Blue Giant is an animated film about three young musicians attempting to make a name for themselves as a jazz band called JASS. The film is not only about music but also explores the theme of friendship and camaraderie between the characters. Director Yuzuru Tachikawa used a combination of various animation techniques to accurately portray the musicians playing their instruments and create visually impressive performances.
Cartoon Hulk follows the musical careers of three young musicians who share a love of jazz: saxophonist Dai Miyamoto, pianist Yukinori Sawabe, and their fresh-faced drummer, Shunji Tamada. With Dai aiming to become the greatest jazz musician on the planet, the young men face a difficult road to make a name for themselves as the band JASS. The film is as much about friendship and camaraderie as it is about music, and tells the story of how these three friends push each other to become ever greater musicians. The film was released in Japan in February 2023 and is scheduled for release in the US
Based on the manga by Shinichi Ishizuka that ran from 2013 to 2016, the film version of Blue Giant brings music to life in surprising ways, with impressive performances from real jazz artists. accompanied by some breathtaking images. Screen Rant spoke with Yuzuru Tachikawa, the film’s director, to learn about making a film centered solely around music, the challenges of animating musical instruments, etc.
Director Yuzuru Tachikawa on bringing the Hulk to life
Screen Rant: Nice to meet you, Mr. Tachikawa. Today I had the pleasure of watching the movie Blue Giant. And as a saxophone player and huge anime fan, it’s something I never knew I wanted. So I’m curious, how did you come to work at Blue Giant? And were you much interested in jazz before this project?
Tachikawa: So I went to Blue Giant when a producer from Toho gave me the original manga and said, ‘hey, we want to adapt this into a movie.’ I read the manga and I personally think it would be better if turned into a TV series. The producers told me they were very specific about staging this in a theater because they wanted the audience to experience as close to a live jazz concert as possible in a full surround sound system. theater.
Screen Rant: That’s interesting, I can definitely see that in the movie. Although all films have soundtracks, it is quite rare to see music play such a central role in filmmaking. So what is it like directing a film focused on music?
Tachikawa: So, I’m not only the director of this movie, but I’m also the director when we record, when we record this movie live. So it was definitely a different experience for me as a director. And myself, I played a little bit of piano when I was younger. So when it comes to drums, saxophone, I’m a complete amateur. So those were definitely new experiences in directing for me.
Screen Rant: Watching the movie, I was very impressed with the animation of playing musical instruments. I know it can be very difficult due to the precision involved in capturing that accurately. So how did you solve that problem?
Tachikawa: I do animation in three different ways. One, as I briefly mentioned, is that we take video of the musicians playing and then animate that video, kind of like a rotoscope approach. The second approach is to have a musician study the music and limit them. And third is your traditional hand-drawn image. So those are the approaches we took to get that performance in the anime.
Screen Rant: I know also during those shows when the band plays, the visuals can get quite surreal. How did you come up with images that fit the feel of the music so well?
Tachikawa: So when I did my own research and listened to jazz, that was basically the image that formed in my mind. So that’s what I was trying to get out of my head and into the film. Especially since there are a lot of live performances in the film, I definitely didn’t want to bore the audience with just so many performances. So it’s also important to really focus and hone the musicians’ expressions as they play.
Screen Rant: Another thing I noticed both in those surreal scenes and outside of them was that there was a bit of a theme of playing with light and combining light with music. For example, seeing the reflection of ice blocks. Can you talk a little about how you wanted to use lighting in this film to enhance the music?
Tachikawa: The theme of the film is about three musicians. But we are also very aware that Dai is a kind of North Star, the brightest of the three stars. So we were very conscious of how Dai would affect Yukinari and Tamada. And because a lot of those scenes… were like stages with lights and stuff. We were, very definitely from the beginning, conscious of using different types of lighting in those concert venues to better represent the music and the concert.
Screen Rant: I guess my last question would be, is there anything you’d like to say to people who might be watching this movie and experiencing jazz from the movie for the first time?
Tachikawa: Yes, there were actually a lot of people around me who didn’t appreciate jazz, but they saw Blue Giant. For example, a middle school student decides he wants to learn the saxophone or this kid decides he wants to learn the drums. Even I myself learned the saxophone and was able to experience the joy of performing. I hope that this movie will also inspire those who have lost their way, lost their dreams or given up on it to watch this movie and be able to get back up and find their North Star, their dream.
Screen Rant: It definitely made me want to pick up the saxophone again, so that happened.
Introducing the green giant
Blue Giant is an anime film first released in Japan in February 2023. The film follows Dai Miyamoto, a saxophonist who aims to become the greatest jazz musician of all time. He met pianist Yukinori Sawabe and invited roommate Shunji Tamada to play drums, and the three 18-year-old boys formed their first band, called JASS. The trio must contend with the shrinking jazz music scene and what it takes to be the best, all while forming unbreakable bonds of friendship. Can the trio make a name for themselves in the world of jazz, or are they simply too young to succeed in a field filled with such experienced competition?
Fans can catch Hulk in select theaters on October 8 and 9, 2023.