After last week’s episode covering the first art school entrance exam, episode 9 of Blue Period hits us with some of its most emotionally heavy content yet. Since their dramatic exit at the start of the exam in episode 7, it’s been clear that something is wrong with Yuka. In this episode we finally get answers as to what’s been troubling Yuka – and they’re incredibly distressing.
Choosing the “easy way out”
It may have been Mori senpai’s painting that sparked Yatora’s interest in art, but Yuka was also instrumental in Yatora’s artistic journey. Without Yuka, Yatora wouldn’t have joined the art club. As such, Yatora is shocked to find out that Yuka has given up on going to art school. But Kuwana reminds Yatora that it’s okay to depart from the stressful, competitive world of art school if it’s taking too big a toll on your mental health – and that some people are better off for doing so. Though suffering is so often romanticized in the field of art, no career is worth dying for.
Over the past few episodes of Blue Period we’ve seen just how much the pressure of succeeding can push a person to their limits – mentally and physically. While Yatora is managing to push through, the same can’t be said for many of his peers. But as Kuwana says, “it’s harder to choose the easy way out than you’d think”. Choosing to walk away from something you’ve been working so hard for is stressful in itself, because it can feel like you’re letting yourself (and others) down. Yatora decides that Yuka’s decision to give up on art school must’ve been what what was best for them. But the true reason behind Yuka’s decision is more complicated.
The weight of expectations
Though crippling stress about the prospect of failing is nothing to take lightly, Yuka’s problems run deeper than that. They appear to be suffering from self doubt in a number of areas. In previous episodes we’ve seen that Yuka’s father is less than accepting of their gender identity. But in this episode, his blatant trans/enbyphobia reaches new lows, as he removes all of Yuka’s belongings from their room and slaps them, telling them to use this opportunity to become “normal”. Yuka’s mother, though not as harsh and dismissive as their dad, is complicit in Yuka’s suffering through her inaction. Unable to find any validation at home, Yuka seeks it from men at the hostess club they work at.
In fact, Yuka’s only ally at home is their grandmother, though their relationship is not without its complications. It seems like the driving factor behind their closeness is their supposedly shared love for Japanese art – the specialty that Yuka was studying. Their grandmother, also an artist, dotes on Yuka – bringing them tea and saving their art supplies amidst their father’s rampage. The problem is that Yuka’s no longer taking the path that their grandma envisioned for them. As Yatora discovers after seeing some of their work, Yuka’s passions lean more towards fashion design than Japanese art. But, fearful of losing their grandmother’s approval, Yuka can’t seem to tell her.
Sink or swim
Change is possible but it’s gradual. This can be said both of Yatora’s artistic journey and his attempts to overcome his personal shortcomings. Since Blue Period‘s very first episode, Yatora’s biggest flaw was that he lived his life according to other people’s expectations. He’s goes about things in a methodical way, always calculating risk and reward. While his decision to take up art represented a big step forward for Yatora, his inherent need to follow the rules still colors other areas of his life.
Yuka calls him out on this, remarking that “if someone is drowning you’d bring a lifesaver but never jump into the sea”. Perhaps a harsh reaction to Yatora’s declination to meet up, but it’s understandable given Yuka’s headspace. Yatora must decide what to prioritize: focusing on the impending second exam or helping Yuka. But in the end, he can’t stop worrying about Yuka. The episode ends in dramatic fashion, with the two of them taking off on a train late at night. More than anything, Yuka needs someone they can trust right now. I hope that Yatora can provide that for them.
Episode 9 of Blue Period is available to watch on Netflix. The next episode will air on December 18. If you enjoyed episode 9, don’t forget to vote for it in our Anime of the Week poll!
All images via Netflix.
©︎ Tsubasa Yamaguchi, Kodansha/Blue Period Production Committee