at that moment… after all, we’re both girls…right?” We see the heartbreak and the redefining of her self image and the eventual establishment of the Sayaka we’ve grown to love.
1. Monologue, Monologue, Monologue
The light novel format isn’t a stranger to monologue. We’re sure you’ve read some adventure novels where the hero spends a lot of time in their head. The story of Saeki Sayaka is exactly the same. The only difference is it’s not about XP or power states but the thoughts of a young girl coming to terms with her feeling for another girl. You shouldn’t get excited about any yuri fantasy scenes either. Sayaka is a very proper girl and would never think of anything erotic.
2. You know How it Ends
We know how things end from Sayaka’s recollection in the manga. She falls in love with a girl in middle school and has her heartbroken. We also know that she is going to continue to have unrequited love in high school since Nanami is in love with Yuu. The reader does gain an understanding of how these events shape Sayaka but it’s all backstory, a well-written backstory, but a backstory none-the-less.
We think what Hitoma Iruma has done here is simply amazing. He took what amounted to a hand full of pages in a 50-chapter story and expanded on them creating a compelling narrative for a character that deserved the spotlight. The story as a whole is a little slow and as we mentioned doesn’t lead us to any surprises, but it is a sincere look at someone coping with the trial of love and heartbreak in a world where the barriers of that love are stacked against them.