Mizore starts spending a lot of time trying to master her instrument, driven not only by her desire to become a better musician, but also as a way of connecting with Nozomi, to whom she becomes ever more emotionally attached as time passes. Nozomi, herself a proficient concert flautist, ends up quitting in her first year of high school without telling Mizore; the two reconcile after she rejoins the band, but their relationship is on fragile footing as a result.
Now in their third and final year of high school, the two girls find themselves preparing an oboe-flute duet in a tone poem based on the children's story "Liz and the Blue Bird," about a lonely girl named Liz who befriends and lives with a blue bird turned into a human girl, until the two are suddenly forced to part ways. As Mizore and Nozomi try to get to grips with the work, they realize that their relationship resembles the one in the story, and soon they find themselves in the turmoil of trying to work out what music means to each of them, and especially what they mean to each other.
Liz and the Blue Bird (リズと青い鳥, Liz to Aoi Tori) is a movie directed by Naoko Yamada and released by Kyoto Animation to Japanese theaters in 2018. It is a spin-off of the popular series Sound! Euphonium, but it still functions as an independent work that can be enjoyed without prior knowledge of the original (although some of the in-jokes may be lost on the uninitiated). It wonderfully captures the emotional bustle of adolescence by linking it to the classical pieces played by the main characters, and the "Liz and the Blue Bird" shorts interspersed throughout the movie.
For character tropes on Nozomi and Mizore, see the Sound! Euphonium character sheet.
This movie provides examples of:
- The Ace: Mizore. She is the only one of the girls who gets asked by the woodwind instructor if she is interested in studying music, much to Nozomi's dismay.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: The high-point of the movie is when Mizore demands a "Love You Hug" from Nozomi, after which she gives a speech that boils down to an awkward love confession.
- Arc Words:
- "Happy Ice Cream."
- The "Love You Hug."
- Art Shift: Compared to the desaturated and realistically-painted settings of the "real" world, the sections depicting the in-universe "Liz and the Blue Bird" story are done in a much more vibrant style with watercolor backgrounds, reminiscent of an '80s anime or, indeed, children's book illustrations.
- Art-Shifted Sequel: Going from the main Sound! Euphonium series, the movie has a very different artstyle, with characters sporting smaller eyes and more realistic body proportions. The colors and shading are significantly more subdued, suiting the film's quieter and introspective tone.
- Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: Viewers who expect a yuri story may be disappointed about how the relationship between Mizore and Nozomi, deep and meaningful as it is, never quite seems to make the leap from subtext to text.
- Beta Couple: Kumiko and Reina are this to Nozomi and Mizore, in a reversal from the main series.
- Bilingual Bonus: The actual "Liz and the Blue Bird" story appears to be written in German (its title is depicted as the mostly-accurate "Liz und ein Blauer Vogel"note ), and text within these storybook segments is written correspondingly.
- Bookends: The film begins with Nozomi and Mizore walking into school together, and ends with them leaving school together. Everything else in the film is set inside the school (excluding the storybook sections).
- Break Her Heart to Save Her: Nozomi resorts to mostly ignore Mizore's Love Confession, probably because she recognizes that she's serving as a stopgap for Mizore's emotional and musical well-being and future, thus freeing her from seeing Nozomi as a Living Emotional Crutch. It is never clarified whether this is an outright rejection though.
- Caged Bird Metaphor: Mizore, when comparing her relationship with Nozomi to that of Liz and the blue bird, sees herself as Liz and Nozomi as the blue bird; imagery of a caged bird is used to represent Mizore's desire not to leave Nozomi. Later on, she comes to the realization that she is the caged blue bird, trapped in her pursuit of Nozomi to the detriment of her own wellbeing. This revelation is accompanied with an animation of a blue bird being released from its cage and flying free.
- Character Tics: Mizore has a tic of running her hand through a lock of her hair when she's surprised or anxious.
- Coming-of-Age Story: The main point of the movie.
- Continuity Nod: A few to the main Sound! Euphonium series, though none affect the story much.
