Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem Review
The glorious acid trip of anime and techo-punk
Have you ever heard a song that you really love? Have you ever tried to explain WHY you like that song so much to your friends? You can try to describe the beat or the guitars but when you are done your friends still do not know what you are talking about. Even worse is trying to describe the mental imagery or emotions that the music gives you. You could say that the song reminds you of walking on the docks on a foggy morning, but even that is up for interpretation. Finally you play the song to your friends and they say 'okay now I understand.'
Next let us say that you had a very vivid but unexplainable dream that when you try to tell someone about it you can never find the right words. It is like trying to describe a color no-one has ever seen but you. When you try to accurately describe this amazing dream you experienced, you come off sounding like either an idiot or a lunatic; however it still makes perfect sense to yourself because you experienced it firsthand.
Now take the two scenarios above and apply it to the often completely indescribable but awesome techno/robotic music of the band Daft Punk. That is how this review is going to look and feel because until you have watched, listened, and experienced this movie for yourself. Nothing I will say will make a ton of sense until you do.
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is a feature-length Japanese animated musical film originally released on December 1, 2003. The film is a visual realization of Daft Punk’s album Discovery. Daft Punk produced the film along side Toei Animation, and was supervised by famed Anime director Leiji Matsumoto.
The full Discovery album is played, start to finish without any editing, minimal sound effects, and virtually no dialogue. Each track from the album has been animated as a scene in the movie. Interstella 5555 itself is as incomprehensive and ‘daft’ as you could possibly imagine: a humanoid pop-star group, called the Crescendolls, is abducted, disguised as normal people, brainwashed to have their memories altered, and forced to play their music on earth. The goal of the villain is to use talented intergalactic musicians to win gold records in order to complete a device that will give him ultimate power. The result, however, is the eventual burnout of the musician and their death. Meanwhile an unnamed star fighter from their planet follows the abductors to earth in an attempt to save the band, but most importantly the female bassist who he idolizes.
I told you it was the most incomprehensive plot ever.
The Crecendolls: (Left) Their real alien appearances and (Right) Post Abduction with unnamed villain in foreground.
But honestly when you look at the plot in such a simple description, the entire film loses all of its magic. The animation is synchronized to the individual songs to near perfection. Every song has a specific auditable ‘feel’ to it, and the animation only re-enforces (not overshadows) it. The music and the animation tell a story, perfectly complimenting one another to the point that if one of the two were missing, it would create an entirely new experience: If the video were missing, you would have the Discovery album, but no binding story; If the music were missing, you would have a massive migraine trying to figure out what you are watching.
The animation is fairly well done, though nothing as impressively detailed or stylized as the infamous anime studio MadHouse. Instead the style is closer to the older anime styles of the 1980s: Speed Racer, DragonBall, Golgo 13, and so on. Some of the characters have a comic appearance to them (think Krillin from DB: no nose, huge eyes, comic expressions) but there isn’t an over use of the stereotypical Japanese anime ‘retardedness’ as LaughingMan would say. For the most part the animation takes itself seriously, even if the plot does not always.
The themes of the video are also well played out: Love, loyalty, self-sacrificing heroes, and the afterlife. However, the most pivotal is after the people of earth discover that the world’s greatest band, the Crescendolls, are in fact aliens, and thus all rally together to send them all back to their home world. It’s an interesting play that despite cultural differences, music is one of mankind’s most common bonds, and is probably the only transcendent medium.
The music itself varies from pop, to techno, to even Gothic in one scene, reminiscent of "Toccata & Fugue" by Bach (the classic ‘Dracula’ theme) with its mournful pipe organ. However, all of the songs retain a distinct and infectious rhythm. The odds of someone NOT being able to find a song in this film that they like is very slim. While there are songs from the Discovery album that some people may not care for, when paired with the animation of Interstella 5555 the watcher can’t help but see their lesser favorites shown in a new positive light.
The Discovery tracklist *HEAVY SPOILERS*:
- "One More Time" - Introduction to the intergalactic band The Crecendolls playing a world-wide concert on their home planet.
- "Aerodynamic" - The abduction of the Crecendolls.
- "Digital Love" - Introduction to unnamed space fighter who loves female bassist and races after the abuctors.
- "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" - The physical and mental manipulation of the Crecendolls involving heavy machinery and floppy disks.
- "Crescendolls" - The band becomes a sinsation on earth.
- "Nightvision" - The band is burning out and the space fighter is wandering through alleyways.
- "Superheroes" - The band is playing at a huge concert but is interrupted by the space fighter. Bassist is not rescued.
- "High Life" - Bassist is getting primmed and prepped for a music awards show. Watch for cameos of Daft Punk.
- "Something About Us" - Space fighter is mortally wounded and shows the band the truth of their origins. Dream sequence with Bassist.
- "Voyager" - Burying and mourning the star fighter.
- "Veridis Quo" - Band goes to creepy castle, learns of plot, and foils villain's plan.
- "Short Circuit" - Band breaks into the record studio where their memories are hidden on disks.
- "Face to Face" - The Crecendolls are captured, revealed to the world as aliens, and people come together to send them home.
- "Too Long" - Another face off with the villain and a return of a familiar face. The band returns home and their concert is broadcasted to earth.
I’ll end this review by simply saying that Interstella 5555 is a magical film that borders on dreamlike in both its imagery and its absurdity. However, until you watch it, until you EXPERIENCE it, it is impossible to accurately judge this album by its cover. I can’t suggest this film enough. Even if you hate anime or dislike the music of Daft Punk, it is still a powerful piece of music history that, unlike a dream, can be re-experienced by a simple click of a button.
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