Jazz is a unique and revered art form that requires a delicate balance between experimentation, chaos, and art. It takes a skilled artist to find this balance, and those who can are highly respected. There is a sense of allure and danger in live performances, where one wrong note can ruin an entire act. Jazz is a pure form of music that relies on instinct and intuition rather than set patterns and structure. Interestingly, Shinichi Ishizuka’s “Blue Giant” manga series was able to capture the hearts and minds of many without including the music itself. As a medium, manga is limited to illustrations and storytelling, lacking the ability to convey sound. Therefore, it is no surprise that the series has now been adapted into an anime to fully embrace the fusion of sound and visuals. Director Yuzuru Tachikawa approaches this task with ambition and passion following the manga’s award-winning success.
In Select Theaters October 8 & 9
All markets can be found on the website www.BlueGiantMovie.com.
The story of “Blue Giant” centers around Dai Miyamoto, a young saxophonist from a small town who dreams of making it big in the jazz scene of the city. He practices late at night in the snow, adding a romantic touch to his pursuit. His determination leads him to Shinjuku City in Tokyo, the heart of Japanese jazz, where he stays with his old friend Shunji Tamada and meets talented pianist Yukinori Sawabe. Together, they form JASS and set out to conquer the nightclubs of Tokyo and beyond. The story follows their journey to success, filled with the usual ups and downs of stardom and the bond of brotherhood in the face of the challenges that come with being an artist in a world that values art less and less.
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Despite lacking originality, “Blue Giant” makes up for it with sheer power. Its story of a rising star is comforting and relatable, with the highs of unexpected success and the lows of harsh rejection. The long-time editor, known only as NUMBER 8, recognizes this and adapts Ishizuka’s original text into a screenplay that follows a familiar rhythm and hits all the right notes to please any audience. If you don’t feel a lump in your throat or a racing heartbeat by the triumphant finale, you might as well be dead. The subplot of Shunji’s sudden interest in learning how to drum adds depth to the story, as he struggles to catch up to his friends’ musical abilities. His underdog character is endearing, and his friends’ treatment of him is heartwarming. The strong relationships between characters are what keeps “Blue Giant” engaging from scene to scene. While its striking visual style alone would make for a hollow experience, the film is a feast for the eyes, ears, and heart.
It’s accurate that Ishizuka’s manga has a strong potential to be adapted into a film, but the real challenge lies in bringing the vibrant world of “Blue Giant” and its music to life. Renowned Japanese jazz musician Hiromi Uehara makes her film debut and showcases her mastery of the genre through a series of powerful original compositions performed by JASS in various venues. Each performance exudes the same energy and risk that Dai strives for on stage. They are extensive and serve as important moments in the film, with Uehara successfully translating Ishizuka’s music from page to screen in an impressive adaptation.
The remaining task is for director Yuzuru Tachikawa to oversee the creation of visually stunning performances. With experience in television shows such as “KILL la KILL”, “Attack on Titan”, and “Mob Psycho 100”, Tachikawa is adept at building drama and then elevating it to grand proportions. As soon as Dai begins playing his saxophone, emitting golden flames, it’s best to prepare for captivating montages where the JASS members become lost in the music, transcending both time and space. Working together with director of photography Kasumi Togo and 3D director Masato Takahashi, Tachikawa seamlessly combines traditional 2D animation with slick 3D elements, using them sparingly to highlight the peak moments of each performance – from playing for a standard audience to being on the brink of a black hole. These performances could stand alone as exceptional music videos, but when integrated into the emotional story, they become truly transcendent.
After two hours, it may seem that “Blue Giant” becomes overly indulgent in each beat (similar to Dai’s noodly solos), but it’s hard to criticize when they are executed so masterfully. Dai’s ultimate goal is to convey every emotion through sound, and as a guiding principle for every aspect of “Blue Giant’s” impressive full-length adaptation, it’s safe to say they have achieved it. The intensity of a live performance is captured in the determined, sweating faces of its protagonists by a team of highly skilled creatives, fueled by their passion for the art and the story behind its creation, and finally igniting like the blazing star in its title.