Daft Punk and anime, two tastes that go great together. Like the French electronic duo- probably most famous for their instrumental “Da Funk” from ’95, or perhaps “Technologic” which is now in commercials- my favorite memories of anime come from Leiji Matsumoto, who gave us Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. His unique visions blend the future and the past, the familiar with the alien. Unlike Disney, who messed up Treasure Planet, he knew that pirates, even space pirates, need swords. And that a steam locomotive launching off its rails into space is not ridiculous, but a young boy’s daydream realized.
So when Daft Punk wanted to make an animated film set to their album “Discovery,” they approached their childhood hero. They fleshed out a dreamlike story with allusions to the unpleasantness of the music industry, and headed to Tokyo, where Matsumoto signed on as visual consultant. The result is a story both beautiful and engrossing, set to what may not be my favorite Daft Punk album, but what is definitely the most coherent whole, one that is as much a concept album as Tommy or The Wall, both of which were made into equally surreal films.
Interstella 5555 begins with a band of turquoise-skinned rockers playing to an enormous audience, who are all a similar hue; I’m not sure if this is a reference to the Smurfs (sorry, Les Schtroumpfs) or not, but we start out knowing we’re not on Earth, as they belt out “One More Time.” As the album progresses, we learn that rock music comes from space, where an evil man who looks suspiciously like Ben Franklin has been kidnapping aliens and brainwashing them for millennia. Will our blue friends find out who they really are, and be able to escape the fiendish clutches of the music industry?
Part of it reminded me of another ’80s favorite of mine, Rock ‘n Rule. That was another anime-like film by Nelvana in Canada, about a musician trying to summon a demon. It’ll be a future ’80s trash of the week, maybe this week if I can get Milky to watch it! Interstella 5555 is great watching for fans of Daft Punk, and for anyone who grew up with Battle of the Planets aka G-Force, Voltron, Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock and all the other dubbed Japanese animation classics that flooded ’80s television. Newer anime fans will enjoy it as well, because there’s nothing like the classics reborn.