Roots to Future Youths: an analysis of Toei Animation and Leiji Matsumoto’s influence in the transmedia creation of Interstella 5555 Patrick Mannion May 9, 2013 Professor Tomiko Yoda Alexander Nikolas Zahlten TF: Hansun Hsiung
Patrick Mannion A&IU 53: Anime
Hansun 11am Fri May 9, 2013
Roots to Future Youths: an analysis of Toei Animation and Leiji Matsumoto’s influence in the transmedia creation of Interstella 5555 Most anime, animations and films are produced based on roots in a story, history, or a particular individual’s vision for a visual narrative. Not so in the case of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, the 2003 anime produced by Toei Animation and Leiji Matsumoto as a visual story to accompany the electronic music artists Daft Punk’s album Discovery, released two years prior. Such collaboration begs the questions of the relationship of the film to Toei Productions, as well as how its creators used the inherent transmedia mix of album and feature release to their advantage. As an anime product largely created by Leiji Matsumoto’s vision, the film has strong roots in his previous body of work as a manga artist and anime designer. Yet simultaneously, Interstella 5555 draws on elements of Toei’s self-‐conception of a contemporary anime-‐animation rivalry with Disney. Meanwhile, the media mix inherent to the dual release of the soundtrack followed by the film as an expansion of it allowed the collaborators to accomplish their goal of bridging international subcultures. In Interstella 5555, a band of blue-‐skinned aliens is captured from their home planet by the Earl of Darkwood, a malevolent record executive who plans to make them a sensation on Earth. After transforming their appearance, he subjects them to mind-‐control glasses, and their tiring life appeasing his greedy desires begins. Fortunately, Shep, another alien from their home planet, has pursued the group to save his love interest, a female member of the band named Stella. Shep rescues the band but is wounded in the process
and dies shortly after. This tragedy is followed on the heels by the mysterious discovery of the Earl of Darkwood’s mansion, where the band finds a book detailing the fact that his alien band kidnappings are all part of a plan. When the Crescendolls, as the band is known on Earth, wins their gold record it makes the Earl’s 5,555th, which allows him to control the Universe the book reveals. Fortunately, the band breaks free of his minions just before Stella’s sacrifice along with the gold record, and they flaunt his plans. The book lets them discover their true history, recorded on tapes, and the entire planet Earth helps them to return home. Having written manga and contributed to it adaptation to anime since the early 1970s, Leiji Matsumoto brought a wealth of experience to Interstella 5555, which shone through throughout the project in its thematic elements as well as in some graphic elements. Specifically, Matsumoto’s influence came about through his influence on Daft Punk’s vision for the album itself through his series Space Pirate Captain Harlock, as well as through his earlier series’ development of Matsumoto’s own interests in chivalry, space and technology. Asked about their inspiration for the dual album-‐video release of Discovery and Interstella 5555, Guy-‐Manuel de Homem-‐Christo and Thomas Bangalter, the duo who play by stage name Daft Punk, immediately cite Leiji Matsumoto’s anime series Space Pirate Captain Harlock as a motivator. Though the French DJs appeared to have no ties to the anime world, they cite Captain Harlock the main cartoon by which they were influenced by as children, at a time in the late 1970s when anime had a sizable audience in France1. 1 "An Interview with Daft Punk." Interview. Cartoon Network. N.p., Nov. 2001. Web. 9 May 2013.<http://web.archive.org/web/20040627180234/http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/toonami/re actor/features/daftpunk.interview.html>.
Space Pirate Captain Harlock, aired in France starting in 1977 as Albator, le corsair de l’espace, was a shonen TV series based on the original manga by Leiji Matsumoto. In this sense, Leiji Matsumoto’s early work was transformed into manga eiga, or cartoon film, the term that Miyazaki Hayao preferred to label his work by. The TV version of Matsumoto’s manga featured his main character, a romantic hero, traversing through space fighting evil regimes. This brings in the first major theme that would carry over from Matsumoto’s early work into his work on Interstella 5555: outer space. Between the 1977 release of Space Pirate Captain Harlock and the 2003 release of Interstella 5555, Matsumoto worked on a number of projects in which space was a reoccurring central theme. One particularly relevant example is Galaxy Express 999, a manga by Leiji Matsumoto and later a TV series featuring a futuristic, technology-‐based civilization in outer space which is occasionally visited by Captain Harlock himself. Two key elements tie this series to Interstella 5555. The first tie is the title of the series itself, named for a space train that links the civilization where the action is set and planet Earth. In Interstella 5555, the link between earth and a faraway galaxy comes when an alien rock band is abducted in space and taken through a wormhole and to earth – a similarity both in concept and in name. A second element brought to Interstella 5555 from Galaxy Express 999 is the expansion from a Space Pirate Captain Harlock’s space theme to a technology-‐enhanced future space world, which would be a central theme of the Daft Punk collaboration film. Both 1970s anime link the space world to earth when characters traverse back and forth, as would also be the case in the 2003 release.
