Blue Period

Yatora Yaguchi is a popular and successful teenager in his senior year at high school. Although he hangs out with a group of “delinquent” friends and often cuts classes, by dint of sheer hard work he manages to achieve good grades and stay out of trouble. However, Yatora feels a nagging sense of dissatisfaction in his life, as though something were missing. One day, he happens to see a large painting created by star student Maru Mori and realises that what is missing in his life is the creative expression that he as only inchoately sensed until now, but which offers to provide him with true meaning in life. Much to his friends’ surprise, Yatora joins the high school art club and throws himself into giving expression to his artistic yearnings. He also begins a strange love-hate relationship with his non-binary fellow-student Ryuji “Yuka” Ayukawa, whom Yatora has always known but with whom he has previously had little to do. As Yatora’s sense of calling to art begins to grow, he realises that the fees charged by private art schools are beyond his means; and so he also enrols in a prep school with the hope of making it through the highly competitive exams for the Tokyo University of the Arts. At the prep school he encounters Yotasuke Takahashi, a talented but aloof student; Maki Kuwana, another talented student who lives in the shadow of her older sister, also a gifted artist; Haruka Hashida, a self-confident artist to whom everything seems to come easily; and their charismatic teacher, Mayu Oba. As the time for the TUA entrance exams draws near and the pressure builds, Yatora experiences both moments of confidence and doubt as his exploration of artistic techniques and styles reveals both his potential strengths and weaknesses as an artist and a human being; at the same time, he must also deal with the recalibration of his relationships with those around him as his pending graduation from high school marks the end of one phase of life and the transition into something new…

Based on the critically acclaimed and commercially successful manga by Tsubasha Yamaguchi, “Blue Period” was produced by Japanese animation studio Seven Arcs and screened – depending on audience location – between September and December 2021; it also appeared on the Netflix streaming service as a “Netflix Original”. Almost entirely interior and introspective in nature, “Blue Period” is a coming-of-age tale that proceeds less by exterior action than by the subjective monologue that constantly runs through Yatora’s mind. Thus, unlike other “expository” series like “Haikyū!” or “March Comes In Like A Lion”, “Blue Period” doesn’t explain its concepts and tropes through the action of a game of volleyball or the unfolding of a shōgi match; rather, it does so through Yatora’s inner world of thoughts and feelings, his reactions to art and the process of making art, and his responses to the feelings summoned by his interactions with others.  This does make for some dense and layered dialogue; but, being framed around Yatora’s struggle to come to an understanding of his own identity as an artist, it is never cloying or laboured, nor does it hold up the narrative flow. This aspect is also leavened by Yatora’s interactions with Ryuji (who as a non-binary person living in a difficult home context has her own identity struggles to work through), as well as his relationships with his high-school friends, the other students at the prep school, and the ever-effervescent Oba-sensei. Thoughtful and strangely engaging, “Blue Period” certainly won’t satisfy those who are interested in either lots of action or the melodramatics of teenagerhood; but for those seeking an intelligent and slightly-off-the-beaten-track bildungsroman, this series could offer much more than might at first be apparent.   

Text © Brendan E Byrne 2022. All rights reserved.