Expectations have been mounting globally towards the new anime movie Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori), a spin-off of the popular anime series Sound! Euphonium (Hibike! Euphonium) which was produced by Kyoto Animation and opened in Japanese cinemas on 21 April 2018. MANGA.TOKYO dispatched two writers to the press preview to see the movie and share their thoughts!
They are both professional Japanese writers who specialize in anime. They have reviewed the movie from different points of view. Of course, both reviews are spoiler-free!
Review by Shinobu Tanaka
I watched Liz and the Blue Bird, which recently opened in Japanese cinemas on 21 April, at the press preview. Kyoto Animation managed again to meet our expectations with their beautiful imagery. Here is my review.
A movie adaptation of Sound! Euphonium Kitauji High School Concert Band’s Turbulent Second Movement
Liz and the Blue Bird is a completely new movie which centers on Mizore Yoroizuka and Nozomi Kasaki, the two girls who appeared in the second season of the TV anime series. If you haven’t watched the TV series, I recommend you watch the two compilation movies.
Liz and the Blue Bird exclusively concerns Mizore and Nozomi. The elements of Sound! Euphonium are minimized, including its characters. For instance, the TV series was narrated by main protagonist Kumiko, therefore she was always involved in the storyline, whereas the new movie is depicted from Mizore and Nozomi’s points of view.
If you are a fan of Kumiko, Reina, or Yuko, don’t worry. They still appear in the movie. The difference is that they aren’t the main characters, but part of Mizore and Nozomi’s story.
Keep your eyes on the new character, Ririka Kenzaki!
While many of the characters from the original series hardly appear, if at all, there is a new significant character who plays an important role. Ririka Kenzaki is an indispensable character of Mizore and Nozomi’s story in Liz and the Blue Bird. She is a younger band member who struggles with her relationships with the older band members, and her struggle is one of the highlights of the movie’s narrative.
The Beautiful Images Contrast with Cruelty of the Adolescent
When you hear the word ‘adolescent’, some sparkling youthful images may naturally come to mind. However, being pure and innocent brings cruelty sometimes. As you can see from the visual poster, Liz and the Blue Bird is an extremely beautiful movie, so you might think this is an ideal teenagers’ story. The truth is that the movie depicts ugly feelings in the relationship of Mizore and Nozomi including jealousy, dependence, and obsession, which don’t appear in a typical coming-of-age story about the beauty of friendship and love.
The movie makes viewers realize the struggle of adolescence, rather than just its brilliance. The more beautiful the imagery is, the more painful our feelings.
Depicting two worlds: the picture book and reality
The world where Mizore and Nozomi live their everyday lives is depicted as the real world. The reason why we feel sharp cruelty is exactly because it feels real. On the other hand, the world of the picture book is depicted fantastically. There is a blue-haired character and some unrealistic ways of speaking, which contribute to the creation of a fantasy world. It’s this fantasy that emphasizes the reality Mizore and Nozomi.
The picture book is about a blue bird, as you can tell from the title of the movie. Please pay attention to the color of a bird which will fly away at the end of the movie. It might be interesting to compare the two worlds in the movie from that point of view.
Viewers should carefully watch the movement of the characters’ fingers. Not just the fluid fingerwork on the instruments during performances, but also the finger movements of Mizore when she touches her hair, because they reflect her emotions.
Review by Takashi Ikegaya
This article is about the movie Liz and the Blue Bird which premiered on 21 April in Japan.
It’s a spin-off of a big hit anime series called Sound! Euphonium. It’s based on the novel Sound! Euphonium Kitauji High School Concert Band’s Turbulent Second Movement and focuses on some parts of the story. It is created by the same anime studio as the TV series, Kyoto Animation, with the staff members of A Silent Voice. The director and character designer of the movie, Naoko Yamada and Futoshi Nishiya, were the series composer and animation director of the TV series, respectively. However, they have created this movie as something completely different from the TV series, except for the detailed depictions of the performance scenes. Anime and manga that focus on music don’t usually feature the oboe as the main instrument. I believe viewers will be surprised at how expressive the instrument is. The main characters of the TV series such as Kumiko Omae will play minor roles in the movie, save for Asuka Tanaka and her classmates, who have already graduated. However, their appearances are short and they are merely secondary characters. All the cast members of the TV series reprise their roles again in the movie. The new character, a girl in the picture book, is portrayed by Miyu Honda, who is a 13-year-old actress and a figure skater. Although she has lent her voice to a movie before, this is the first time she has appeared in an anime.
The story of the movie begins a year after the TV series when the club president, Yuko Yoshikawa, and the vice president, Natsuki Nakagawa, are busy preparing the band for the national band competition. Their free-choice piece ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’ has a solo part for an oboe and a flute. Mizore Yoroizuka plays the oboe and Nozomi Kasaki plays the flute for this part. The pair have been friends since junior high and Mizore has attached herself to Nozomi since then. There was an incident centering on Nozomi when she wished to re-join the band after quitting once. Her wish was granted, and the problem seemed to be solved, however…
The music ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’ is based on a children’s story. A bakery worker named Liz lives alone and she can interact with animals. One day, a girl in a blue dress appears, and they live together happily. Later, Liz finds out the girl is actually a blue bird and begins feeling guilty because she considers keeping the girl with her by keeping her in a birdcage. Finally, Liz makes a decision –
This story within a story uses little shadow and purposely seems quite flat. Its delicate touch reflects the complex emotions of Mizore and Nozomi. At the beginning of the movie, there is a scene with Mizore and Nozomi going to school together. Viewers will be enchanted by the rhythmical background music. Mizore is following Nozomi. She hardly utters anything but just watches Nozomi’s hair bounce. She is happy to just perform music with Nozomi, who intends on leading Mizore. That is the kind of relationship they have. However, they cannot work well together on the free-choice piece, ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’. Nozomi loves this piece of music, but Mizore has different feelings towards the piece. We only can speculate what they are thinking, as they don’t explain it to us in words. The scene nearing the end demonstrates the changes in their relationship. I’m sure that the scene will warm viewers hearts.