Two additional similarities pervade Leiji Matsumoto’s 1970s anime series and Interstella 5555, the first of which is a legacy of structure into episodic scenes. Although Interstella 5555 was released as a film, its basis in an album of songs without pre-‐faded transitions lent itself well to a scene-‐by-‐scene break. Taking this a step farther, though, Leiji launched some of the earlier scenes first, allowing them to be shown as short episodes on MTV before the entire film was a packaged release2. Finally, but hardly least, is an interest in romance and chivalry that Leiji Matsumoto developed throughout his work between the late 1970s and 2001 when he started work with Daft Punk. Interviewed specifically about the film, he mentions that he brought a particular interest “in the image of women, romance and chivalry”3. This manifests in Interstella 5555 in how the hero, Shep, traverses the galaxies chasing the evil kidnappers to save his female love interest, the band member Stella. Shep eventually rises to the ultimate height of chivalry for the woman he fantasizes about in the third scene, giving his life to save Stella after he saves her from the Earl of Darkwood and is wounded while evading the kidnapper’s minions. In sacrificing the chivalrous main character for his female romantic interest, Matsumoto is able to incorporate three keys themes that he hoped to bring to the table from his earlier work. From the space worlds of Space Pirate Captain Harlock to the technology-‐driven future of Galaxy Express 999, as well as the interest in episodic structure of shonen plots driven by romance and chivalry, Leiji Matsumoto incorporated numerous elements of his early work into his collaboration with Daft Punk on Interstella 5555. The film was also 2 Sylvester, Nick. "Daft Punk / Leiji Matsumoto Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem." Rev. of Interstella 5555. n.d.: n. pag. Pitchfork. 15 Feb. 2004. Web. 3 "Interview with Leiji Matsumoto (feat. Daft Punk)." Interview. 2003. DVD.
crafted in large part by the production studio that released it, however, and specifically by Toei Animations’ relationship to Disney, its Western rival. Toei’s legacy of similarity to Disney as well as the two companies’ contemporary rivalry at the turn of the 21st century can be seen as two major driving forces behind the production of Interstella 5555. Founded in 1956, Toei Animation began with the specific conception of modeling itself on Disney Studios. It aspired to be the “Disney of the Orient,” producing the first feature-‐length anime films in the model of its Western counterpart4. An early example can be seen in 1958’s Hakujyaden, Toei’s first full-‐length production and an adaptation of a Chinese folk legend. In the latter sense it is not dissimilar from Snow White, and in addition Toei used the same technique, rotoscoping, to generate realistic motion, copying the technique that Disney had pioneered5. Fast-‐forwarding 60 years to the turn of the 21st century, Toei Animation was still emulating full-‐length films created by Disney at that time, now in the form of a feature release with minimal character dialog set entirely to an epic score of pre-‐written music. In 1999 Disney released Fantasia/2000, an animated film set over classical orchestral pieces, interspersed with filmed actors introducing each scene. Fantasia/2000 cost Disney $80 million to produce, and received an IMDB rating of 7.16, with Rotten Tomatoes scoring it at 82%7. Four years later, Toei’s answer to the turn-‐of-‐the-‐century narrative set to music 4 Hue, Tze-Yue G. "Postwar Japanese Animation Development and Toei Animation Studio." Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-building. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2010. N. pag. Print. 5 Ibid. 6 "Fantasia/2000." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 7 "Fantasia 2000 (1999)." Fantasia 2000. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013.
spent $4 million, just 5% of Fantasia’s cost, to attain an IMDB rating of 7.68 and a Rotten Tomatoes Score of 86%9. By critical review the films were certainly neck-‐and-‐neck, but by raw metrics, and certainly by spend-‐to-‐review ratio, Toei’s anime took the day. With roots in the legacy of Leiji Matsumoto’s manga eiga and the previously successful platform of Toei Animations’ anime films, Interstella 5555 was already set on a springboard for success within the Japanese anime world. What is unique about this film, however, is that it would be a partnership with a French-‐released music album, offering a exciting opportunity for the collaborators to bridge subcultures and continents with their media mix. In setting out to produce a film to accompany the Discovery album, bridging the cultural gap between France and Japan was an explicit goal of both Daft Punk and Leiji Matsumoto. Each collaborator had a strong artistic interest in the other’s native culture, Matsumoto for French films and specifically their depictions of women10, and the two French DJs for the animation of “the hero of their childhood” whose style of anime they had “loved since they were five or six years old”11. After the three agreed to collaborate in 200012, it was Matsumoto who was particularly interested in using the combination of film and album to take advantage of the burgeoning Internet age of global connectivity to reach both countries’ young audiences: 8 "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 9 "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)." Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 10 "Interview with Leiji Matsumoto (feat. Daft Punk)." Interview. 2003. DVD. 11 "Discovery Japanese Special Edition Interview." Interview. 2001. DVD. 12 Ibid.
