Liz and the Blue Bird Blu-ray Review: Take a Flyer on This Moving Anime Film

Close friends face the end of high school and differing plans for the future
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High school life is a favorite topic of anime productions, but this one differentiates itself by having a very narrow focus on the unresolved relationship between two senior girls as they near graduation. Mizore and Nozomi are close friends destined for different paths after high school, but still going about their daily school routines, including intensive orchestra rehearsals, as they try to ignore their future.

In order to ease their upcoming transition, Nozomi encourages Mizore to study the story behind the orchestral work they’re rehearsing, a tale of a human who keeps a wild bird as a pet before setting it free to return to the wild. In an interesting creative choice, director Naoko Yamada temporarily shifts the film to the story of Liz and her bird, going so far as to change up the film’s crisply realistic art style to approximate a storybook, with backgrounds made to look like they’re drawn on textured paper and painterly washes in the coloring. Although the sidetrack goes on a bit too long, it drives home the point to both Mizore and the audience that Mizore and Nozomi are rapidly approaching the end of their road together.

Mizore is a reserved, somewhat morose girl who seems unable to express her deep affection to Nozomi even after their many years of close friendship. Nozomi is flighty, outgoing, and not very concerned with feelings, seemingly the blue bird in their relationship. It’s fascinating to watch their relationship dynamics, especially as Mizore struggles with determining a plan for herself after graduation. The bird story does help her, although not in the expected way, setting up some serious character growth for Mizore as she learns to find her own way.

The film was adapted from a popular YA novel series called Sound! Euphonium, and serves as a side sequel to the anime series of the same name. However, it can be viewed and enjoyed as a wholly independent project, as I had no prior knowledge of the other works and no apparent need for a primer.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack contains no bonus features. Blu-ray image quality is superb, while the audio options include both English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks supplemented by standard English subtitles and even English SDH choices. The Blu-ray defaults to the English dub, which seemed to be fairly competent voice acting from the small bit I reviewed before switching to my preferred original Japanese track with English subs. The subtitle translation is well done for the most part, although I felt like I might have missed out on some cultural nuance by the phrasing used for a pivotal confrontation late in the film. Still, the theme of the closing chapter of a relationship is universally relatable regardless of the translation, with Yamada’s sure-handed direction ensuring that the emotions are driven home almost entirely by her production team’s lovely visuals.

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