Title: Liz to Aoi Tori/Liz and the Blue Bird
Length: 1 x 90 minute movie
Genre: Slice-of-life, drama, romance
Year of release: 2018
I won’t disagree that Liz to Aoi Tori (henceforth: Liz) has impressive cinematography. However, I cannot agree that it does so throughout all of its stretched thin runtime, overusing motifs as it faffs about with fancy musical editing and avant garde presentation, attempting to win production awards and connect with the critical elite. Despite the fact I likely fall into that camp, you won’t be hearing praise from me, because this movie fails in the way entertainment should succeed inherently: that is, be entertaining.
Within a couple of minutes, I found myself smiling at the intriguing way that Liz presents its opening, as the quiet (and infuriatingly bland) Mizore meets the loud and boisterous (and cliche to a T) Nozomi. A bit of waiting, a quiet atmosphere and a run-in to the intro, with some interesting imagery – a nice way to start a movie. It unfortunately goes steadily downhill there, after introducing its hamfisted symbolism of inhuman dialogue and moving into a masturbatory opening (taking up far, far too much runtime). The movie generally continues in that vein: overdoing it. But it never has the audacity to overdo it into exciting or entertaining ways. These scenes are unique, but other than that, they just don’t have gall.
The music never has the audacity to throw in an exciting dischord or leaps larger than a couple of octaves or dynamic shifts to catch you off-guard; its rhythms are unpredictable and it has some uncharacteristic-of-the-medium editing to match its footage, but it’s an overly quiet piece that never leaves its haggard form. The cinematography continues to hammer home the importance of stances and legs, but after a while, it becomes frustrating in the lack of progress as one just wants to shout “we got it! Stop!” Animation is a typical affair from Kyoto Animation; that is, the animation standard is high, and the character animation is fluid and human with art staying consistent throughout, but barring a brief scene where Nozomi plays with the light reflecting off of her flute, it fails to ever do so excitingly. There’s a high standard that it meets, but it runs through the motions. I’m hesitant to give it too much credit, as the pervading blur filter throughout the movie is an important point of contention.
You may have noticed how little I’ve touched on the story. Well, this is because the story offloads that to its production, and with that comes a subtle story. From a story design standpoint, it’s impressive that the movie maintains its worth by not ensuring the conclusion is foregone until near the end. Essentially, Mizore is overly dependent on Nozomi, emotionally and purposefully, and the pair are reaching the end of their high school years and have to start thinking about their futures. Simultaneously, they are playing a final piece in band club matching the movie’s title, and the movie juxtaposes their situations. While the ending was interesting (though continuing to be vaguely demonstrated) in which way it decided to go, it brought up another major point: it relies on side-characters, and almost every instance of dialogue in this movie is cardboard.
Not even Reina, the sharp-tongued loud-mouth of Hibike Euphonium’s first season can inject a bit of life into the movie as she dully delivers the half-hearted movement of the movie into its next beat of its plot. A younger girl tries to befriend Mizore, but she fails to have either enough screen-time or screen-presence to become memorable. As the ridiculously thoughtfully designed (but not developed) cast from the first two seasons make their appearances for idle chatter, whenever it’s given due care, it’s either rote, or forcing foreshadowing like symbolism is going out of fashion. Spoken word in this movie is, at every point, clunky.
Despite that, a lot of work is done to outsource development away from the dialogue and the side-characters. I appreciate that this is strictly made as Nozomi’s and Mizore’s story first-and-foremost, but part of me feels like that is due to a lack of time to build any other characters in, and the attempts it did to do that being too weak to mention. I further appreciate how much the movie tries to tell via expression and movement, but the blasé nature of it all makes for a disconcertingly bland watch.
For its inability to ever leave its base, Liz is an incredibly fearing affair. It fears the world as much as its primary character, except she’s such a poorly defined entity and her shell is so generically meek that I fail to say that as a positive. Its rays of light are dim; its shadows are short – it has no range as it barely even pivots on the spot. Liz relies too much on its ability to capture the mundane to sell itself. But, even at its conclusion that fails to ramp up the gravitas: it’s simply just that, mundane.