Influences on the new anime LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD, opening Friday at AFS Cinema

LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD opens Friday, November 2nd, at AFS Cinema.  Get tickets.

Naoko Yamada’s new film LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD is a delicate coming of age story, chronicling the friendship of two high school band members as they near the end of their time together in school. The musicians decide to take on a piece titled Liz and the Blue Bird, a fairy tale about love and freedom that parallels their own lives. Aside from some fantastic watercolored visualizations of the fable, LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD stays mostly grounded in reality.  The film tells its story in reactions and small expressions rather than through the opulence and hyper-reality that anime is typically known for. It’s in this vein that the film has drawn comparisons to numerous art house films.

In a thoughtful video essay, Matthew Li has noted several of the filmmakers that LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD director Naoko Yamada is potentially drawing from in her work. He references how seemingly innocuous events can become significant through the subjectivity of following a specific character, as exemplified by the work of Sofia Coppola. He references Yamada’s attention to specific foley of everyday locations, reminiscent of the work of Yasujirō Ozu. He also mentions how Yamada’s films often replicate the look of long focal-length lenses, echoing the similarly striking tableaus of Sergei Parajanov’s classic film, THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES.

Check out the essay below:

Here’s what critics are saying about LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD:

“Through a mix of visual storytelling, aural storytelling, metaphor, and symbolism, LIZ AND THE BLUE BIRD delivers an emotional tale about friendship, dreams, and the final days of childhood.” – Richard Eisenbeis, Anime News Network

“…carries an air of hushed melancholy that makes it a unique emotional drama.  It’s one of the most structurally complex films about the necessity of communication for healthy relationships.” – Natasha H., IGN

“Yamada, the film’s director, is in top form again here. Beautiful, fluid animation is practically a given from Kyoto Animation, but Yamada in particular is a master in the study of human observation.” – Matt Schley, The Japan Times

“Its delicate touch reflects the complex emotions of its characters.” – Takashi Ikegaya, Manga.Tokyo


  • Contributed by Henry Graham

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