I’m not usually one to write about musical pieces, and that’s mostly because I don’t think I’d ever do it any justice. But as you might have already guessed, this is going to be an attempt at that. Since today is Valentine’s Day, and because this blog has had a severe lack of content in the past year, I’d like to introduce everyone to a song that’s been stuck in my head for the past few months: “A Decision of Love” from Liz and the Blue Bird, composed by Akito Matsuda (松田 彬人). Don’t worry, I’ll keep this short (probably). Spoilers present, watch the film before reading if you can. I will never do this film any justice with my amateur summarization skills. Also watch out for typos; WordPress on Android dsen’t have spellcheck
I’m sure you can find many different reviews and interpretations of Liz and the Blue Bird online, so I’ll just focus specifically on this track, which forms the third movement of the in-universe Liz and the Blue Bird symphony. If you haven’t heard it yet, check out the studio version if you wish to continue reading. I do, however, highly recommend you watch the movie first, though.
Music expresses emotions and feelings where words are unable to reach. This is why I find difficulty in trying to explain why this piece really sticks with me. For this reason, I won’t be going deep into the music theory (which I would also be highly unqualified to analyze), but rather the story.
The third movement can be considered, in most part, a duet between the two main characters of the film, Mizore Yoroisuka and Nozomi Kasaki, and their respective instruments, the oboe and the flute. Backed by an high school wind ensemble, the duet tells the story of an embedded narrative: the titular Liz and the Blue Bird. This is, so far, one of the only wind concertos that have stuck with me, out of all the piano, violin, and cello ones that live on my playlists, and the story behind it is to blame for it.
In the fictional fairytale, the baker Liz befriends the blue-haired bird-turned-girl, developing a close friendship with her. When Liz one day learns of the girl’s ability to fly, she sets (well, more like forces) her free, knowing that she had been tying her down from her life the way she wanted. In reality, the fairytale repreents the tenuous relationship between Mizore and Nozomi, which, throughout the film, become strained due to the each other’s miscommunicated feelings with each other. The fairytale differs in that Mizore and Nozomi have rather selfish reasons for each other’s behavior. Mizore holds herself back to stay with Nozomi, wishing to avoid abandonment and to stay with her. Nozomi, on the other hand, distances herself as she becomes more jealous of Mizore.
Like the radiance of a shining first impression, the piece starts slow and calm; optimistic and cheery at times. Liz, portrayed by the oboe, beautifully complements the blue bird, portrayed by the flute. As it progresses, it evokes feelings of tension, stress, then relief. Perhaps a feeling of thanksgiving. Liz had found out the true potential of the blue bird and says her farewell, wishing to set her free from the ground. But the blue bird protests; she wishes to be with Liz instead. The flute pleads, but the oboe remains steadfast. The blue bird sorrowfully leaves Liz and flies into the sky.
Nozomi had called it early into the film; the dynamic of Liz and the Blue Bird takes similar form to her relationship with Mizore. Mizore, who loved Nozomi, wishes to be with her. But to do so, she ties herself down to avoid leaving her behind. As she grows further out of her shell, her true talent becomes known to Nozomi, who grows jealous. We know how the fairytale goes; Liz sets the blue bird free. The two learn about the circumstances of their relationship with the help of fellow band members and teachers. Mizore is now free, giving a performance that brings Nozomi to tears. I’d be making a mistake if I didn’t mention the emotional performances Nozomi gives herself within the film. The studio version doesn’t have it, unfortunately, but in the film, Nozomi’s performance of the flute slowly breaks down along with her.
Love is not without pain, be it familial, platonic, or romantic. As much as the Blue Bird (and, in turn, Mizore) wants to be together with Liz (Nozomi) forever, this is not meant to be. Liz and the Blue Bird tells the story of Mizore’s unhealthy dependence on Nozomi, and vice versa. Mizore only wishes for a future with Nozomi, with little to no interest in fulfilling her own dreams or enriching her oboist talent. Nozomi wishes to overcome Mizore, her thoughts clouded by jealousy. A certainly dramatic dynamic, exemplified by screenplay by Reiko Yoshida, the direction of Naoko Yamada, and of course, the visuals of Kyoto Animation, who have produced (and is producing) numerous bangers for decades. Not to mention Kensuke Ushio’s wonderful work on the ambient background music; though Ushio deserves additional praise in his own essay.
This piece re-tells the entire story, be it of Liz and the Blue Bird or of Mizore and Nozomi, in a mere seven minutes. The piece itself is used as background music in the animated storybook scenes within the film, and it perfectly fits within the story’s atmosphere. Every time I listen to it, I get the emotions I felt back when I was watching the film for the first time: on my bed in a cold afternoon of November 2020. The excitement, the pain, the sadness, and the relief. The film itself was a masterpiece, but this piece remains, for me, its brightest shining star.
The film ends ambiguously, with the relationship between Mizore and Nozomi vaguely defined. However, I choose to believe in the interpretation that Nozomi had accepted Mizore’s feelings for her and, as she works to better herself and move past her jealousy, eventually reciprocate those feelings back. Nozomi and I at least share one thing; we both prefer happy endings.
A Decision of Love (or A Decision Born from Love) can be found under the Liz and the Blue Bird Original Soundtrack, “girls, dance, staircase“. Liz and the Blue Bird is available for streaming online, and I highly recommend watching it. It’s part of my top 10 favorite anime, and I give it a full 10/10. This film is actually a spin-off of a larger anime series, Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium), but can be watched on its own without having to binge an entire season of content. The main series focuses less on these characters, but I’ve heard it’s also a good watch.
Hope you had a wonderful February 14th. If you didn’t, there’s always the choice of escapism by watching this film and others like it. While we’re on the subject of dramatic romance anime, why not try watching Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice/The Shape of Voice) next? Another KyoAni masterpiece, and also one of my top 10.