Blue Period comes from mangaka Tsubasa Yamaguchi and is published in English by Kodansha Comics. I’ve been awaiting the publication of this manga since it won the 2020 Manga Taisho Grand Prize, an annual Japanese manga award given to outstanding series under eight volumes. If you haven’t heard about it, Blue Period is a manga about the struggles and rewards of a life dedicated to art. Popular guy Yatora realizes he’s just going through the motions to make other people happy and finds himself in a new passion: painting.
In Blue Period Volume 1 we meet Yatora. He is the perfect high school student, with good grades, lots of friends, and he’s good at sports. For lack of a better description, if this were a romance shojo he would be the guy the lead girl pines over but doesn’t think she’s good enough for. But quickly, readers see that while this is an effortless performance for Yatora, it is just that, a performance. The need to put on a show, while easy, leaves him feeling bored and empty. Then, he wanders into the art room one day, and a lone painting captures his eye, awakening him to a kind of beauty he never knew. The passion that is awakened in him is instantaneous and he is both compelled and consumed. He dives in headfirst.
The shift in character that Yamaguchi writes is well executed and noticeable for people who can find themselves in Yatora. In the opening chapter Yatora explains that he is trying to fill a quota and while that offers some satisfaction, it is empty. In his words, “I put more into meeting those quotas than others do. And my efforts pay off. That’s all there is to it. But when people praise me for my efforts, I feel empty. Why’s it so hard for me to feel anything?”
In school, I was an overachiever. I hit top marks and with every award and recognition, it became more of a duty and became more hollow. Something I was supposed to do and something I could easily do because of how I worked. But it didn’t light a fire in me. Yatora realizing this in Blue Period Volume 1 is one of the most relatable moments in a manga this year for me. Yamaguchi captures Yatora’s apathy and emptiness well while still showcasing the ease with which he succeeds.
But Yamaguchi’s writing isn’t the only element that stands out in Blue Period Volume 1, but so does his art. The first time that Yatora sees Mori’s painting, readers see two conflicting art styles. Initially, the traditional manga art style against a traditional European painting seems off, but the more you look at it, the more it’s compelling.
Yamaguchi is skilled at transitioning panels from reality to the art world of Yatora’s mind as he draws and paints. Additionally, Yamaguchi effortlessly works in art concepts of color and technique in a way that adds depth to the story and not just exposition to understand a conversation.
Ultimately, Blue Period Volume 1 is a story that isn’t just about a boy finding art. No, this is a story about showing a character grow to making choices for himself and not those around him. Yatora’s journey is just beginning in this volume but the way Yamaguchi sets up the larger narrative theme of living for yourself and not others around you is one that I’m sure will pay off.
Blue Period Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold.
Blue Period Volume 1
Blue Period Volume 1 is a story that isn’t just about a boy finding art. No, this is a story about showing a character grow to making choices for himself and not those around him. Yatora’s journey is just beginning in this volume but the way Yamaguchi sets up the larger narrative theme of living for yourself and not others around you is one that I’m sure will pay off.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.