Interstella 5555 DVD Review
Interstella 5555 is a unique creation – it’s not an animated movie with music nor is it a music video with anime footage. It defines itself as an animated musical, a fitting name for a collaboration between the electronic music duo Daft Punk and the traditional mangaka Leiji Matsumoto. The animated musical revolves around a very poplar band with four members who appear to be aliens from an unspecified race. They have been joyfully playing songs for their fans on their alien planet and everyone seems to be having a blast hearing them. However during one of their performances the band is suddenly abducted by a mysterious man. The four members are than brainwashed. They receive new identities and arrive to earth. The mysterious man uses their talent to create his own band, called the Crescendolls, and proceeds to conquer the music industry while the band members themselves are exploited ruthlessly to the point of breakdown. Not all hope is lost though – a guardian from the aliens’ planet is on his way to rescue the four musicians. The Crescendolls soon discover the dark secret behind the earth’s music industry, a vile secret that has eluded the earthlings for many centuries but might be the key to the Crescendolls’ return to their own alien planet.
Several features differentiate Interstella 5555 from basically any other anime video out there. Characters in the musical never talk and the use of sound effects is scarce. This is because this animated musical is dominated by Daft Punks own album – Discovery – which plays throughout the movie from beginning to end. This means that Interstella 5555 is in fact a silent movie of sort. It tells its story with the visuals and the visuals alone. The characters have all been designed by Leiji Matsumoto and look very similar to other characters from his robust science fiction universe. That said, they all have attractive outfits, different personality traits and a different musical instrument to differentiate them. They are easy to understand and follow but don’t expect too much complexity from them because we are talking about a silent movie after all. The art in Interstella 5555 is colorful and vibrant. Some scenes (specifically when crowds of people are shown) receive more detail than others but this animated musical advances very fast and you won’t have the time to familiarize yourself too much with a specific place or person. Time has not been kind to Interstella. The vibrant drawings can look blurry on a widescreen TV and cases of pixilation and aliasing are present. Animation in Interstella is spread unevenly throughout the musical. This stems, surprisingly enough, from the music. Daft Punk designed the musical to revolve around their tracks and not around the plot. So when the time came to end a specific track and Daft Punk (and Leiji Matsumoto I guess) decided that they wanted to squeeze a little more content on that specific track they made the animation run at x2 or x3 of its noraml speed. As a result the animation seems to be smooth and natural on some occasions and jerky, almost flash-like, on others.
Interstella 5555 features Daft Punk’s album Discovery in its entirety and is about 65 minutes long. The DVD comes along with three audio options: Stereo, Dolby 5.1 and DTS. The DVD menu also allows you to choose if you want the menu buttons to appear in English or French. Generally speaking the Interstella 5555 DVD menu is a bit sloppy. Some button choices don’t make sense. The scene selection sub-menu for example gives you the convenient option to view a snippet of every chapter in the musical (each chapter corresponds to one music track). Despite that some chapter buttons, if pressed, will take you back to the main menu. Care for some extra features? There’s a whole lot of them here, but you’ll have to figure out what they are on your own because the extra features sub-menu doesn’t show any description next to its plain-looking buttons. One such button led me to an “interactive play” feature which, as far as I could tell, just played the movie. Other extras include a subtitled version of some (but not all) of the vocal audio tracks in Discovery, character profiles, biographies for Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto, some sketches and a really terrible background mini game. In fact it’s not really a mini game, it’s just a sub-menu that operates as a background art gallery but the buttons that correspond to each background or object available for view are spread across multiple screens and are cumbersome to navigate and reach. You will probably give up way before you reach the halfway of this hellish feature. The back of the DVD case also claims there is a “hidden bonus” in this DVD. Well, congratulations to whoever created the DVD because they managed to hide the bonus so skillfully I have not found it. Hooray!
“Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” as seen in Interstella 5555. Do note that the visual and audio quality of the actual DVD are better.
The plot of Interstella 5555 is pretty decent. You have a little bit of action, a lot of nice footage to ogle at and even an interesting little plot revelation near the end. This is far from being an intelligent or compelling plot, but this is a musical we are talking about. And herein lies the fundamental problem of Interstella 5555 – it relies solely on Daft Punk’s music to provide the glue that keeps you affixed to the screen. This means that fans of Daft Punk who like anime are in for a real treat. This also means that those who don’t like Daft Punk’s music will probably not enjoy this musical very much, even if they like anime. I personally had just the right amount of background to understand this – I like some of Daft Punk’s tracks but don’t care that much about the rest. This left me in an awkward situation: When I listened to tracks I didn’t care about in the background the musical just didn’t hold up very well. The animation looked stale, the pace was sluggish and the music didn’t pull me in. But when my favorite Daft Punk track “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” played in the background everything suddenly came together brilliantly. Everything looked, felt and sounded much better all of a sudden. The stark contrast between this track and some others I didn’t like baffled me. Should a visual media product such as an anime movie be judged solely on its musical content? Surely a movie shouldn’t hold on to its soundtrack alone for dear life. The fact that Interstella 5555 does exactly that and doesn’t offer much in any other department is unfortunate. I can wholeheartedly recommend Interstella 5555 to Daft Punk fans. On the other hand I would advise anime fans that are not familiar with Daft Punk’s music to listen to Discovery before making the buy. Those who don’t like Daft Punk don’t have any real incentive to see this animated musical.
- Vibrant and colorful character designs.
- Animation quality is uneven and change all the time.
- The DVD menu is annoying.
- Enjoyment depends solely on your affinity to Daft Punk’s music.
Final Score: 5/10
Product Information: Interstella 5555. Published by Virgin Records. Release Date: December 2, 2003.
Review Equipment: Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a Premier DVX131 DVD player using an HDMI cable.