Interstella5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (“5555” is pronounced “four five”) merges the boundary between music video and anime, blending Daft Punk’s music with a traditional film. The idea for the film came while Discovery was being recorded. Daft Punk wanted a film that mixed the entertainment industry with science fiction, developing this idea and making it more polished with their collaborator Cédric Hervet. With their story and album in hand, the trio traveled to Japan and added legendary anime creator, and their childhood hero, Leiji Matsumoto to the team as visual supervisor. Produced by Toei Animation, the film took two and a half years to complete and was released almost three years after the album Discovery.
Interstella5555 was animated to be episodic with each song having its own scene within the film. While these individual clips do serve as the music videos for each song from Discovery they do contain an overall connecting storyline when played together. What makes this film so unusual is that there is no dialogue and almost no sound effects, even in scenes where characters appear to be speaking or making other noises. The imagination of viewers can fill in the blanks, but the absence of other sounds bind the music and the animation together very closely and make the two feel almost inseparable.
The story of Interstella5555 is fairly simple and following it is not too difficult due to the lack of dialogue within the film. A popular band of aliens, who look exactly like humans except with blue skin, are abducted from their home world by the evil Mr. Blackwood. Bringing the quartet back to Earth, Blackwood brainwashes the group and disguises them as humans to reveal and use them as the world’s latest and greatest addition to pop culture, the band Cresendolls. When a fan (another alien) of the group hears about their predicative, he sets off to Earth in order to rescue them.
Matsumoto’s influence can be seen throughout the animation, as several motifs from his previous work are present in Interstella5555. The “four five” pronunciation in the film’s title directly references his previous work Galaxy Tetsudou (Express) 999, where “999” is pronounced “three nine”. Elements commonly found in the storytelling of Matsumoto’s work, such as a protagonist sacrificing themselves and the remaining characters later reflecting on the loss of their fallen friend, are also seen in the film. Daft Punk stated they originally sought out Matsumoto due to his series Captain Harlock having a heavy influence on their childhoods and, in turn, their music.
The first four music videos of the film originally aired on the midnight run of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block in 2001, with the full film finally being released in May 2003. Well received by critics and fans around the world for its uniqueness and the brilliant mash-up of the animation and Daft Punk’s music, even some harsher reviews of the film have given favorable opinions of the movie and its success. But what exactly is it about Interstella5555 that made it so well received?
For starters, Interstella5555 was something new that remains fairly unique even today, more than a full decade since its release. Secondly, the film does not have the feel of just an anime. The music video format chosen by director Isao Takahata had already been popular since the launch of MTV in the early 1980’s. Most music videos are only a few minutes long but several artists, most notably Michael Jackson, did create videos as miniature films and those works undoubtedly influenced Interstella5555’s creation. Another major factor was the fact that the brand of music, house music, created by Daft Punk was still fairly new and people were ready for something new now that the 1990’s had come to a close. Any fan of music knows that a good music video, or a poor one, can greatly influence how a song is perceived. Having a giant music video put to an entire album was a bold move by Daft Punk, but the success of Interstella5555 ended up being a wise decision and watching the movie is the best way to experience the album. If you love anime, and especially if you love music and want to get the most out of it, Interstella5555 is the way to go.