Compelling and captivating are two words used frequently in Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight to describe the in-universe play and narrative framing device, Starlight. Following the star-crossed Flora and Claire, Starlight is a tragedy that borrows from known Takarazuka Revue staples like Elisabeth — ai to shi no rondo (Elisabeth — rondo of love and death) and is made to have the same influence and frequency of performance as Elisabeth or Rose of Versailles in order to frame the relationship of Revue Starlight leads Karen Aijou and Hikari Kagura. Starlight is synonymous with being a stage girl.
Karen and Hikari were inspired to become stage girls — effectively entering the spartan and highly-controlled education system of a Takarazuka trainee — by a performance of Starlight. Throughout the series, they frequently open episodes with narration from the play, reiterating how the story of Claire and Flora draws them in and captivates them and also that this tale is ultimately a tragedy. These two leads are torn apart once they reach for their distant star. Starlight not only encapsulates the stage girl experience but within it’s narrative, perpetuates the toxic cycle that Karen aims to break.
The majority of Bloom Into You‘s opening sequence flower language begins with lead couple Touko Nanami and Yuu Koito’s friends: Sayaka Saeki, Akari Hyuuga, and Koyomi Kanou. Koyomi and Akari are each given two specific flowers that relate to their respective relationships — in the case of Koyomi they give us more detail on her love of writing, and in the case of Akari they tell us more about her one-sided romance. Sayaka is a bit more complex, and is shown with a wide arrangement of flowers that discuss the depth of her relationship with Touko in great detail, hinting at what might be to come from later episodes in the series.
Bloom Into You makes it a point to show them first in the opening, which establishes a baseline for how we’re supposed to read the hanging flowers above the desks, petals below, and flower arrangements. In all three cases of the periphery characters (Sayaka, Akari, and Koyomi) the language of the individual flowers represent their respective emotions, but the presence of flowers, and flower petals, above and beneath their desks, represents a more general desire or love. In Touko and Yuu’s cases, flowers showcase their relationship with each other as well as their outlooks on current relationships as a whole.
Naturally a series titled Bloom Into You — although the literal translation of Yagate Kimi ni Naru would be “eventually I become you” — is going to be rife with flower language. I would have been disappointed had it not. Here’s a bit about what the flowers in the opening sequence could be saying about series leads Yuu Koito and Touko Nanami as well as their supporting cast.
What’s most noticeable from the first few scenes is that Touko and Yuu aren’t paired with each other, but instead featured alongside their close friends, with shed flower petals underneath their desks. In Touko’s case, pictured in the shot above, it’s Sayaka Saeki who is given the flower treatment. Yuu is pictured between her junior high school friends Koyomi Kanou and Akari Hyuuga. Their individual flowers featured in the opening give us insight into their personalities, especially Sayaka, whose motivations haven’t been made as clear as those of Akari and Koyomi.
Initially, it seems like a fairly innocuous shot of backpacks. Yet, in the world of SSSS.Gridman — which uses a variety of pillow shots to create a stifling summer atmosphere in contrast with its kaiju and robot fights — these stills are not only creating a mood but can also tell us a bit about the characters involved. In this case, these three backpacks belong to the series’ main trio: Yuuta Hibiki, Rikka Takarada, and Shou Utsumi. The colors also auspiciously match up with traditional tokusatsu (or really, Super Sentai) color coding.
Studio Trigger and Tsuburaya Productions’ SSSS.Gridman isn’t the first more recent superhero series to riff on what came before — in this specific case, tokusatsu series and Gridman the Hyper Agent. Depending on how SSSS.Gridman progresses, Gatchaman Crowds‘ use of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman as a building block for what it had to say could be an apt comparison. Even the “SSSS” in the title is a reference to Tsuburaya Productions’ own 1994 English-language adaptation of Gridman the Hyper Agent, called Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad.
Winter has always been my favorite season, followed closely by autumn. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the northeast. Perhaps it’s because my parents love to tell an anecdote about how my father had to shovel nearly a foot of snow to rush my mother to the hospital on the day I was born. Perhaps I just love the holiday season. There’s something calming, comforting about chilly weather that invites warm food, soft ambient light, and the coziness of blankets.
Winter can also be bleak and oppressive at times, as the days blend into each other with what little sunlight available casting long shadows in the afternoon, the dull thudding of ice breaking, or the eerie silence of snowfall. One of the best anime examples of this winter atmosphere is The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which portrays it perfectly through cinematography, lighting, and highly-specified attention to detail. The warmth of breath materializing in the cold air and disappearing, the city lights a backdrop to softly falling snowflakes that melt in Yuki Nagato and Kyon’s hands — even in the cold of winter, warmth can be found.
By contrast, summer is oppressive. The light and heat bears down with palpable weight as cicadas sing a constant, droning chorus in the background. In winter, you can escape the chill with a blanket, a crackling fire, or a warm mug of hot chocolate. In summer, you cannot escape the heat. It makes you lethargic, bringing with it doldrums that limit activity.