A spin-off of Sound! Euphonium
Genre(s): School, Music, Drama, Coming of Age
Age-Appropriateness: 13+ (Relatability)
Episodes: One 1 hr. 30 minute movie
TheAwersome Rating: 9.0 / 10 (A truly beautiful art piece)
Premise: Mizore and Nozomi are chosen to play the lead instruments, oboe and flute respectively, for the duet in the third movement of “Liz and the Blue Bird.” The concert piece is inspired by a fairy tale in which the lonely Liz meets a blue bird in the form of a young girl. Her solitude at an end, the relationship between Liz and the Blue Bird blossoms, but Liz must make a heart-wrenching decision in order to truly realize her love. Through their rehearsals, Mizore and Nozomi find this piece hits a bit too close to home with their relationship, and struggle to overcome their complications if the duet is to be any good.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: KyoAni has done it again. And by “it” I mean made me cry and fall in love with them and their work all over again. This piece truly stretches the conventions of what a “movie” is and can be. The best way for me to describe it is to think of it as a long-form Pixar short. A lot of the story is told via beautiful visuals and music, really immersing you into Mizore’s mindset and feelings without needing words.
Liz and the Blue Bird does even more of what made its source material, Sound! Euphonium, so special: capture moments. There are so many subtle, seemingly insignificant details and shots that convey so much humanity and breathe that much more life into the piece.
What truly sets this piece apart from all others I’ve seen is the blending of mediums. Anytime we’re seeing parts of the “Liz and the Blue Bird” fairy tale, all the scene’s backgrounds are hand-painted watercolor (one of the most difficult mediums to paint well and correctly). The art style shifts to vibrant colors, with a design reminiscent of Miyazaki magic.
TLDR: A truly beautiful piece of art you won’t want to miss.
While this is a Sound! Euphonium spinoff, it can be watched on its own, with no prior knowledge of the characters. Having seen the first two seasons of Euphonium will help give some further background to these previously background characters but is hardly necessary to appreciate and fully enjoy this movie.
It wasn’t too much of a surprise to learn that this is from the same director, composer, and much of the same team that did A Silent Voice. Those same wonderful experiments and risks are taken here in artistic expression, and it makes for a wonderful experience, rather than simply being a story. I can’t remember the last time I literally felt my heart flutter in pure joy at the beauty of something; to see art that is literally breathtaking. This captured a small sense of that childlike wonder and elation that makes you feel like it’s Christmas morning and you’re eight years old again.
On the topic of artistry, a beautiful theme throughout this movie is imbalanced reflection. While referring to the relationship between Mizore and Nozomi, this theme is portrayed via framed cinematography (beginning scenes vs. ending scenes) to the visuals. Many sequences involving the Blue Bird are animated via a series of sponge paintings where half the Blue Bird is painted, and then the paper is folded symmetrically to create the other half. The music itself is also done this way for several scenes; the melody’s notes were painted on a staff of paper, and then folded over to create a reflected melody.
On the subject of the soundtrack, much of it was recorded in an actual high school, using sounds such as footsteps, lockers closing, tapping on desks, etc., to truly capture the essence and experience of being a high school girl. Choices like this give the movie somewhat of an “Indie Movie” feel: the smaller scope of the story, the multiple mediums, the experimental soundtrack creation, etc. Yet what Liz and the Blue Bird has is an extremely polished and well-made feel that would never make you think “Oh this is an Indie film.”
Another daring risk that was taken with this movie is the fact that it was animated. The bulk of the storytelling is in small subtle moments of body language and facial expression which are very difficult to capture via animation. This script would be much more typical of a live-action drama that only high caliber actors could handle, and yet we see all these small moments in which nothing is wasted. We see differences in how Mizore drinks vs. Nozomi, the importance of a clenched hand, a tensed up arm, a subtle shift in posture, a slight decrease of spring in one’s step, and how they all contribute to the core message and theme of the movie.
If you’re looking for something to watch that you’ll keep thinking about for weeks afterward, definitely pick up Liz and the Blue Bird.