Yatora Yaguchi lives the life of a delinquent, and yet is still able to get good grades in class. A big weight has been placed on his shoulders by his peers, but he feels empty inside and knows that there has to be some kind of way to release his inner emotions and frustrations. Then one day, he stumbles across the school’s art club and sees a painting by a third-year that moves him like nothing he has ever seen. With a new passion for painting, he joins the art club and begins a road to creating his own masterpieces, letting out the emotions and frustrations he kept locked inside. But is his sudden decision to pick up painting something the school, who have put so much faith in him as an excellent student, a wise one? He becomes excited with the idea of entering Tokyo University of the Arts, but what will the school and his family think of this sudden life change? Breaking free of his past traditions can feel so dangerous…and thrilling at the same time.
Blue Period began airing on Netflix Japan on September. 25. 2021, followed by a Japanese TV release on October. 02. An adaptation of the manga by Tsubasa Yamaguchi, it is one of the few Netflix anime series released episode-by-episode, with 2018’s Violet Evergarden and last year’s Komi Can’t Communicate being among others. It began releasing these episodes one week after the Japanese TV airing, beginning October. 09. Produced by Seven Arcs (Tonikawa: Over The Moon For You, White Album), written by Reiko Yoshida (Violet Evergarden, A Silent Voice, Bakuman, Liz & The Blue Bird) and directed by Kouji Matsunari (Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, Kamichu!) & Katsuya Asano, Blue Period is a coming-of-age story at heart. Our main protagonist Yatora goes on a journey to find true happiness – a happiness he is unable to find from the activities he does right now.
From the very first episode, we get to see how listless and empty he feels. Even with his high grades, Yatora spends late nights out with his delinquent friends smoking, bar-hopping and drinking underage. At first, he looks at those in the art club with some disdain, unable to understand why these people would choose to do what they do if there is no guarantee of a prosperous future. Later on, he discovers that his family is unable to afford to send him to a private college when he graduates. But the more he looks at paintings and sketches from the art club, the more he realizes deep down inside that all of the things he is right now mean nothing to him anymore. Is he only doing them to please others? Does he feel pressured to do it all so that his family will be happy their son will grow up to be a hard-working family man?
I really found his curiosity in the first episode interesting to watch. Here was a young man who, despite feeling so hollow inside, seemed eager to express his emotions and put them to canvas. And the fact that he couldn’t really understand where this sudden interest for art came from was also rather fascinating. I think this could be something that might be reflected in other artists and art students; they initially cannot understand where the passion to create art came from, and soon enough it just feels more natural to them.
As episodes go by, Blue Period turns into more and more of a relatable show. While nearly all of the focus is on Yatora and his mission to get a place at the Tokyo University of the Arts, a lot of mental health issues are raised, from the start and throughout. Topics such as impostor syndrome, gifted kid syndrome (which leads to loneliness and depression), and identity crises are all brought up. It’s something like this that made me want to keep on watching the next episode, itching to know who will be struck by fear or anxiety, and what will happen next to them all. And it doesn’t force these topics onto us either; they are all treated with great care which in turn makes the characters in the show more believable and more…human.
Our other main character, Ryuuji Ayukawa (or simply Yuka), deserves just as much attention too I think. At first, they are extremely sceptical of Yatora, unsure of why such a delinquent would take a sudden interest in art. But in time, they get to understand that he has developed the same level of passion and interest that they had themselves when they signed up to the Art Club. And just as those sensitive topics of depression and impostor syndrome are handled delicately, gender dysphoria is also treated well, as we discover that Ryuuji is in fact both transgender and genderqueer (hence why I have chosen to use they/them pronouns to address them). Blue Period is a show about self-expression, and I think it’s good that their gender identity isn’t used like some gimmick (like some other anime shows sometimes tend to do). Ryuuji’s character is so complex, in fact, that they probably need a whole post to themselves.
But with all of that, if I had to say something about Blue Period, it would be its questionable direction and pacing of the first half of the show. The second episode alone speeds through summer vacation, Christmas break and graduation. It could be argued however that the story in this adaptation is more centred around Yatora, Ryuuji and their fellow second-years than the journey of the third-years. Of course, the club is ecstatic to hear that their favourite senpai Mori has been accepted to Musashino Art University, one of the most prestigious art colleges in Japan (which actually has the likes of Satoshi Kon and Ume Aoki as alumni).
Another thing would be the art and animation, but it isn’t because it’s bad. I’m actually in two minds when it comes to the animation in fact. The colours burst out with life and the show’s lighting looks good, as it should do. But it’s like this animation and the artwork featured are in two completely different dimensions, sometimes as if the art that these kids produce take precedent over the animation itself. An awful thing to say, considering that as art is the main feature and theme of this show, one would think that a greater level of care would be taken to the animation, and not make it feel separate from the actual art pieces themselves. However, as I pressed on into the show, this was something that just didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Almost as if everything else in the show balanced it all out.
As I went through episodes in the show, I began to think more about Netflix’s anime plans for 2022. In the year previous, they released a long list of shows and movies that they have either acquired licenses for, or are working with studios to release themselves. And this year is a list about twice the size of what they put out in 2021, as well. Whether these shows and movies will be ones that anime followers will welcome and warm to remains to be seen, but it’s clear to see that Netflix is slowly but surely carving into anime licensing, and wanting to be noticed just as much as the likes of Crunchyroll, Funimation and HIDIVE are. Netflix was able to acquire some quality licenses (Violet Evergarden, Kakegurui, Little Witch Academia), and I think this show ranks alongside them.
(NB: An English dub for Blue Period was released after this post was published.)
The opening theme is “EVERBLUE” by Omoinotake, and the ending theme is “Replica” by Moi-74. Here’s the Netflix trailer for Blue Period:
It’s possible that a show like this could get a second season, considering how it ended. Some people like me would actually forgive them if they kept these two levels of animation and art pieces. But as I mentioned earlier, there’s so much else here that would get me wanting more. It needs more exposure and promotion though. I’m sure that with its Netflix exclusivity, some anime followers might have even forgotten this show came out in the Fall 2021 anime season. But I assure you that anime shows on Netflix like these are most definitely worth it. Heck, I might actually write that Ryuuji post some time.
I think that Blue Period is an excellent pick for Netflix. Some followers were a mixture of surprised and angry when fellow Fall 2021 show Komi Can’t Communicate became a Netflix exclusive, but that isn’t the case here at all. The story in the show is told with passion, with awesome character design and with sensitive topics handled with care. Even with the questionable pacing and animation, this show was so incredibly fun to watch and became a coming-of-age drama story to remember.