I’ve talked about the Sound! Euphonium series before and how it was relatable to me. I was a massive band nerd during my time in high school which carried over to college. While my experiences are not one to one with the anime itself because I didn’t go to a Japanese high school and my school was more focused on marching band, the band student experience was still infinitely relatable. With all that being said, Liz and the Blue Bird is a film set during a particular time in a band member’s life where they are about to leave the band they’ve been apart of not knowing what is going to happen in their future. There are so many complex emotions that go with that situation and this film captures those incredibly well. Maybe not with girlfriends slowly separating from each other and finding a way to stay together, but those were there either way.
(The following post will contain spoilers, because I don’t know how to talk about this anime otherwise. Just letting you know right now.)
Liz and the Blue bird could possibly be counted as a sequel to Hibike! Euphonium, but it’s more of its own thing then anything else. The movie doesn’t focus on Kumiko, Reina, or the other main cast members of Hibike Euphonium at all, though they are all there in the background. Instead, the movie is focused on the senior oboist Mizore and flutist Nozomi. They had some episodes dedicated to them in the show itself their drama was apart of seniors vs second years when this band club was arguing about whether they wanted to play for fun or go all in for the competition. Jump a year later, and we have this film. Mizore being the quiet reserved character that she is and her girlfriend/best friend who is far more social, Nozomi. They seek to play a duet together to perfection at the end of the film based on the fairy tale, Liz and the Blue Bird. So, there is the title drop and the secondary frame work for this movie.
Most of this story is a live and focused on high school band girls and drama, but Liz and the Blue Bird is retold to us along side the story itself sort of in reference to the girls and their relationship through the film. And the fairy tale itself is the classic tale of a lonely girl living her life and then having her life brightened up by a bird appearing as a girl. The two hang out with each other for a while and fall in love with each other, but the bird girl sees birds flying one day with a sad look. With Liz seeing that, she urges the blue bird out so they can both be happy. It’s a fairy tale, so it’s full of wonderful color, fantastic art styles, and just pure sadness. It also sets up some expectations on how the viewer thinks the anime’s story will go and subverts. I don’t think it subverts it the way the viewer would expect it though. At least that is way I read the content of the film.
Starting with how the fairy tale starts out, who the characters in the fairy tale look like, and the way the movie starts, I think it can be assumed that Mizore was supposed to be Liz and Nozomi was the blue bird. Mizore started as being very shy and only knew how to be herself around Nozomi. Nozomi on the other hand was incredibly and social and popular with her section. Then, as you would expect, things sort of start turning around. Mizore starts showing off some of her music skills, gets chosen by one of their teachers to go to a music college, and even starts a social life. On the other hand, Nozomi starts seeing she was the one who needed Mizore, finds solace in her sectional times, and starts isolating herself from the situation completely. That would be the classic reversal, but I don’t think that is actual case here because both of them seem like Liz and the Blue Bird at the same time in their own way. The pair both don’t want to separate from each other, want to see the other succeed, and hopefully meet up after making their way out of high school. Real life is not a fairy tale, so it’s possible to be both. Life is more complicated and messy.
Mizore and Nozomi are not the only characters caught in this struggle. Other seniors like Natsuki, the other euphonium player the show has focused on and her usual victim, Yuuko, the ribbon haired trumpet player have some parts to play in this film as well. While they are in a more advisory position, they are also worried about their futures. Their futures are just as uncertain here. While I can’t say they’ve developed in such complex ways like Mizore and Nozomi have, Yuuko’s and Natuki’s presence still helps nail down the different aspects of the movie, makes the experiences more universal, and they are both just a fun and good presence to have around anyway. This other pair may be going to the same school, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will see each other. Their appearances are similar cameo appearances of Reina and Kumiko, but more influential and mentoring. All of these experiences matter and connects with me as well.
While I was never in that level of relationship in high school, I felt a lot of these emotions from this movie in my own way. When you are a senior band member in high school, everything you do is the last time you do something. It’s your last first day of band camp, your last first performance of the year, and it keeps going. As you see your time disappear with some of your best friends because you’ve been around each other for a long time, there is a layer of comfy here that is sad to see slowly disappear. Even though you’ve seen it happen two or three times already to different people, it always hurts when its your turn to go. That layer of comfy the band has become is going to disappear and even if you and your band members go to the same university, there is a chance that you will never see each other again. Everybody has their own goals and motivations and high school is one time where all kinds of people can be in the same building because they have to be. Liz and the Blue Bird brought me back to that moment of time in life and made me realize I don’t talk to those people as much as I should have. We are all both Liz and the Blue Bird to each other, so please be kind.
To go along side with all the sentimental moods and fantasy to normal life switches came a lot of expressive animation and art styles. The normal high school character designs came from the Euphonium anime series possibly with more details. On the other hand, for obvious reasons, the fairy tale side came with all sorts of different colors and different sorts of fantasy world aspects and it was cool. I loved that part of the film. And I should also mention the various instrument scenes. There is so many little bits of detail put into this film including players having the right-hand position and even Mizore dumping her double reed into some water before putting her oboe together. So many cool details like that, though I am confused why Mizore and Nozomi didn’t tune before playing their duet. Probably anime tuning magic. Last for not least, there were a lot of subtle moments and scenes like the movie opening up with Mizore following Nozomi up the stairs and the same following down the stares at the end of the film representing all of the changes that happened to these characters in the film. Man, this Liz and the Blue Bird is so pretty.
This film was great. Very powerful, very emotional, and yet some subtle and soft. Never throwing scenes or character themes in front of you. The film just did it’s own thing and left the viewer to take away from it what they could. The characters were great, the characterization fantastic, and the subtle animation approaches, and other things were fantastic as well. All of it connected to me for one reason or another You know what the best part of this film is? You don’t need to have watched Sound! Euphonium’s various seasons in order to watch it. It is only kind of a sequel, not completely one. Watch it whenever you feel like it. You can rent it for cheap on amazon. Whether or not you are a band student, you can find something in this film to connect to. How universal the experiences are can be incredibly insightful.