flowers

The flower language of Bloom Into You (Touko and Yuu)

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.

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The flower language of Bloom Into You (Sayaka, Koyomi, and Akari)

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.

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The Cactus Flower and revisiting flower language in Darling in the Franxx

In previous posts, I’ve written about flower language in Darling in the Franxx, including floral reproduction, basic genetics, and the names of the plantations themselves. The series’ use of floriography has been a straightforward roadmapDarling in the Franxx eschews subtleties for directness both visually and in its use of symbolism or literature.

There are a few flowers that have gone unmentioned that are far more relevant now — the hibiscus flower and the cactus — in addition to revisiting Kokoro’s Franxx robot: Genista. Hibiscus and various cacti appear multiple times in the Mistilteinn garden alongside the Franxx robots’ various namesakes. These flowers make up the backdrop of Kokoro’s conversations with Mitsuru, which later leads to their partner reassignments and, in the most recent episode, a sexual partnership.

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The Golden Bough and Darling in the Franxx

From its first episode, Darling in the Franxx uses flower language and plant genetics to frame the entire series. It’s not subtle about any of these trappings, which continue to appear in each passing episode week after week not only in commonly-used titles (like pistil, stamen, etc.) but also in flowers found in the on-site greenhouses, in various rooms, and the series’ most recent ending sequence.

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“Loved ones will always watch over you” — letters in Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe

“Is this emotionally manipulative?” is a question frequently asked regarding Japanese animation. I first heard it regarding Clannad — particularly in relation to Kotomi Ichinose’s narrative arc, but also about the series as a whole — but this query dogs certain anime, even if the series in question is completely upfront about these goals, like Clannad. The floating teddy bear in the ocean, the empty, overgrown garden, the musical cues, they’re all in service of eliciting tears from the audience. It’s the equivalent of Russell Crowe’s Maximus screaming, “Are you not entertained?” only the unspoken scream is “Cry, damn you!” to the affected viewer.

In the current anime season, two series have fallen into this category according to the community: Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe. Within the past week, both shows told similar but diverging stories regarding mothers, daughters, and letters that play with ideas of time and transience. These stories offer an easy point of comparison between each other while also pushing carefully constructed emotional buttons.

However, the question shouldn’t be whether something is emotionally manipulative, but whether it works, strings and all. Do these feelings still feel genuine despite obvious cues and pre-existing narrative structures? My definitely-not-dry eyes say yes, but whatever personal conclusion you come to, Violet Evergarden and A Place Further than the Universe offer parallel case studies — nearly a week apart in airtime — in what make letters and messages such emotional sucker-punches.

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