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So, I finally got around to watching Liz and the Blue Bird.
And yes, it's amazing, Naoko Yamada is a genius, all that jazz.
You've probably heard enough of that from (almost) literally everyone who's experienced
it.
Liz is not a movie with bombastic set pieces, that's not what Yamada is all about.
If you're looking for an equivalent to the kicking scene from 300, the closest here—that
carries the same weight—is of an attempt at a hug.
It's hyper-focused on the little things.
The tempo of footsteps.
A lingering gaze.
A delayed reaction.
And for me, classroom pets.
Because as Mizore and Nozomi escape to that far classroom and continually expose their
souls bare, I caught myself thinking… why fugu?
The japanese word for a family of pufferfish, they're most known for carrying a neurotoxin
several times more potent than cyanide.
Is it really normal to have one of the most poisonous animals in the world as a classroom
pet?
Google didn't help much, but I also, y'know, don't know japanese.
But it makes sense if you abstract it out and consider that it's not just a pufferfish.
It's also a supporting character.
Yes, I understand that I'm stretching the definition pretty thin here.
But let's examine what a supporting character is and what they're supposed to accomplish.
By definition, a supporting character is not a main character (surprising revelation, I
know).
However, they're always in *service* of the main characters.
They advance the plot through selfish and selfless actions, provide a method of audience
insert when we want to weigh in on what's happening—and finally, they can reinforce
themes or serve to flesh out our mains and help us understand them just a little bit
more.
A common way the last function is accomplished is through use of a foil—a character or
characters that contrast against our mains, and thusly, make them stand out even more.
We can see all of these roles in Liz's supporting cast.
When having a character serve as a means of plot advancement, you can run into some issues.
Many show up out of the blue and proceed to dump exposition all over the place, or try
to force a drastic measure that feels unearned.
Nothing in Liz is that blatant.
Yuuko and Natsuki set things in motion with one simple question.
“You're really applying to music school?”
There's so much to unpack in such a seemingly simple question.
It's the kind of question that invites you to explore the lore behind it, instead of
giving you the context straight off the bat.
For example, is it all-that surprising that someone interested in band, one of the best
flute players at that, would want to go to music school?
As soon as Mizore breaks the news, the cheerful piano music halts, the atmosphere turns sour,
and the subject is immediately (and awkwardly) changed.
It's clear to anyone that this is a touchy subject, and it's because of Yuuko and Natsuki
that we're enticed as to why.
From here, they continually prod at this issue which I consider the central conflict in the
film.
Yuuko has to be held back as she tears into Nozomi, while Natsuki plays the “good cop”
and lets Nozomi ruminate on her dilemma.
Everything they do feels natural—out of concern for a friend and classmate, rather
than forced actions meant to move the plot forward.
They're there to raise questions.
Why is Nozomi's decision to go to music school a big deal?
How does that play into Mizore's arc?
What are the implications regarding their relationship?
Meanwhile, Ririka is there to provide answers.
At first glance, she's a rather simple archetypal oblivious character.
However, the characterization she shapes and goes through herself is stupendous, especially
within such a short runtime.
She only has four prominent scenes, but we can clearly witness their effect on the film
as well as her own progression as we walk through them.
Throughout Liz, Mizore is hyper-focused on her relationship with Nozomi.
It's kind of all she's known, and the reason she plays oboe in the first place.
Towards the beginning of the film, when they talk about the big concert—she states
“I wish that day would never come.”
This is not a statement from someone with a passion for playing—someone who wishes
to see their efforts crystallized on stage.
These are the words of someone wanting to trap themselves an endless summer—practicing
with the one they love.
Ririka is the first step in Mizore snapping out of her obsession with Nozomi, as well
as the one to spark her contemplation of what playing oboe means to her.
As Ririka's incessant vivaciousness eventually manages to stir her, we see Mizore steadily
change her attitude.
Band becomes more than something she was swept away by when following Nozomi.
She's the “ace” oboist, and a mentor whose role is to guide her juniors.
She goes from rejecting Ririka without a thought, to preparing her reeds and inviting her to
social outings.
And it is ultimately Ririka that sets Mizore into motion.
The adorable phone scene is the last we see of her, and it's not even halfway through
the film.
But we *feel* Ririka nonetheless.
Mizore noticeably acts differently after connecting with her.
Instead of zeroing in on Nozomi, she becomes more receptive to the other members of the
band.
The most obvious indication of this is at the very end of the film, when she mirrors
Hazuki and Midori's “Happy Ice Cream!” ritual.
