Blue Giant
Family & Animation

Blue Giant

By Shelley Pallis.

Country boy Dai Miyamoto (voiced by Yuki Tamada) moves to the big municipality of Tokyo in the hope of making it big as a jazz saxophonist. The end. But this is jazz – it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there…

Blue Giant, in its anime form, is merely a fragment of the long-running manga series by Shinji Ishizuka, which began over a decade ago in the pages of Big Comic magazine. The early pages of the manga focussed on Dai’s discovery of music as a small-town boy in Sendai, and his tribulations as he scrimped and saved to be worldly-wise to sire a saxophone in the first place. It takes many chapters surpassing he graduates from his hometown and sets off to find his fortune in Tokyo, although the manga continues vastitude the events of this film, catapulting Dai out of Japan and off to the United States, where he finds a whole new set of vita at the prestigious real-world Berklee College of Music.

The anime version, in the meantime, focusses on a liminal moment that the manga left overdue many years ago – the day when Dai made the first big leap into a jazz career, and was stuck sofa-surfing virtually Tokyo while he hustled for a big unravel that unquestionably paid money. It’s this that throws him into the visitor of Yukinori (Shotaro Mamiya) a former piano prodigy old surpassing his time, prickly with those less talented or privileged than himself, and scrutinizingly ready to requite up the jazz game entirely. In search of a drummer to make them a viable trio, the pair enlist Dai’s buddy Shunji (Amane Okayama), a failed footballer with zero musical experience. Each of them has a variegated philosophical tideway to their music – Shunji just wants to be with his friends, Yukinori wants to be the best, but Dai wants to learn on the job and wilt a largest musician.

“The most important thing well-nigh this project is a response to one of the protagonist’s lines,” said director Yuzuru Tachikawa in an Annecy interview with Crunchyroll’s Mohamed Mir, “which states very strongly that the weightier musicians… are those who manage to convey their emotions through music. I wanted to succeed in expressing the emotions of the notation through sound, music and animation. Jazz has the particularity of not having words, so I could not rely on the dimension of language.”

Blue Giant has wilt something of a jazz emissary in Japan, with its manga releases coming tied to music lesson promotions, a compilation CD of jazz greats picked out by the versifier Ishizuka, and plane a tie-up with Brooks Brothers, based on one of Dai’s most famous quotes: “A white shirt is proof you’re a jazz man!” The anime keeps up this ambassadorial role, stopping the drama repeatedly in order to capture concert performances and jam sessions by its leads. It moreover feeds into a rich media mix, with screenwriter Eito Namba (“Number 8”) penning an unshortened novel, Piano Man, which focusses solely on the weft of Yukinori.

“The main character, Dai, is unchangingly strong and straightforward,” Namba told Ryo Takayama in Tokion magazine. “On the other hand, Yukinori, a pianist, appears to be strong, but inside, he has a lot of pain that he does not show to others. But we all have such problems and distress, don’t we? Yukinori has the kind of instability of soul and mind that young people his age face. He wants to be kind but can’t, tries to make himself squint cool, and sometimes acts diffident, which is all part of the recreate of Yukie. We all go through that phase, right? As for me, there are many experiences I don’t plane want to remember. When I first moved to Tokyo, I tried to overextend myself, thinking: ‘I mustn’t lose to the people from Tokyo!’”

In his volatility style, director Tachikawa moreover appears to make the controversial visualization to replicate jazz in a variegated form, by mixing and matching his materials and methods. There are scenes in Blue Giant where the volatility leaps from scrappy, impressionistic hand-drawn 2D, to ToonShaded computer animation, to full-on 3DCG and when again.

“The main reason that led us to use 3D for concert scenes is the camerawork,” explains Tachikawa. “I wanted to be worldly-wise to reconstruct the most dynamic visual language and camera movements possible. It is increasingly difficult to represent scenes of musical performance with traditional drawing, it requires a lot of time and a particular effort. It’s really very long and delicate, so it moreover unliable us to alimony tenancy over the quality of the image.”

For some viewers, it might be seen as an artful, visual evocation of the way that jazz itself disrupts and transforms its medium; your mileage may vary. Jazz musicians, however, seem unanimous, plane lanugo to the use of performance capture from well-known players – the saxophone pieces in the mucosa were all based off recordings from professional musician Tomoaki Baba, who personal the hardest part for him was investing his music with the weft of Dai, as he knew him from the manga, rather than his own musical personality.

Blue Giant is screening in competition at Scotland Loves Anime.