Shinichi Ishizuka’s wildly popular jazz manga Blue Giant came to life in 2013 and has since sold over 11 million copies worldwide. Now, in 2023, Blue Giant has been adapted into a full-length animated feature that has captivated fans and has been described as “the sound coming from the manga” – which in turn has influenced the vibrant Japanese jazz scene and exposed a new, younger audience in Japan to jazz.
The original motion picture soundtrack, scored and produced by Japanese superstar pianist Hiromi Uehara is now set for release in the US for the first time on vinyl and CD on September 29 via Verve Records, while the film will follow with stateside release dates of October 8 & 9 from North American distributor GKIDS. Prior to its theatrical release, the film will have a special North American premiere on October 6 at Japan Society in New York City, featuring a Q&A with composer Hiromi Uehara.
The Blue Giant anime soundtrack aurally captures the essence of the film, where the art of creating music and following your passion is first and foremost. Composed by world-renowned pianist Hiromi (Hiromi Uehara) the jazz soundtrack is an immersive experience that brings to life the story on the big screen. Hiromi also composed the original music for the trio JASS, formed by the main characters in the film.
The film was directed by notable filmmaker Yuzuru Tachikawa, who has drawn acclaim for his “Mob Psycho 100” series and the theater version of “Detective Conan: Zero the Enforcer” (2018). The screenplay was written by NUMBER 8, who has been the editor of the Blue Giant manga since before it was serialized, and who is also doing story direction for the film. The animation is produced by NUT, a studio that has garnered attention for its “Youjo Senki” (2017) amongst others.
Unanimously selected out of all the worldwide contenders, Tomoaki Baba plays tenor saxophone for the main protagonist, Dai, who aspires to become the best jazz player on the planet and who develops the ability to overwhelm all who hear him with his powerful performances.
Shun Ishiwaka plays drums for character Shunji Tamada, a high school classmate of Dai from Sendai. Shun is one of the most sought-after drummers, active not only in jazz but also in various other genres, and Hiromi chose him to express Shunji’s enthusiasm for the band, a character who is intensely motivated by Dai’s passion for the instrument despite his characters inexperience.
Hiromi plays piano for the role of Yukinori Sawabe, a pianist whom Dai met in Tokyo. Her passion for the instrument and the score she provides for Blue Giant is an absolute must see/hear.
More than 30 top-class musicians, including a string section (conducted by Miho Hazama) and a group of elite jazz players who gathered at Hiromi’s request, participated in the production of the film’s musical accompaniment and other band performances. Hiromi also wrote “Blue Giant,” an original song with the same title as the film, for the ending theme. The song was composed based on an image that came to her during the JASS recording sessions and it serves as a fitting emotional conclusion to the film.
Blue Giant, which contains 29 tracks, stands on its own as both a notable soundtrack and a wonderful stand-alone Hiromi album. It is a collection of music that tells a beautiful story about true passion for jazz, played by musicians who live and breathe that world.