If I have any misgivings about Yuka’s story, it’s not because it isn’t compelling, nor is it because it’s awful, with their blatantly anti-trans/genderfluid, and probably homophobic, father. Those are all real things that people face and I’m glad to see them dealt with seriously in Blue Period. My concern is that Yuka’s narrative is being framed as a way for Yatora to break free from the restrictions holding him back, that Yuka’s being used as a device for Yatora to better himself and his art. Maybe that’s not all bad if Yuka is given the friendship and understanding they so desperately need, and Yatora could stand to understand them better. But Yuka’s struggles are not there for Yatora’s character development, and I’m a little concerned after this episode that that’s how they’re being treated.
Mostly this comes from the fact that when Yatora calls Yuka to check on them, Yuka’s words about how Yatora would only do so much to help someone become the driving force of his actions for the rest of the episode. In Yuka’s mind (and certainly in Hashida’s), Yatora is too much of a “good boy” to ever fully do what’s necessary. He lives his life hemmed in by rules of what to do and how to do it, as if there’s only one true “right” way to live – or to make art. Certainly in academic terms that may be true (at least to a degree), and maybe that has been holding Yatora’s art back. But as an anxious person, I also understand that there’s comfort in knowing where your boundaries are, so that you can slowly chip away at them if you want to. Yatora’s still feeling out his boundaries, and he shouldn’t be denigrated for having them in the first place, even if that’s not necessarily the “artistic” way. (And none of that “suffering for your art” garbage, please.) If Yatora, as he says at the end of the episode, would only throw a life preserver to someone drowning without jumping in as well, that’s okay – that’s who he is and how he calculates risk.
It’s not what Yuka needs from him right now, of course. Frankly what Yuka needs is a new family, because theirs sucks, not to put too fine a point on it. Yuka’s father is so blinded by his hatred for who their child is that he can’t see past the way Yuka presents to the world; the scene where Yuka returns to their room to find it stripped bare only to have their dad slap them and tell them that now they can start over and become “normal” is horrible on several levels; their father is so warped by hatred and probably fear that he’s actively harming his child, as well as driving them to do dangerous things, like work in a hostess club. If that’s the only way Yuka can find validation, that’s not a good thing; in fact it’s the opening to your average episode of Law & Order: SVU. That Yuka clearly has acceptance from friends tells us that that’s not enough for them – they want someone close, besides their slightly dotty grandmother, to see them for who they are. I’m not sure that Yatora would be their first choice, but then again, maybe he would; after all, he’s known Yuka for a longer time than almost anyone else in the show.
But again, what’s concerning is that Yuka seems to be a catalyst for Yatora’s move away from his anxieties about how to make art. Yuka is the vermillion in his paintbox, the bright shade that makes him rethink how he sees color. That’s great, and yes, Yatora is the protagonist of this show, but Yuka’s suffering doesn’t exist to make Yatora a better artist or person. It may be that the two of them can help each other, and that’s a real possibility – we’ve seen that Yatora’s best work comes when he lets himself go, and finally taking the time to understand what Yuka’s going through may give him the perspective he needs while providing Yuka with the care that they need to pick themselves up. But this needs to be as much about Yuka’s well-being as Yatora’s. I think the story can do that. I hope that it does.
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