by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Blue Period ?
Community score: 4.5
This is perhaps neither here nor there, but was anyone else mildly entertained by the fact that the nude model was drawn without nipples or pubic hair while Yatora's painting of her had both? On the surface, that's simply a silly quirk of non-ecchi anime; if we choose to take it a step further, it's a statement about what is considered “real” art. Anime, as a pop culture manifestation of art, has to some minds less intrinsic worth than a classically painted nude in oils. Therefore, it is perfectly fine to show the reality of the human body (i.e. that real live people naturally have both nipples and pubic hair) while to depict that fact on a stylized anime body is not okay. One is art. One is not.
This brings us back to Oscar Wilde's preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” What we think of as “real art” or “worthwhile art” says a lot about our own tastes and feelings, with the spectator being the one to place value on a piece of work. That's what makes the TUA exam so stressful for Yatora – ultimately his own view of his art isn't what matters. It's up to the whims of the admissions committee, and if they think his theme is too on the nose or his techniques lacking, well, tough luck. There's no one way to wow someone in the world of art, and that's something that adds a lot of stress to his painting and what presumably gave him the migraine in the first place. And his own certainty that certain friends of his had a better shot at getting in only to see them fail only proves that there's no one right way to do something, and that all that really matters is the opinions of the spectator.
It is an interesting turn of events that Kuwana, the legacy student, doesn't make it into TUA. Mostly that's because it was really painted as a certainty for most of the show; her parents and sister went there, so naturally she'll be accepted on her name alone. That she's accounted an accomplished artist is just the icing on the cake. But her rejection, even as Yatora barely comprehends his admission, is almost quiet – she has a moment of angst in public, then just goes off to her concert. It's not quite a nothing scene, and we see later that this is a major blow to her, but it's offset by Yatora's astonishment at his own acceptance. From his perspective, it highlights the unreality of the moment – how could he get in when Kuwana did not? Especially since we get a first-hand view of how selective TUA truly is in the scant list of accepted students on the board – think back to other similar scenes in other shows, and TUA's board really stands out as sparse.
The episode does a very nice job with the tension in that scene, too. Although it's more or less felt like a foregone conclusion that Yatora would pass the exams, the moment is drawn out just enough to instill doubt – even though, knowing Yatora, there really aren't all that many explanations for his look of utter shock. It's a relief when we find out for sure that he's in, but the unreality that he feels is still depicted well; he's almost floating through the moment as if he thinks he's dreaming. This is nicely contrasted with everyone else's reactions – Yotasuke is as blasé as always (outwardly, at least), his mother sobs with relief, Oba seems like she knew it all along, and his friends are enthusiastic in their support. But Yatora himself seems to have barely processed it until he goes back to his high school art teacher – being in the place where he began makes him realize that he really has progressed beyond who he was.
Blue Period has an open ending. Yatora's been accepted into TUA, but he's far from finished with his artist's journey. I like to hope that him just missing his senpai again is foreshadowing that they'll meet when he's feeling more confident in his work, and fortunately we do have the manga being released in English to let us find out should another season of anime not be forthcoming – the show has stuck very close to the books, so there aren't too many discrepancies to worry about if you want to pick up the manga to finish the story. (I think this covers through volume six or seven, which is just past what's out in English.) But even with an open ending, Blue Period has been a rewarding, enjoyable experience. Oscar Wilde may have ended his preface by saying that “all art is quite useless,” but he might have been the first to agree that there is joy and beauty in the useless things. Value and beauty are where you find them, and for my money, this show is one of those places.
Blue Period is currently streaming on Netflix.
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