The only thing I knew about Liz and the Blue Bird going in was that it was an anime. Back in the Netflix DVDs days, I was a huge anime fan. I’d put in order after order for series and features like Gundam, Dragon Ball Z, Hellsing, Vampire Hunter D, Berserk, and Escaflowne just to name a very select few. After a few years of this obsession, my interested started to decrease significantly. I wouldn’t say I grew out of anime, I just think I became severely burnt out on it. The only stuff I still watch is the Hayao Miyazaki films, and even then I have to be in a specific mood.
I took on Liz and the Blue Bird because it was different from what I usually review, and I wanted to see if it would reignite a passion that has long since been dormant. Liz and the Blue Bird is visually beautiful…mostly. The main storyline features sharply illustrated characters, but when they move, it’s wonky and unnatural looking, distractingly so in fact. There are these storybook sequences spliced in every once in a while that have a different art style. These storybook segments have lush and beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds. There’s an almost impressionist watercolor look to them, and it stuck out to me as something unique and gorgeous.
“…a painfully basic story about two friends growing apart from one another.”
The character animations in these parts are inconsistent, however. Sometimes it’s very detailed and masterful, and other times its blurry and ugly. Stylistically, it’s fine most of the time. There wasn’t anything that took me entirely out of the story, and I appreciated the two different art styles and how they played off of each other. With that said, this film just wasn’t for me. The story was painfully dull to me, and the entire thing (aside from the aforementioned storybook sequences) takes place in a dull looking school setting with hardly any change of scenery to break up the dreadful monotony. As far as the story goes, it’s a painfully basic story about two friends growing apart from one another. The drama here is as low-stakes as it gets.
Nozomi (voiced by Nao Tôyama) and Misore (voiced by Atsumi Tanezaki) are students who play the flute and oboe respectively. They’re both very accomplished musicians training for a competition. The piece their band has selected is titled “Liz and the Blue Bird,” and it revolves around an oboe and flute duet. Misore has a weird fascination with Nozomi, so much so that anyone else who talks to her is pretty much entirely ignored. Misore is socially awkward, and not in an endearing way. Nozomi is far more outgoing and popular, and it seems like she’s becoming more and more distant from Misore. Misore comes off as really unhealthily clingy, and it’s a major annoyance. Nozomi’s character is fine, but her motivations are spelled out at the end in an exposition dump. There was no leadup or hints, the film just decides to slap the viewers in the face with its ultimately trivial revelation. As Nozomi and Misore’s story plays out, we cut to a parable about a lonely girl named Liz who finds and befriends a Blue Bird. The Blue Bird takes the form of a human and decides to live with Liz. This does tie in nicely to the ending, but until you get there, it just comes off as a really confusing, albeit pleasant to look at distraction from the main plot.
“…the film just decides to slap the viewers in the face with its ultimately trivial revelation.”
This film just wasn’t for me. If you go back earlier and look at the anime, I mentioned I was a fan of way back when, it’s of the male-targeted demographic, or shōnen if you prefer its proper term. This is a very slow story with no action, no cyborgs, no cyberpunk post-apocalyptic wastelands, and no conflict. It’s literally just quiet drama between a shy girl and her more outgoing friend accompanied by classical music. I’m sure there’s an audience for Liz and the Blue Bird, but I’m just not a part of it. As a reviewer, I can only offer my own experiences and opinions with the films I watch. With that said, my experience watching this film was a tough one. I found myself constantly becoming distracted, pausing the film to browse social media, and at one point even I even fell asleep and passed out. After finally finishing the movie I was utterly unmoved, and it left virtually no impression on me. My opinion on the film is that most of it looked impressive with a few exceptions I already pointed out, but there was nothing that hooked me in the narrative sense. It’s not terrible or offensive, it’s just very static and uninteresting, and in some ways, that’s even worse. There might be something to Liz and the Blue Bird that I’m just not seeing. After doing a little research there are people who are passionate about this movie, but again, I can only offer you my own perspective.
Liz and the Blue Bird (2018) Directed by Naoko Yamada. Written by Ayano Takeda and Reiko Yoshida. Starring Atsumi Tanezaki, Nao Tôyama, Miyu Honda, Tomoyo Kurosawa. Liz and the Blue Bird screens at the 2018 LA Femme Int’l Film Festival.