“I think that we have reached an era in which image creators, music creators, all professionals from throughout the world will work alongside one another… I see the youth of the world working together in the future. I am excited by the fact that [Interstella 5555] will be viewed by so many people in so many countries…It is like we are explorers in a new world of the 21st century.”
Matsumoto is suggesting here that modern technology, in conjunction with the use of multiple platforms, will leveraged the engagement of international artistic subcultures to amplify a the audience size and engagement. This leverage is commonly referred to as the media mix, a use of multiple platforms to drive the audience towards an end of consuming more of the product. In this case, the subculture of electronic music fans in France who were listening to the Discovery album since 2001 would be driven to watch and purchase the movie. As an added incentive for this, the film was released in conjunction with a new album of remixes of the original Discovery tracks, titled Daft Club. At the same time, the subculture of anime fans in Japan would be exposed to Daft Punk’s French electronic music style for the first time through the anime of Leiji Matsumoto whom they knew and loved. Aiding the potential for a widespread international viewership of Interstella 5555 was the fact that the film contains no dialog other than the minimalist song lyrics, so the language barrier faced by the content creators14 would not be suffered by their audience. Thus the media mix of album and anime was poised for success in bridging international culture and subcultures.
Beyond a simple media mix consisting of additive success between the two
platforms, however, Interstella 5555 made use of transmedia storytelling that offered the user a more and more complete experience with each additional medium through which he 13 "Interview with Leiji Matsumoto (feat. Daft Punk)." Interview. 2003. DVD.
or she engaged with the anime. The idea of transmedia storytelling, conceptualized by Henry Jenkins in his book Convergence Culture, is that each piece of media tells a piece of the full narrative story, and the full narrative cannot be understood without consuming the media in all of its forms15. To this point, the French DJs said in an interview with Billboard magazine:
“We liked the idea of a two-‐step process. We were fine with the album coming out, and people understanding it, or not understanding it… they can go back and hear the music after a two-‐ year period, and have the opportunity to listen again … see where everything came from, even if we left a lot of doors closed in the film itself. We really wanted to make the whole thing fit together."
This two-‐step process is exactly what Jenkins had in mind with the idea of transmedia storytelling – the album’s emotion and motivations cannot be fully understood without engaging with the anime characters whose tale it tells, and the characters’ story is certainly incomplete without the music to convey the mood and only words exchanged throughout the film’s 68 minutes. A counterclaim is certainly plausible here that the story could have been fit to after the fact to the length and mood of each songs, so perhaps the link in meaning is not as intricate as the self-‐promoting DJs claim. On the contrary, however, the anime film was part of the album’s original conception, and the collaborators had been in touch during the album’s recording17 and Matsumoto was busy working on 14 "Discovery Japanese Special Edition Interview." Interview. 2001. DVD. 15Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York UP, 2006. ACLS Humanities E-Book. Web. 16 Barker, Christian. "Daft Punk Interview: September 2003." Billionaire. N.p., 2003. Web. 09 May 2013. 17 "Discovery Japanese Special Edition Interview." Interview. 2001. DVD.
production as early as October 200018, five months before the album’s initial release. It is plausible logistically, and confirmed visually, that the story is richly interwoven between the two media. Yet there is even more to the media array. In addition to the original album and anime film, the limited edition of the film DVD included an additional DVD, and some early editions of the original album were packaged with a physical card granting fans access to an online “Daft Club.” Through each of these additional channels, fans gained access to additional versions of songs and interviews with the notoriously elusive French DJs, who give few interviews and constantly wear masks. Their attire might even be considered another part of the media mix, considering they appear exclusively in public and within the anime film donning full space-‐technologic regalia which they began wearing while claiming they had been transformed into robots19 around the time of the Discovery release. Regardless of how far the legitimate media mix and transmedia storytelling extends, however, a pertinent question to be asked is how successful this array of media was at promoting the consumption of Interstella 5555 as anime and Discovery as a musical album. In measuring the success of the film, it is difficult to decide on a metric other than the aggregated critical reviews mentioned previously, since box office data is not readily available for France and Japan from 2003. The best metric, then, may be to assess whether or not the film fulfilled Toei Animations’ self-‐proclaimed goals for the films they were producing in 2003. According to a 2001 feature on “Toei at 50” in Variety magazine, their 18 Interstella 5555 DVD insert 19 "Discovery Japanese Special Edition Interview." Interview. 2001. DVD.
dual goals for moving into the 2000s were to continue to expand their exports, and to move into the young adult age bracket from the currently dominated under-‐18 group20. The film was certainly a success in the latter demographic regard, and album sales point to a success in the former international regard as well. Interstella 5555 was aired on the US on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” segment, as well as on MTV, as predicted by an early industry review21. MTV’s target demographic at the time was the 18-‐34 age bracket22, which is precisely the age range Toei hoped to begin targeting, and in their largest and fastest-‐growing international market in the wake of Dragonball-‐Z and Sailor Moon23. With respect to the success of the film internationally, one metric may be to look at how the media mix’s appeal was able to push the album’s success to new countries and to higher places in the charts than had been attained by their last. The previous Daft Punk album, Homework, made it onto 13 countries’ charts, reaching an average top position of 33. Discovery, meanwhile, as a companion to Interstella 5555, made it onto 16 countries charts, and topped out at an average position of 9. To the criticism that the film had not yet been released at this time, it is worth pointing out that due to Matsumoto’s early work the individual scenes from the first few singles were being circulated shortly after the album’s launch. Thus, on both the international and the age demographic fronts, Interstella 5555 could be considered a rousing success by Matsumoto, Daft Punk and Toei Animations’ own goals, thanks in no small part to transmedia storytelling and the media mix. 20 Schwarzacher, Lukas. "Toons Animate Bottom Line." Variety (2001): A4-A8. Print. 21 Rooney, David. "Daft Punk and Leiji Marsumoto's Interstella 5555." Rev. of Interstella 5555. Variety (2003): 27. Print. 22 "MTV Music Television Profile." Cable Network Information. N.p., 30 June 2002. Web. 09 May 2013. 23 Schwarzacher, Lukas. "Toons Animate Bottom Line." Variety (2001): A4-A8. Print.
A success in the eyes of the collaborators, the producers, critics and fans, Interstella 5555 capitalized massively on a brilliant risk taken by an open-‐minded Leiji Matsumoto to embrace and share his talents with two French DJs a generation younger than he. Toei Animation was able to bring their experience to the table to flaunt Disney and let anime win the day at least a generation after they set out to be the “Disney of the Orient.” And best of all, thanks to the media mix and transmedia storytelling, a generation of Japanese kids were introduced electronic music, and another generation of French anime fans was born. With roots in an unusual tradition, Interstella 5555 spanned three generations to show the youth of the 21st century that they were could “work alongside one another…as explorers in a new world.”24 24 "Interview with Leiji Matsumoto (feat. Daft Punk)." Interview. 2003. DVD.
Works Cited 1. Barker, Christian. "Daft Punk Interview: September 2003." Billionaire. N.p., 2003. Web. 09 May 2013. 2. Dalton, Stephen. "Daft Punk: Discovery." Rev. of Daft Punk: Discovery. n.d.: n. pag. NME. 7 Mar. 2001. Web. 3. "Discovery Japanese Special Edition Interview." Interview. 2001. DVD. 4. "Fantasia 2000 (1999)." Fantasia 2000. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 5. "Fantasia/2000." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 6. Galaxy Express 999. 1979. Television. 7. Hue, Tze-Yue G. "Postwar Japanese Animation Development and Toei Animation Studio." Frames of Anime: Culture and Image-building. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2010. N. pag. Print. 8. "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)." Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 9. "Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 09 May 2013. 10. Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. Prod. Leiji Matsumoto, Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo, and Thomas Bangalter. Toei Animation, 2003. DVD. 11. "An Interview with Daft Punk." Interview. Cartoon Network. N.p., Nov. 2001. Web. 9 May 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20040627180234/http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/toonami/reac tor/features/daftpunk.interview.html>. 12. Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York UP, 2006. ACLS Humanities E-Book. Web. 13. "MTV Music Television Profile." Cable Network Information. N.p., 30 June 2002. Web. 09 May 2013. 14. Reesman, Brian. "DAFT PUNK." MIX. N.p., 1 Oct. 2001. Web. 09 May 2013. 15. Rooney, David. "Daft Punk and Leiji Marsumoto's Interstella 5555." Rev. of Interstella 5555. Variety (2003): 27. Print. 16. Schreiber, Ryan. "Daft Punk: Discovery | Album Review." Rev. of Daft Punk: Discovery. n.d.: n. pag. Pitchfork. 13 Mar. 2001. Web.
17. Schwarzacher, Lukas. "Toons Animate Bottom Line." Variety (2001): A4-A8. Print. 18. Space Pirate Captain Harlock. 1978. Television. 19. Steinberg, Marc. "Limiting Movement, Inventing Anime." Anime's Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2012. N. pag. Print. 20. Sylvester, Nick. "Daft Punk / Leiji Matsumoto Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem." Rev. of Interstella 5555. n.d.: n. pag. Pitchfork. 15 Feb. 2004. Web.