Liz and the Blue Bird: There Is No Shame in Simplicity

I didn’t plan to watch this film because I dropped Euphonium. Plus, Eleven Arts didn’t show any new anime movie at my town earlier this year, so it was a surprise when I found out, only days before the showing, about this movie coming to a theater nearby and decided to watch it. It’s a year of coincidences, now that I think about it; I went to Kyoto earlier this summer and has since watched two anime movies set in Kyoto at my local theaters.

English: Liz and the Blue Bird
Japanese: リズと青い鳥
Year: 2018
Length: 90 min.
Studio: Kyoto Animation

Review

Simple and straight to the point is ultimately what struck me the most about the movie. The art and character designs are unmistakably KyoAni’s, as is the central Japan setting. As a side story to the main Euphonium franchise, Liz and the Blue Bird wastes no time in introductions. Nor does it need to; it’s a story that focuses on two close friends, Yoroizuka Mizore and Kasaki Nozomi, and how they reconcile their impending separation (aka high school graduation).

I cannot stress the simplicity part enough. The movie is confined to the school grounds, nay, perhaps just three rooms: the orchestra club room, the science lab room, and the classroom. Ditto with the plot; Mizore and Nozomi don’t want to separate, but they each have different paths after graduation. See? Simple.

Personally, the most outstanding aspect of the film is how feelings are conveyed without words. Part of this is due to Mizore’s quiet nature. She’s shy and doesn’t talk much, doesn’t have many friends, but as the point of view character, we get to see how much she wants to be with Nozomi, how much she appreciates Nozomi for befriending her. Her glances at Nozomi during band practice; the hug that she wanted but was rejected by Nozomi, all shows how much she wants to stay together with Nozomi.

The film is a giant metaphor between Mizore and Nozomi’s relationship and the eponymous story, Liz and the Blue Bird, and plays out musically as Mizore and Nozomi practice their solo segment for an upcoming musical competition. Mizore, who plays the oboe, struggles to play well against Nozomi’s flute in practice sessions. As Mizore slowly comes to terms with their pending separation, she regains her confidence and her part in the solo becomes more vibrant.

The soundtrack of Liz and the Blue Bird is also a notable plus, and fits well with the content and mood. The subtle sadness of the oboe’s sound is heard through the film to emphasize Mizore’s feelings, while the relatively upbeat ending song, “Songbirds”, wraps up the story after Mizore and Nozomi reconcile their feelings over their impending separation.

TL;DR

Liz and the Blue Bird is a simple character story, and it excels at its simplicity. I still prefer something more dramatic like A Silent Voice, KyoAni’s previous slice of life character study, but Liz and the Blue Bird is similarly worth a watch, if not for the story then for the great music and the fantastic KyoAni animation art.

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