by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Blue Period ?
It's a nice thought that you can just make art without comparing yourself to others, but it's not really a realistic one. Not that Blue Period has ever pretended otherwise; from the start, Yatora has been measuring his own skill by looking at the work of others. And that makes sense; as someone who has never thought about, much less created, art before, he's more or less at sea as far as what is considered academically good art. And yes, there is a definite difference between “academically good” art and art that's just blanket “good.” If you're a certain age (or had art teachers of a certain age and background) and tried to draw in a style that one of my sisters' art teachers in high school referred to as “that Japanese stuff” – you know what I'm talking about – then it won't be well-received no matter how well-drawn. To some fine art professionals, anything that looks too much like anime, manga, or comics isn't considered “good.” Art, just like anything else, can be a very snobby world.
Blue Period has from the start made tacit statements about how good art is good art, from the art teacher at school being totally fine with one of Yatora's friends drawing his girlfriend's breasts for a class project to the art club member who's into anime figures. No one ever says that those things aren't art. But there's also a definite sense that neither of those projects would fly at the art cram school, and that's a bigger issue at the moment. Exams are rapidly approaching and that means that Yatora and his cram school classmates are in crunch time as far as perfecting their academically acceptable art. For Yatora this comes with the usual trials, but other students, such as Kuwana, face a slightly different set of challenges.
In case you've forgotten (because it isn't quite mentioned every episode), Kuwana is the legacy student. Her mother went to TUA. Her father went to TUA. Her older sister went to TUA and got top marks. (Her sister may still be going to TUA; that's not entirely clear.) That means that the pressure is enormous for Kuwana; she's not just constantly comparing herself to her classmates – she's holding herself up against her sister and parents, and that's a much more difficult position to be in. Classmates you can leave behind when you go home; there's no such convenient escape when your chief competitors live with you. And it certainly doesn't help that her sister appears to be happy to remind her of what she's up against. It's a very passive-aggressive approach to take – she bounces into her younger sister's room and, under the guise of reassuring her, just happens to mention her excellent grades and results.
Of course, that could easily be because Kuwana's older sister feels like she's a threat to her own exalted status. Oba mentions it to Yatora towards the end of the episode – Kuwana's very talented in her own right, maybe even more so than her older sister. That can't sit well with big sis, who by this point has very likely formed an identity around being incredibly talented. Discovering that her younger sister may be even more talented has to leave both a bad taste in her mouth and a sense of insecurity in her heart. She may truly want to reassure Kuwana, but her own nagging feelings of unworthiness force her to act in the passive-aggressive way that she does.
And that's the thing about being creative – it's so subjective that anytime someone else shows an objective measure of having greater talent, it's really hard not to be shaken. The Kuwana sisters demonstrate this, but so does the relationship between Yatora and Yotasuke, with both of them envious – and Yotasuke downright angry – of the other's skill. Yotasuke frames it as he has nothing but art to hang his self-esteem on whereas Yatora has other skills, so it's a personal affront that Yatora would try to barge into Yotasuke's arena. As we watch the frustration mount in the cram school classroom, that's probably behind a lot of the angry or desperate behavior we see: with everyone trying for the same few highly selective programs, everyone is a rival and a problem for each other. Yatora and Kuwana are just a bit better at keeping it internal than some of their other classmates.
Is that better or worse than the girl who cries everyday behind the building? It's tough to say right now. But with the exams starting next week (the art part, anyway; this week had the academic center test), it looks like we'll start to find out.
Blue Period is currently streaming on Netflix.
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