The careful way Mizore treats Ririka belies a desire to fill in the role that Nozomi did
for her.
And we can see Ririka transform from this bubbly but insecure character into someone
firm in her resolutions and confidence in her little community.
Ririka's appearance shows Mizore what it means to be someone's friend.
She can now look at her situation with Nozomi and realize that their dynamic is completely
different.
And what finally opens her eyes to the magnitude of the “disjoint” is Reina… and her
bluntness.
It's always interesting seeing what once were main characters take a backseat, and
it shows a nice consideration for them.
Reina and Kumiko's story is done, and it's time for someone else to take the spotlight
for a bit.
More importantly, it allows us to reap the rewards of seeing how far they've come,
and appreciate the differences that come with a supporting role.
Nozomi and Mizore's bond is continually tested and contrasted against the others in
the movie.
First there's the titular Liz and the Blue Bird, Yuuko and Natsuki, and finally Reina
and Kumiko.
They're the couple that are completely in-sync, firm in both how they feel towards one another
as well as where they stand as musicians.
Mizore says that she would keep the blue bird caged forever.
When Nozomi, Natsuki, and Yuuko overhear Reina and Kumiko's try at the solo, Natsuki mentions
the opposite.
“"That was a pretty confident Liz.
Like she was saying, 'Take care then!'”
To which Yuuko replies, “How very Kousaka.”
How very indeed.
Unlike Mizore, Reina is resolute.
If letting go is the best thing for the blue bird, then she would be happy to see it leave.
This is not to say “letting go” is the “right” choice that must inevitably be
done.
Mizore and Nozomi show us as much at the end of the film.
But Liz is very much about possessiveness, and having the certainty in yourself and worth
as a person is what Reina communicates to Mizore… and who better to do so?
Finally, it's time to answer the age-old question.
Or I guess rather, the minutes-old question.
Why fugu?
Well, the supporting characters we've discussed so far add shape to the central tenets of
the film.
They're folds that ultimately lead to an origami crane.
Fugu is no different.
Pufferfish are called that for a reason.
They're extremely elastic, and rapidly fill themselves with water or air as a defense
mechanism.
When they're threatened, they puff themselves up to look as large and threatening as possible,
baring their lethal spines.
And despite the danger inherent with them, we seem to be drawn to them nonetheless.
Fugu is a culinary delicacy after all, and many times throughout Liz they're referred
to as, cute!
It's said as such by Nozomi's classmates.
In one of the film's many lingering scenes of idle classroom chatter, we overhear someone
stressing about their date at the aquarium.
As reassurance, someone says “Isn't that fish cute?”
“But it's a blowfish!”
“Doesn't matter as long as it's cute.
Right Nozomi?”
The film lingers on a shot of Nozomi before she callously ignores Mizore's wave.
When Mizore heaps confession after confession of her love onto Nozomi—all she can muster
is “I love your oboe.”
As I witnessed her deliver those words so dripping with venom, all I could imagine was
a blowfish puffing up to protect itself.
A way to guard against words she didn't ask for or feels like she deserves.
A flurry of words that didn't include what she really wanted to hear.
Not, “I love you for simply existing,” but, “I love you for what you do.
I love your flute.”
She eventually realizes what she's done and bursts out in a fit of laughter.
I don't think this is in any way malicious, she isn't laughing in Mizore's face in
light of her feelings.
She just finally realizes that letting her go in terms of their musical relationship
is completely separate from letting her go in terms of their actual relationship.
She “unpuffs.”
What we get are two extremes that correct themselves a little more towards normal.
Or rather, as the movie shows, two paint splotches blending together.
Mizore's giddy and confident strut are a far cry from her meek footsteps at the beginning
of the film.
And Nozomi tells Mizore that she'll be the one supporting her for once.
In stark contrast to “I wish that day would never come,” they both triumphantly exclaim,
“Let's do our best on stage!”
But, we wouldn't have any of this without the nuance provided by our supporting cast—in
a movie all about nuance.
Yes, even by a pufferfish.
Thanks for watching and be sure to like and subscribe for more content.
Or if you'd like, you can donate to my patreon.
Special thanks to NaltunBG, Nomvom, Animesuka, DateAGamer632, Bisky294, Ferrets Wreck Fun,
and Yorollisaur for their support.
And of course, if anything I said was wrong, I'm sorry.
I must've stuttered.
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Why Fugu? What It Means to Support in Liz and the Blue Bird

170 Folder Collection
yu published on August 6, 2019
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