EMI // 2003 // 65 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // November 4th, 2011
The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem? I think someone needs to work on basic word construction.
Do electronic artists Daft Punk and anime go together like chocolate and peanut butter, or is this more like cotton candy and tuna fish?
The story for Interstella 5555 starts on a distant planet where four blue skinned rockers entertain a whole planet of similar beings (thankfully this is not Pandora of Avatar fame). After playing a song that sounds suspiciously like One More Time by Daft Punk the band is abducted by a sinister force. They are quickly brainwashed and transformed into the very human looking band The Crescendolls.
Soon this group is taking the earth by storm, charging up the charts with their hit singles and signing autographs for adoring fans. But Shep, an old pal of the group, follows them. He does his best to find out what the new manager, the Earl de Darkwood, is up to. Prepare yourself for a daring rescue, a cult ritual and a journey into interstellar space accompanied by the music of Daft Punk and visuals of Leiji Matsumoto.
Many artists of electronic music create concept albums that tell a story or have a linked theme. These just beg for some kind of visual accompaniment, and what better medium than fusing with animation. Evidently Daft Punk felt the same way. They took their album Discovery from 2001 and teamed up with an anime creator from their childhood, Leiji Matsumoto. The result was Interstella 5555.
Matsumoto's work isn't nearly as popular in the West as it used to be. Most American anime fans know Matsumoto for the adaptation of his work Space Battleship Yamato into Star Blazers. Shows like Captain Harlock or Galaxy Express 999 were huge shows back in the '70s. While sequels and adaptations of these stories have appeared, the popularity has never seemed to be quite as large in North America as other anime creators.
Still Matsumoto's visual style is very distinct. He uses a similar set of character designs for all his work, with most of his leading ladies looking like they could all be sisters. This retro look goes very well with the hybrid sound of Daft Punk's music, which uses a lot of very '70s style instrumentation ranging from disco backbeats to searing electric guitar. Don't get me wrong, the music is very much electronic dance in much of its style; it manages to sound both futuristic and grounded in the Carter era. It's the perfect match for the visuals.
Or maybe it's the other way around, because Matsumoto and his team spent two years creating the 65 minutes of animation, and while it tells a continuous story, it also works as vignettes. There are a few times where some disconnect between the tone of the images and the music occurs. The tune Voyager has a very bright happy sound to it and while that works for the second half of the sequence, it seems out of place against a funeral scene.
The entirety of the actual story for Interstella 5555 is quite silly and reaches some of the wonderful absurdity that anime is known for. I love the villains plot to use gold records to take over the universe. While you're watching the feature and really letting the music get to you, it's a blast. While I was looking forward more to Daft Punk's purely instrumental material here, I found the actual pieces with lyrics were even more catchy and worked wonderfully with the visuals. Now, those who only know Daft Punk from their work on Tron: Legacy may be disappointed here. This is much closer to typical danceable electronic music, without the epic orchestral sound.
Also keep in mind, there is no dialogue in the film. Much like Fantasia the music and animation speaks for itself. A few sound effects are tracked in to punctuate some action scenes, but this is really more of a silent film than anything else.
So far, so good right? Notice I haven't mentioned the state of the Blu-ray yet.
Wow, did this release get screwed up! The transfer is 1080p and retains the original 1.33 aspect ratio. But the lack of clarity leads me to believe that this was not taken from an original master, but pulled from the DVD itself. Some sequences look pretty good, but others, especially those scenes with a lot of motion look very soft or downright blurry.
The sound is also lacking. I was thinking that there would be some great punch and pop in Daft Punk's music, but the whole thing sounded pretty flat. It's clear and functional, but lacks any spark that you'd expect from a music disc.
So maybe the extras make this worth picking up? Well, all the extras from the standard DVD release were ported over, but nothing new has been added.
The most interesting bits are the picture-in-picture version of the film, showing concept art for sets and characters at certain moments. Sadly these are so small as to render them useless, unless you want to sit about a foot away from the screen. There is also a much better concept version of one of the tracks, including both storyboards, concept art and finished footage.
You get a set of character design dossiers which include looks at the various costume changes, accessories and footage from film for each character. These are the same visuals we see during the picture-in-picture viewing. You can sing along with three of the tracks using the karaoke feature, or take a 30 second look at some poster art (that is also featured in the insert). Or maybe you want to attempt to read the text biography for Daft Punk or Leiji Matsumoto. Give it a shot, but the thin spidery text is next to impossible to read over the constant slide show of images from the film. That leaves you with a trailer for the movie. Um, yay?
Oh and I forgot to mention that none of these bonus features are clearly labeled. If you pick special features from main menu, you are presented with a set of unlabeled squares. Each square takes you to a feature. There is mention of an "interactive game" on this disc on some websites. Is this supposed to be it?
If you don't care for electronic music, then nothing on Daft Punk: Interstella 5555 (Blu-ray) is going to convince you otherwise. If you dislike anime or Matsumoto's character designs in particular, this isn't going to float your boat either. And if you dislike both of these things...then why are you reading this review?
Fans of Daft Punk who don't have Interstella 5555 already in their collection are urged to seek it out for the lowest price they can find. Obviously the product looks and sounds the same whether you get it on standard def or Blu-ray. So whatever is cheaper should be the one you pickup. Owners of the standard def version are advised to save their cash and skip this "upgrade."
Excellent content + crap disc = hung jury.
Review content copyright © 2011 Roman Martel; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Concept Art
* Image Gallery
* Anime News Network Encyclopedia: Interstella 5555