Passionate Anime Musicians Tale BLUE GIANT is the Most Expressive Movie I’ve Seen in Ages

Every now and then you happen upon some film you know nothing about, and it absolutely rocks your world. Shout Factory/GKIDS sent me a review copy of Blue Giant, a new anime film that wasn’t on my radar, and I was completely blown away. Within minutes of starting the movie, which is based on an expansive manga by the same name, I already knew this was shaping up to be something very special. I can’t remember the last time I cried this much watching a new film (it might’ve been the French-Canadian movie Starbuck, which was more than a decade ago).

The film follows the story of Dai Miyamoto, an aspiring saxophonist who loves jazz and has decided to do whatever it takes to be the greatest jazz musician in the world. After meeting an extremely talented session pianist named Yukinori, and recruiting his roommate Shunji to accompany them on drums – despite the fact that he’s never played – the upstart band JASS is formed.

This is one of the most sincere, earnest movies I’ve ever seen – when Dai says he wants to be the greatest jazz musician in the world, that might sound like a naive or absurd goal, but he truly means it and puts in the work, countless hours of practice each day, and his genuine fervor is infectious both to the other characters around him, and to the audience. Yukinori, a talented pianist, is more technically proficient but challenged to match Dai’s passion and creative artistry rather than simply try to map out a safe career coloring within the lines. Shunji, a complete novice, likewise decides to pursue his new craft in a manner befitting his more seasoned bandmates. With hearts firmly on sleeves and no pretense, it’s easy to love and root for these guys.

Blue Giant is likely to get overlooked by many viewers simply because it’s about a jazz band, and that’s not the most universally compelling pitch. I’d implore you not to skip it for that reason. It’s actually part of the film’s theme: the trio is pouring their entire lives into a relatively unpopular genre out of pure love and passion for the music, and it’s incredibly endearing. Their approach attracts new fans who’ve never cared for jazz, while older jazz fans realize this new band of teenagers is challenging their perceptions and assumptions of what jazz is and can be.

The film makes use of some amazing stylizations – when the boys perform, the animation style changes to match their moods and intensity – cameras careen and the images warp madly, delivering a dynamic visual force element to accompany the incredible music, the real-life compositions of jazz artist Hiromi. Even though I’m not a huge jazz fan, I can definitely appreciate this incredible diegetic score.

I won’t ruin the film’s narrative surprises, but it’s an exceptionally tender and deeply emotional experience that gets to the heart of what makes an artist tick. It’s the most sincere story of relentless artistic drive that I’ve ever encountered, and I’m completely won over by the pure unfettered passion of this thing.

Unequivocal highest recommendation.

The Package

Blue Giant is new on Blu-ray this week from GKIDS and Shout! Studios. The Blu-ray disc (note, no DVD or digital copy) comes in a standard blue Elite case. My copy included a glossy slipcover.

Special Features and Extras

Q&A with Hiromi – titled on feature as “Interview with Hiromi” – Japan Society interview, with the film’s composer, conducted in English

Trailers (4:30) and TV Spots (0:44) – Two Teasers trailers, two full trailers, and two short TV spots – all in Japanese with English subtitles

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and web imaging.

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