Liz and the Blue Bird

Liz and the Blue Bird

2018, NR, 90 min. Directed by Naoko Yamada. Voices by Atsumi Tanezaki, Nao Tōyama, Miyu Honda, Konomi Fujimura, Yuri Yamaoka.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Nov. 2, 2018

There's a deception in the opening moments of Liz and the Blue Bird: It's not, as the European fairy tale opening of a young woman in a mythical forest might suggest, another anime adaptation of a Western fantasy. That's the story of a piece of music that's being prepared by a school orchestra, and the background to the story of shy oboist Mizore Yoroizuka (Tanezaki) and cheerful flutist Nozomi Kasaki (Tōyama). The two are both popular soloists and loyal best friends. Their enemy is simply time: As seniors, both are becoming increasingly and painfully aware that their bond has an expiration date. They're growing up, and facing separate futures where crushes and clubs don't really mean anything.

Liz and the Blue Bird is effectively a standalone spin-off from the successful novel and anime series Sound! Euphonium, chronicling the lives and complexities of the Kitauji High School music club. In the show, Mizore and Nozomi were background characters, but here the spotlight is on them, without any need to dive into the broader backstory. Instead, it's an instantly recognizable story of connection and loss, of how important teen friendships are without ever falling into melodrama. Director Yamada proved her skill in depicting young adults with bullying mortality tale A Silent Voice, but this time she has more space to dedicate to the tiniest of interactions, with the fairy tale's lesson about letting your friends find their wings becoming increasingly poignant and relevant.

What's most impressive is that Yamada gives delicate life to a wafer-thin story of two friends drifting apart. Without ever feeling choppy or over edited, the shots are composed in microscopic detail, and by letting the camera land on unexpected items, like the way the girls move their hands when they talk to each other, or tiny drifts out of focus when they become distracted. There are odd flights of abstraction, such as during some of the rehearsals, while the sideways glimpses of the fairy tale (increasingly a metaphor for the girls' ailing relationship) have a soft, hand-painted, almost impressionist feel, evocative of early Miyazaki, or Yoshio Kuroda's The Dog of Flanders. It gives a subtle contrast to the luminous CGI-enhanced but more realistic depictions of classroom life. There are no violent clashes or extraneous drama about boys. Instead, it's a simple and tender portrait of how friendships aren't always forever.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Naoko Yamada Films
A Silent Voice
Tender and thoughtful anime explores bullying in school

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 25, 2019

A Silent Voice: The Movie

May 30, 2024

More by Richard Whittaker
Viggo Mortensen Looks Homeward in <i>The Dead Don’t Hurt</i>
Viggo Mortensen Looks Homeward in The Dead Don’t Hurt
How his Western centers women’s struggles over men’s wars

May 30, 2024

In a Violent Nature
An undead monster is revived and seeks revenge of a group of teens

May 31, 2024


Liz and the Blue Bird, Naoko Yamada

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle