After 28 years of revolutionizing music, Daft Punk have announced this week that they're breaking up after 28 years. While all four of the electronic music duo's studio albums are excellent, their masterpiece has to be the 2003 anime film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. However, as good as it is, Interstella 5555 is often overlooked or utterly forgotten, even by Daft Punk's biggest fans.
Daft Punk started to work on the idea while making their second studio album, 2001's Discovery. Daft Punk and collaborator Cédric Hervet wanted to create something that blended science fiction with a pastiche of entertainment culture. When the idea was fully formed, the band instantly knew they wanted their childhood hero Leiji Matsumoto to work on the film and headed to Japan to recruit him. During their childhoods in France, Daft Punk had seen lots of imported Japanese animation, including Matsumoto's legendary Captain Harlock series.
In a 2008 Cartoon Network interview, Daft Punk said that Captain Harlock was their favorite cartoon growing up. They also said it was a big influence on their style as adults so it made sense to try and get Matsumoto involved.
Daft Punk was able to convince Matsumoto to join the project as the visual supervisor. Several other big names were also brought on board to help, including Shinji Shimizu and Dragon Ball legend Kazuhisa Takenouchi. The film entered production in 2000 and was finished in 2003, and according to reports, it cost around four million dollars to make. The first four "episodes" of the film were shown on Toonami in 2001 and the full film was released on DVD in 2003. An updated Blu-ray release came out in 2011, and it is now considered the best way to watch the movie.
The film follows a famous alien band. During one of the band's performances, a large military appears and kidnaps them. In space, a pilot called Shep spots the band's distress signal, and wanting to help the band, Shep jumps through a wormhole and pursues the kidnappers. However, he ends up crashlanding on Earth.
The band is then taken to a military facility, where they have their memories removed and placed on discs. Their captors also change the band's skin to make them look more human, brainwash them and force the group to wear mind-controlling sunglasses. It is revealed that the person who kidnapped them is an evil manager called Earl de Darkwood, who plans to market the group as a new band. This plan seems to work at first, with the new band winning a gold record. However, Shep frees the group from their mind control, sacrificing himself in the process. The band learns that Darkwood plans to collect 5,555 gold records and then use these records to rule the universe. So the band, still unsure of who they really are, must move quickly to stop Darkwood and return home.
The movie has no dialogue and sparse sound effects. Basically, all of the audio is the album Discovery, making the film a unique companion to the album. Matsumoto's influence is obvious throughout the film. The character designs and color palate resemble those found in Matsumoto's other works like Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. The themes of memory, sacrifice and the nature of companionship are also common in Matsumoto's work, and these ideas are at the core of Interstella 5555.
The movie is a visual treat, perfectly merging animation with Daft Punk's music, creating a totally unique experience. The film is quite unlike any other musical or movie. Discovery is often regarded as Daft Punk's best studio album, and this film helps you appreciate just how great it is. Already amazing tracks, like the hit "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" are even better when put with Matsumoto's fluid and detailed animation, and often overlooked tracks like "Veridis Quo" are made into unforgettable show-stopping numbers. If you are a fan of anime, Daft Punk or music in general, you owe it to yourself to check out Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem as it is an underrated and underloved masterpiece.