In 2023, releasing a big-budget anime feature about three Gen Z boys in a post-bop jazz band sounds like commercial suicide. Jazz is boomer music; anime is for kids weaned on Pokemon.
But the sleeper hit of the year was by far director Yuzuru Tachikawa’s “Blue Giant,” an adaptation of Shinichi Ishizuka’s jazz-centric manga series. The film was so popular with audiences in Japan and overseas after its first run this spring that it warranted an even bigger budget for a re-edited second release, which premiered last month at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) before opening in cinemas across Japan.
Jazz has been featured in popular anime soundtracks since the 1970s, when Yuji Ohno’s funky fusion scores for the “Lupin III” series were broadcast on network TV and incorporated into Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature film, “Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro.” Jazz and sci-fi anime cemented their synergy with Yoko Kanno’s bluesy noir stylings in the ’90s classic, “Cowboy Bebop,” which was influenced by “Lupin III” and is considered a masterpiece of jazz soundtracks in any medium.