Anime Jazz By HIROMI

Blue Giant is one of those rare heartfelt movies about musical passion touching the inner musician in all of us, even if you have never picked up a musical instrument or read sheet music. The anime film from director Yuzuru Tachikawa adapts the popular manga by Shinichi Ishizuka and features an original soundtrack of soaring performances by HIROMI, the beloved Japanese jazz composer and performer.

18-year-old protagonist Dai Miyamoto plays the tenor saxophone with one dream, becoming the world’s greatest jazz musician. The hopeful Dai relocates to Tokyo with the help of his friend Shunji Tamada with nothing much more than his saxophone in tow. Desperately passionate about playing jazz and refining his skills, Dai is bursting with enough raw enthusiasm for an entire orchestra.

… there’s something quite magical in Blue Giant’s simple, disarming musical tale

Dai’s amazing musical gift convinces the talented pianist Yukinori Sawabe to start a band together. Needing a drummer for their jazz trio JASS, the completely amateur Shunji slowly assumes the position. Their dream is playing the exclusive jazz club So Blue, the pinnacle for jazz in all of Japan.

As Blue Giant begins you think the anime film will be all about Dai’s rapid rise in the music world but Yukinori steals the movie’s heart. Dai’s youthful exuberance about jazz is undeniably Blue Giant’s baseline, giving us insight into the energy and dedication needed for serious musicians. However, Yukinori’s own journey resonates with deeper emotional pull and complexity. Having plugged away at the piano since he was four, Yukinori is a staggeringly competent pianist and composer who often lacks Dai’s innate talent for making great music.

There’s a charming post-credits scene that shouldn’t be missed. There are slight differences between the original manga and this anime production, reflecting the necessity of slimming down ten volumes of material into two hours. No word yet on whether the manga sequel Blue Giant Supreme will get turned into a movie.

You do not necessarily have to enjoy jazz to get meaning from Blue Giant’s heartfelt storytelling and warm characters. It obviously helps since the anime features several original jazz pieces by the mega-talented Hiromi. Definitely primed for big music lovers in general, there’s something quite magical in Blue Giant’s simple, disarming musical tale of three friends overcoming hurdles together as they live life making music.

Video

Studio NUT (Saga of Tanya the Evil among other anime credits) handles animation duties for the Yuzuru Tachikawa (Mob Psycho 100) theatrical movie. The hand-drawn anime film boasts character designs by Yuichi Takahashi. While lacking the flash and dash of bolder anime like Evangelion or Jujustu Kaisen, Blue Giant’s eye to detail and accuracy provide a quiet intimacy perfect for its moving tale.

American distributor GKIDS serves up an almost pristine 1080p presentation for Blue Giant. The 1.78:1 video has its splashier and more colorful animated moments reserved for the jazz trio’s electric stage performances, mixing in some 3DCGI which looks rotoscoped in spots based off live performers. The city elements seen in Tokyo are stunningly detailed in richly animated backgrounds, aiming for realism and urban ambiance.

Character designs themselves are youthful anime archetypes, alternating between more sophisticated “adult” versions seen in the documentary within Blue Giant’s narrative.

The main feature runs 119 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in crisp AVC. Blue Giant’s animation has a few minor hiccups but the transfer itself looks great on Blu-ray.

Audio

Blue Giant’s engaging Jazz soundtrack courtesy of multiple Grammy winner Hiromi Uehara is offered in several incredible choices, including beautiful Dolby Atmos which is a rare treat for anime. Hiromi is considered a virtuoso in her field, a world-renowned composer and performer working in the Jazz and Jazz fusion spaces. The sweet melodies and soaring original music in Blue Giant are toe-tapping bursts of creativity and joy.

Secondary options for the Japanese audio include 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and 2.0 PCM, all highly refined mixes given their channel capacity. Dialogue is immaculately intelligible within the wide dynamic range offered by the music. But the clear winner is a spacious Dolby Atmos soundtrack which does an uncanny job placing you smack dab inside the small, intimate Jazz clubs strewn throughout Blue Giant. Music from Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane make appearances in the film.

The deep soundstage offers gorgeous depth and channel separation, adding a realistic reproduction of the live performances made by JASS in the film. It places Sawabe’s piano, Dai’s tenox saxophone and Tamada’s drums on stage with superb imaging. Each instrument playing receives its own unique space, especially noticeable during the piano or tenor sax solos.

Tokyo comes alive with sounds of the city always making their presence felt. The immersive mix has delightful surprises without pulling listeners out of the movie’s storytelling. Lively, powerful bass enhance the musical performances.

The Japanese voice cast includes Yuki Yamada as Dai Miyamoto, Amane Okayama as Shunji Tamada, and Shōtarō Mamiya as Yukinori Sawabe.

Optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles appear in a white font.

Extras

GKIDS issues Blue Giant as a Region A Blu-ray. Early pressings includes a glossy slipcover. The primary bonus feature is a fascinating interview in English with Grammy winner Hiromi. An isolated soundtrack would have been wonderful but the fantastic Dolby Atmos audio will have to suffice for fans. Blue Giant’s memorable jazz soundtrack is available separately in select markets.

Q&A with Hiromi (15:56 in HD) – Surprisingly in English, Hiromi answers questions from the audience and a moderator in this sweet interview at the Japan Society. The composer and acclaimed musician discusses how Blue Giant’s music was recorded before the animation. She also goes into a few differences between the original manga and anime film.

Trailers & Teasers (04:30 in HD) – A series of 4 trailers designed for the Japanese market.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Blue Giant
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5

Movie

Theatrical anime adapting a popular manga Blue Giant that touches the heart and soul with its passionate exploration of jazz featuring original music composed by Hiromi Uehara

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 41 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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