Beyond the Stars: ‘Interstella 5555’ Retrospective
Original Box Artwork
The Title's Actually Pronounced 'Four Five'
In the early 2000s, the original Toonami on Cartoon Network once aired four animated music videos. Those songs were actually the first four songs on music duo Daft Punk’s Discovery album. They are also a part of an anime fantasy musical film called Interstella 5555: The Story of the Secret Star System, which came out in 2003 and was directed by Daisuke Nishio.
The plot of the film follows an alien band. While performing on their home world, a mysterious organization appears, abducts the band, places them on their ship, and takes them to Earth. The planet’s defense force gets Space Patrolman Shep to go to Earth and rescue the band.
As mentioned, the film is an animated musical. The production supervisor was legendary anime and manga creator Leiji Matsumoto, who’s known for such works as Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999, among others. Daft Punk were fans of Matsumoto’s works and contacted him in hopes that they could turn their album Discovery into a full feature anime film, which Matsumoto accepted.
While a film, Interstella 5555 is broken up into several episodes that match each song on Discovery. They’re a perfect transition from scene to scene complemented by each song.
The entire film doesn’t have a single line of dialogue, though at times it looks like characters are lip-synching to a song. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any characters that the film follows. The central characters are a first unknown terrestrial band on an unnamed planet home to blue humanoids. Once they are taken to Earth they are hypnotized and dressed up to resemble humans.
On Earth, the band are given the name ‘the Crescendolls’. Each member is different and unique. Arpegius is the main guitarist, Stella is the only girl in the group and is a bassist, Octave wears an afro and is both a vocalist and keyboardist, and Baryl who’s the shortest and a drummer. Shep, a space patrolman is another of the main characters. He happens to be a fan of the Crescendolls and especially has the hots for Stella. He’s informed of the mysterious people who abducted the band and personally goes to Earth to rescue them. He’s portrayed as brave and determined to rescue the band.
The Earl of Darkwood is the film’s antagonist. He’s the head of the group who kidnapped the Crescendolls. A bit of a spoiler is that he kidnaps bands and musicians from other worlds, has them win gold records that he wants to use to rule the universe. Yeah, it sounds awkward but that’s his plan.
The anime used in the film is in the traditional artwork of Matsumoto, which includes a tall slender female character and a short awkward looking character with large teeth. In this case both Stella and Baryl, who actually resemble characters from Queen Emeraldas, another of Matsumoto’s works.
The visuals are the purist eye-candy. The film opens with an amazing shot of outer space. It starts with darkness but quickly displays brightly colored glowing nebulas with sparkling stars before moving towards the alien planet. As the band performs there are so many bright colors and sparkles. The lighting on the people and buildings is just jaw dropping. Even when they get to Earth there are still beautiful visuals. The chapter featuring the song ‘Nightvision’ opens with a shot of Shep looking down at a city. The blue hue the city gives off is just mesmerizing. There are several such shots scattered throughout the film.
As mentioned, the music in the film is the entire Daft Punk album Discovery. The album contains very popular songs, such as ‘Aerodynamic’, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, and the universally acclaimed ‘One More Time’. Those three songs, along with ‘Digital love’ are the first four chapters of the film that originally aired back on Toonami.
On a minor note, there’s a popular urban legend that says that when Daft Punk were working on Discovery there was an explosion in the studio that knocked them unconscious. When they awoke they were in their robotic forms. Daft Punk do make a cameo appearance in the film in their robotic outfits.
Featuring an entire album of critically acclaimed songs, beautiful visuals and anime artwork, along with a compelling story that keeps viewers invested the entire time, Interstella 5555 is a highly recommended film that’s well recommended for not just anime lovers and Daft Punk fans, but for anyone interested in interstellar wonder. One minor complaint is that the film’s ending does leave you wanting more, at least a continuation of the film’s events. But on its own, it’s a film that definitely shines in the stars.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Staff Oneil