- The flashbacks to Mizore and Nozomi in middle school are direct recreations of flashbacks from the main series, redone in the movie's more distinct style.
- Nozomi compares Yuuko's performance as class president to their senpai, Asuka, who graduated in the previous year.
- Shuuichi Tsukamoto is mentioned among the students who have yet to pay their band dues.
- Cry Cute: After a long period of struggling, Mizore finally manages to give a soaring performance, which causes Nozomi to tear up since she fears Mizore's talent will drive them apart.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Ririka, Mizore's kohai and the only other oboe player in their band, tries to get her emotionally-distant senpai to open up a bit. She eventually succeeds, and they play a duet together, to Nozomi's apparent discomfort.
- Duet Bonding: Playing the oboe-flute duet from the titular music piece makes Mizore and Nozomi realize important things about their relationship.
- Emotionless Girl: Mizore appears to be one to the point where other students find her cold and distant. As Nozomi explains, it's more that she doesn't easily express emotion and can be hard to read as a result.
- Genki Girl: Nozomi, especially in relation to Mizore.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Even though Nozomi does reciprocate Mizore's love for her, she has to turn Mizore down for her to advance emotionally and musically, and not jeopardize her future by clinging to her.
- The duet's main motif is used in a lot of scenes of Mizore and Nozomi together. At one point it also gets played by Reina and Kumiko, which hints at the nature of their relationship.
- Ririka also gets her own leitmotif, a chipper little tune played on double reeds.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Nozomi is this to Mizore, who sees herself as Liz with Nozomi as the blue bird who frees her of her loneliness. Later it appears that the roles are actually reversed, or that they are at least each other's blue bird.
- Meaningful Background Event: During a scene of Mizore in math class, her teacher is discussing coprimes, integers which share no factors other than the greatest common denominator. They're also referred to as "disjoint".
- Mutual Envy: The crux of the film is that Mizore idolizes Nozomi and wishes she had her social skills, while Nozomi envies Mizore's talent and bluffs about her own to avoid letting her down. This is then deconstructed in the climax, where the two of them realize that Mizore's fixation on Nozomi holds her back from realizing her true potential, which Nozomi had been complicit in due to her envy. By the end, both have overcome their envy: Nozomi accepts that she won't be as skilled as Mizore and only asks for "a little time", and Mizore learns to follow her own passion rather than endlessly pursue Nozomi.
- No Name Given: The blue bird-turned-human is never named, and is listed in the credits as just "Girl".
- Opposites Attract: Extroverted and cheery Nozomi forms a deep bond with the introverted and somewhat gloomy Mizore.
- Plot-Based Voice Cancellation: At the very last moment when Nozomi and Mizore leave school, Nozomi faces Mizore and says something that makes Mizore turn all wide-eyed and blushing. Was it a confession? Who knows?
- Real-Place Background: Most of the movie takes place at Kitauji High, a fictional high school which is nonetheless based on an actual high school in Uji, a town near Kyoto where Kyoto Animation has its headquarters.
- The Rival: Curiously, Nozomi confesses to see Mizore that way.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: This is is the main dynamic between Mizore and Nozomi, although there are hints that there may be more to it.
- Schoolgirl Lesbians: While Nozomi and Mizore never quite make the leap, there are many hints that they are well on their way, especially considering Mizore's heartfelt confession to Nozomi and Mizore's response to what seems to be a confession on Nozomi's part.
- Show Within a Show: The shorts of the "Liz and the Blue Bird" story, although they are actually animated pages of the children's book used as the inspiration of the tone poem played by the wind music club.
- Third Time's the Charm: The first two times Mizore attempts the "Love You" hug with Nozomi, she is rejected. She gives an Anguished Declaration of Love the third time.
- Walking in Rhythm: The first scene of Mizore and Nozomi features this, as does the last. Notably, their footsteps are out of sync, illustrating the "disjoint". The last scene has them in perfect sync.
- Will They or Won't They?: Quite a few viewers see Mizore and Nozomi's relationship this way. The movie doesn't give a definitive answer, although there are hints that they may.