by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Blue Period ?
It doesn't matter what form of art you do – if you aren't also a consumer of that art, there's a good chance that you won't have a firm grasp of what does and doesn't work. For some artists, that's the hardest part of creating, because there's a fine line between being inspired by something and simply imitating it without fully understanding what makes it good. We see it a lot in creative writing (which I'm using as an example because that's been my field of creative study) – one series of, for example, YA dystopia sells well and is popular, so suddenly everyone is writing YA dystopias that are mere shadows of the first book. They aren't as good because the only thing the authors – and publishers – seized on was the fact that the original was dystopia aimed at a teenage audience; they didn't look beyond the target audience and the genre to see what made the story and characters work (isekai light novels are another good example). That's what Yatora is starting to learn in this episode of Blue Period, wherein he enrolls in art cram school and is suddenly forced to reckon with his own lack of knowledge and understanding.
Again, it's a familiar moment if you've pursued a creative field of study. A lot of us move from a high school where we may have been the big fish only to discover that we were really just whales in puddles – and in the ocean, even a whale can look pretty small compared to the amount of water that surrounds it. There's always someone who makes you feel like nothing when you compare your work with theirs, and Yatora, who blew away his art club companions who never expected anything of him, suddenly realizes that he's far behind many, if not most, of the other kids in cram school. He's a relative latecomer to art and a lot of them have been creating it for most of their lives. They're serious in a way that not even Mori seemed to be, and that shakes Yatora up a lot. From the moment he gets a glimpse of a girl's charcoal-dust-covered face, he realizes that he's no big deal to these kids, not as another painter and not as competition. What does someone who's a legacy at TUA have to worry about from some boy who never tried at anything before?
For Yatora, the quest to improve is at least two-fold. He needs to understand art on a different level, not just as something that he personally finds fulfilling, but as something that fulfills other people. We see him start to get there when he stands captivated by an Edgar Degas painting of young ballerinas, but that's not going to give him the human understanding that he's also lacking. It's interacting with different people that will help him there, and Yuka is likely to be the single most important person on that front for him.
Before I go any further, I do want to warn you that Yatora consistently deadnames Yuka in this episode. I do think there's a point to it – it shows how he can't see them for themselves. Or her for herself. Netflix's subtitles changed from using they/them pronouns to she/her pronouns. I'm inclined to go with she/her, but Yuka hasn't made a definitive statement and it's not certain whether Yuka is nonbinary or transgender. Possibly this is because Yuka is struggling against a society that isn't warmly accepting of either of these identities – Yuka never corrects Yatora when he uses the wrong name and in the conversation in the park, seems to indicate that they don't see themselves as a girl, but that appears to be an issue of genitals rather than feelings. It's a tricky, sticky situation, and I wish we got more clarity, but that may be deliberate as part of Yatora's journey to better understanding the world around him. If that's true, I'm not thrilled, because Yuka's a person, not a lesson, and LGBTQIA+ characters deserve to be people in their own right, not someone's teaching tool.
But we are left with Yuka as one of two people who start to force Yatora out of his not-quite-fugue state. When Yuka cries after their failed date, Yatora sees them as a real person for the first time. The prickly nature of another classmate reminds him that this isn't some fun afterschool club – the art world is competitive and can be vicious. I'm not sure how helpful his cram school teacher is, and I'm not hugely fond of her, even without my general dislike of loud characters, because she doesn't seem to be giving him concrete answers. But Yatora's entering a phase where he can't rely on spoon-feeding, and she's certainly going to force him to think for himself.
The real trick will be if he can learn to think outside himself. That may be what this episode is truly leading him towards.
Blue Period is currently streaming on Netflix.
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