Content Warning: Transphobia (Deadnaming)
What’s this about? Yaguchi Yatora is a young high school teen enjoying his youth with his friends and studying to take his university entrance exams. Despite his outward appearance, Yatora feels empty and like he isn’t being his authentic self until he’s motivated to start drawing by a fellow classmate’s art piece. Even though Yatora’s nervous about the future, he’s determined to follow his passion for the arts and work on his self-confidence.
The manga creator Yamaguchi Tsubasa is clever for naming the series after Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period, so called because he mainly used blue and blue-greenish colors in his paintings. There is a lot of love for the arts in this series and it doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of the creative process either. It’s understandable that no one wants to think about the creative process unless it’s framed as “natural talent,” because the journey to become a capable artist is often tedious and stressful–but it can also be a lot of fun.
Despite how much we value our entertainment, there isn’t a lot of support for creators, and as anime fans we all know how rarely they’re paid properly for their hard work. This is why Yatora’s concerns are extremely relatable: what is the guarantee for success? Even though Yatora spends the first half of the premiere mocking artists and their supposed free time, he’s clearly envious of them and wants to become one too.
It isn’t an easy decision to make since Yatora is extremely aware that his family is struggling financially and he wants to make their lives easier by choosing a more secure profession; but the question is, is he happy living a scripted life? How long can he live a life pleasing other people for the sake of having a peaceful existence? At what point will he break down because of the facade he created? I have a lot of empathy for Yatora, because I was in a similar position when I was a teenager; and let me tell you, choosing a secure path didn’t make things easier on an emotional level.
Thankfully, Yatora can at least talk to his cool art teacher about his worries, and she’s seriously the best character in the show. She’s acutely aware of how often adults tell young people to relegate their passions to “hobbies” in favor of professional careers. She might not know of Yatora’s financial problems, but she does know how meaningful it is to tell her students it’s okay to follow their dreams (even if the cynic in me says otherwise).
Even though Yatora is an engaging protagonist, I didn’t enjoy watching him berate and make transmisogynistic comments toward his childhood friend, Yuka (including deadnaming her), all because he wanted to hide his jealousy that she’s doing what she loves. Granted, he did apologize, but I’m hoping this behavior doesn’t show up again.
I also feel like this show will bring up complicated feelings depending on who’s watching it. I can’t be sure how people in the arts will respond to this series, but from personal experience, I have plenty of friends that love what they do but are frustrated and bitter about not making enough money (you gotta pay that rent, student loans and bills). Then there are people like me that want to imagine what it would’ve been like if I chose a different path. I often wonder, “is it not too late?”
In the spirit of wanting to dream and feel optimistic, how can I not root for a young teen brimming with so much hope?
Aside from his initial shitty attitude, I loved this premiere and I’m excited to follow Yatora’s artistic journey to get into Tokyo University of Arts, which apparently is the only publicly funded school for the arts and it’s known for its low acceptance rate (damn). Give this one a chance folks, you might like it.