Blue Period is now available for audiences outside of Japan, with the first three episodes having already aired. Based on Tsubasa Yamaguchi’s acclaimed seinen manga series of the same name, expectations for this adaptation have been high. With its first three episodes, Blue Period establishes itself as one of the Fall 2021 anime season’s most promising new titles. Pacing issues aside, this series is full of sincere storytelling, realistic character writing, and moments that will tug at your heartstrings. Let’s take a look at why Blue Period is one anime you shouldn’t skip out on this season.
Storytelling and themes
Blue Period follows listless high school student Yatora Yaguchi as he discovers a sudden passion for art. From its first episode the series presents us with numerous challenges and doubts that Yatora will have to overcome if he wants to follow his dreams and pursue a career as an artist. This kind of story is nothing new – especially in the medium of anime, where series about high school students following some dream or goal are a dime a dozen. But Blue Period manages to set itself apart from other such stories by tackling these familiar themes in a way that feels grounded and avoids clichés.
In deciding to become an artist, one of the main issues Yatora encounters is trying to justify his decision not only to the people around him but also to himself. If you’ve ever tried to pursue a creative field, you’ll more than likely have encountered this dilemma at some point. Pursuing a passion is always a leap of faith; it means opening yourself up to criticism, and potentially failure. But, perhaps more so than any other field, pursuing a career in art is fraught with uncertainty. Though trying to find any work can be difficult, art, in particular, is associated with underemployment and financial struggle.
Each episode teaches us something new about art, or the experience of being an artist. In episode three, as Yatora starts attending prep school art lessons, he learns that he needs to graduate beyond mere imitation and cultivate his own artistic vision. This leads him to visit an art museum and explore his own taste when it comes to art. Yatora’s journey to becoming an artist has only just begun. But watching his progress so far has been incredibly satisfying.
A compelling protagonist
In any story without an action-based plot, good character writing is essential in getting viewers invested. Episode 1 of Blue Period excels in this area, introducing characters who already feel multi-faceted and realistic. Our protagonist Yatora Yaguchi lives a dual life as a delinquent and an honor student. Around his friends he drinks, smokes, and watches sports, but at home, he devotes all his time to studying. He views both his friendships and his studies as a series of quotas he has to meet.
Every aspect of Yatora’s life is performative. He only smokes and watches sports to fit in with his friends, and his efforts with studying are to appease his mom, who wants him to get a scholarship, as his family lacks money for college tuition. As a result, Yatora feels empty.
Given these circumstances, his snap decision to pursue art (which might otherwise seem jarring) makes total sense. While I understand the critiques about how fast Yatora’s love for art develops, it’s worth noting that this is often how passions work. Those who’ve fallen in love with something, whether it be gaming, sport, or some art form, will surely relate to Yatora here.
Yatora’s curiosity for the art world develops after coming across an unfinished painting by an older art student. But it isn’t until he creates his first piece of art and receives praise for it that a fiery passion is lit within his soul.
A rich supporting cast
The relatability of Yatora’s problems makes him a compelling main character, but that’s not to say that the supporting cast of Blue Period is any less interesting. Yatora’s high school art teacher Saeki-sensei is the teacher we all wanted growing up. She meets her students at their level, whether they be serious about improving their art, or just there to get a passing grade. When Yatora’s delinquent friend jokes about drawing boobs for a ‘favourite scenery’ project, she jokes back. But when Yatora starts to show an interest in art, she gets serious. Saeki-sensei not only gives Yatora advice on how to improve his art but also manages to cut through all his doubts with her wisdom. “‘Just leave your passions as a hobby’. That’s something an adult would say, I think”. With those encouraging words, she gives Yatora the motivation he needs to begin his journey.
Another of my favourite characters is Yuka – Yatora’s classmate, and a fellow aspiring artist. Due to some inconsistent subtitling that switches between using they/them and she/her pronouns, it’s unclear whether Yuka identifies as transgender or nonbinary. Judging by Yuka’s reaction to being called by their given name ‘Ryuji’, I’d be inclined to say they identify as female. Regardless, it’s clear that Yuka’s grappling with living in a world that isn’t accepting of their identity.
Yatora’s relationship with Yuka is interesting. He seems to consider Yuka a friend, yet he still goes out of his way to deadname them and call them a cross-dresser. But as Yatora grows as an artist so does his understanding of the world. He’s only just beginning to form genuine connections with people through his art. Hopefully, we’ll see him evolve into a friend that Yuka can trust and rely on.
For all its good points, Blue Period‘s anime seems to be moving faster than a quiet and introspective story such as this warrants. The progression of the story is more or less the same as in the manga but some scenes have been omitted. While I recognize this is pretty much inevitable in any adaptation, Yatora’s artistic progress feels disorienting as a result. The series’ animation is okay, though the characters’ movements often appear stilted.
But ultimately, Blue Period‘s characters and storytelling are what carries the show. As long as the series keeps on nailing that aspect, I’ll look forward to its next episode.
Episode 4 of Blue Period will air on October 30 and is available to watch on Netflix. If you enjoyed episode 3 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