Ya like jazz? No? Oh, that’s a shame. I understand not every music genre can be for everyone, but I personally do think there’s something special about the genre. You’re not alone in that, though. My partner has never been a massive fan of, and in particular has always struggled with listening to the saxophone – sensory issues make the occasionally screechy brass instrument a tough listen for them. However! That all changed one day last week, thanks to the incredible anime movie that is Blue Giant.
If you’ve not heard of it before, Blue Giant is the latest project from director Yuzuru Tachikawa, who you’ll probably best know as the director of the stunning Mob Psycho 100. It follows Dai Miyamoto, a confident 18-year-old is dead set on becoming the best jazz musician in the world, as he moves from the slightly quieter city of Sendai to the busy and overwhelming streets of Tokyo. Does he have a plan? Not really! But he’s got a dream, and isn’t the best way to start any story? Plus, he quickly reconnects with an old friend of his who soon decides to take up drumming, and he meets a skilled pianist too. Thus, Dai’s band is born.
Compared to the likes of say, Jujutsu Kaisen or Demon Slayer, it’s not exactly the kind of story most people would look to when they think of anime, but with the way Blue Giant is delivered, I wouldn’t have it in any other medium. For the most part, the animation is simple enough, only lacking in certain scenes where characters are rendered in 3D for more complicated movements while they’re playing their instruments. The CG mostly comes across as a bit rudimentary, but there are some stunning sequences of 2D animation that fans of Mob Psycho will absolutely love – but we’ll come back to that in a bit.
While I had my own thoughts and feelings about the film, it was my partner’s reaction to it that I found the most interesting. As I mentioned, they’ve never really been into or listened to much jazz. During the first half of the film, as they later told me, they were mostly sitting there thinking to themself “why did I come to this, I don’t like jazz.” This thought for them was particularly strong during a moment that Dai and co have their first performance, in which the beginner drummer struggles, leaving the overall piece of music falling flat. But then came their second performance.
At one point during the film, JASS, as the band comes to call themselves, gets invited to a jazz festival – in particular, they’re asked to perform by quite a famous yet arrogant jazz musician, who just wants them there to make him look good. Dai takes this as a challenge of course, even if this famous jazz player laughs at him. The moment Dai starts playing, though, everyone starts listening. And so did my partner.
It’s an incredible scene, Dai kicking things off loudly and brashly, but the further the band gets along, the more and more everyone starts to get into it. Dai’s saxophone skills are compelling, made all the more so by the excellent score from real-life jazz musician Hiromi Uehara. Here’s where the animation starts to go a bit off the rails, embracing the experimental much in the same way jazz is. It’s a pretty perfect combination of sound and visuals, leaving the aforementioned, arrogant jazz musician astounded, and the crowd completely won over – including my partner, who almost started clapping once the piece finished.
The thing that feels so special about how thoroughly my partner was convinced of the power of jazz, is that that’s pretty much the whole thing Blue Giant is about: putting every ounce of your passion on display that even if you’re not perfect, the people around you can feel it wholeheartedly and resonate with the emotions your showing them.
Most films that are about jazz act like jazz is the most important thing in the world, and often people who love the genre will feel that way too. But Blue Giant is possibly the first film that can actually convince you it is.
If I’ve convinced you to check Blue Giant out, you can catch it in cinemas from January 31 in the UK, and GKIDS just announced a blu-ray release in the US.