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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $19.95 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 16.24 In Stock
Release Date: April 30th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2023

Blue Giant

Overview -

Blu-ray Review by Bruce Douglas
Blue Giant is a 2023 anime film about the journey of an ambitious saxophonist who risks it all to be the best in the world. Based on the hugely popular manga by Shinichi Ishizuka, the film is a swirling spectacle of intense emotions and swinging music. The Blu-ray from GKIDS and Shout! Studios presents the film with an exceptional A/V package paired with a single interview featurette and trailers. Recommended.   

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
120
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
Original Japanese audio
Subtitles/Captions:
English, Spanish
Special Features:
Q&A with Hiromi (15mins), Trailers & Teasers (4mins)
Release Date:
April 30th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“We practice for ourselves. Not anyone else.”

Blue Giant begins with passionate saxophonist Dai Miyamoto (Yuki Yamada, Godzilla Minus One) practicing in the snow until his lips bleed. His love for jazz takes him to Tokyo, where his relentless practice and focus get the respect of local piano phenom Yukinori Sawabe (Shôtarô Mamiya, Tokyo Revengers). Soon, the duo shares the dream of forming a powerhouse jazz trio and recruiting amateur drummer Shunji Tamada (Amane Okayama, In Love and Deep Water), whose drive and dedication outweigh his abilities. The trio faces obstacles as their youthful sound and energy is challenged by the old guard of musicians. As the three teenagers harness their talents, we see their struggles and disappointments in chasing their dreams. 

What sets Blue Giant apart is the film’s commitment to exploring the challenges and struggles faced by the three teenagers striving for excellence in music. Their journey isn’t sugar-coated by any means. Crippling self-doubt, grueling late-night practice sessions, and figuring out how to pay rent are familiar obstacles to any aspiring professional musician. Dai is laser-focused and fueled by his raw talent, letting nothing stand in his way. Sawabe is a cool technician whose confidence wavers once he faces true critical evaluation. Tamada’s commitment to his drum set is only bested by his unwavering commitment to serving the band. Seeing three differing approaches to musicianship and performance in pursuing musical achievement is refreshing. Oddly enough, I thought about Richard Linklater’s flick School of Rock as it also portrays the collision of personalities, talent, and dedication in making music with a band.  

Based on Shinichi Ishizuka's bestselling manga Blue Giant, the film succeeds in capturing the passion and intensity of jazz playing through stylized animation. These extended sequences of the band members performing feature beautifully realized flourishes of light and motion, immersing you in the emotional center of their playing. Japanese jazz virtuoso Hiromi Uehara composed the pieces performed in the film which contain both original works and jazz standards. Whether you’re a seasoned jazz listener or new to the scene, I’m sure you’ll find the charts an exciting compliment to the story. After I finished the movie, I searched Amazon Music and spent the afternoon listening to her work. 

Blue Giant is a must-see film for jazz aficionados. Still, it could be challenging for those wary about screaming saxophone solos occupying most of the film’s runtime. Thankfully, director Yuzuru Tachikawa (Mob Psycho 100)  imbues the feature with an awe-inspiring visual display of the performances. The film's animation combines 2D line art and 3D CGI motion capture. At times, this mix captures the essence of movement and emotion but can frequently become distracting when the two forms fail to gel in a scene. 

I found this coming-of-age story to be a compelling look at the power of music and a celebration of artistic pursuit and passion. While it can be difficult to portray musical performances and offer audiences something different beyond a concert film aesthetic, Blue Giant takes big risks, making the film an entertaining and exciting experience. 3.5.5

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Blue Giant arrives on Region A Blu-ray, thanks to GKIDS and Shout! Studios. Housed in a transparent case with double-sided artwork, the disc loads the GKIDS logo before launching into the Main Menu screen. A smooth bop groove announces your arrival. Typical navigation options appear, followed by a flash of scenes from the film. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Blue Giant bursts onto the scene with a dynamic 1080p HD image in the film’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Combining 2D line art with 3D CGI effects, the film strikes a tenuous balance of styles. Colors are ironically cool throughout the feature, with blues and yellows dominating the palette. Strong-lined animation mimics the style of the original manga dead-on. Light and illumination dominate the visual vocabulary, whether it's the shimmer of the Tokyo skyline in moonlight or the flames of passion erupting from Dai’s horn as he blows through a solo on stage. 

The heavy use of CGI throughout the feature can be distracting. Admittedly, I understand using these tools to harness a sense of motion and intensity with visualizations of the jazz tracks. Still, its use in scene elements like Tamada’s cymbals baffles me. In the end, Blue Giant successfully aims to create a sense of awe and wonder with the visual displays, hoping to bridge the gap between music and images. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

Blue Giant swings onto Blu-ray with three audio mixes: Japanese Dolby Atmos 7.1, Japanese Dolby True 5.1, and Japanese Linear PCM 2.0 Stereo. Dialogue exchanges are clear and brightly recorded. Music tracks are obviously the highlight of the mix, blistering in quality as they pour through the soundfield. LFE is pronounced but never overpowers the textures. Surrounds constantly work with atmospherics, scoring bits, and cityscapes enveloping you in the storytelling. Solos pour through the front and center channels, leaving rhythm sections balanced through the surrounds and rear channels. Additionally, the PCM Stereo mix is quite good, offering a satisfying balance to the mix even when the tunes are cranking full bore. Available subtitles include English, English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Spanish. 4.5/5

Special Features

Ranking:

GKIDS and Shout! Studios don’t give us much here to work with, but thankfully, we get a Q&A with Hiromi Uehara that is a must-see for film fans. 

  • Q&A with Hiromi (HD 15:56) Japanese jazz virtuoso Hiromi Uehara is interviewed about her process of writing the music for the film, her inspirations, and the film's impact. 
  • Trailers & Teasers (HD 4:30)

Final Thoughts

Gorgeous animation combined with magnetic jazz tunes allows Blue Giant to soar above other tales of young ambition. It's difficult to portray the lives and performances of musicians without alienating your audience, but the film keeps you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll. GKIDS and Shout! Studios bring the celebrated anime to Blu-ray with an exceptional A/V package and slim bonus feature content. Recommended.

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