Daft Punk had emerged in the house scene in 1997 with their debut Homework that sold reasonably well and received significant critical acclaim. They followed up with a new album four years later, Discovery, which has sold over 2 million copies and helped establish Daft Punk’s identity in the mainstream.
A significant part of this album was its music videos, which were all animated and when played in sequence became a feature anime film called Interstella 5555: The Story of the Secret Star System. Although it was released two years after the album, it helped the project endure and gave Daft Punk a massive amount of content for the album when services such as YouTube arrived.
Anime had been growing in the west throughout the 90s. Dubbed versions of massive successes in Japan were broadcast on TV and this included shows such as Dragon Ball Z and One Piece. Video and card games were also made into anime shows like Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon, which became huge successes in western countries. All of these shows except Pokémon were produced by Toei Animation, who also created Interstella 5555.
This collaboration was completely innovative and is still yet to be matched in terms of scale. The project embodied western acceptance of anime and although there had been animated music videos in the past, most had been stop-motion and anime is virtually unseen in music videos outside of Japan before discovery. Daft Punk had hit the wave of children who had been growing up with the first wave of anime shows to reach the US and Europe and years after its release, even more, children had grown up with anime and saw the discovery music videos online.
The fact that the film can be consumed either as a whole or as individual music videos made it perfect for online video platforms. One More Time was the biggest single from the album and it is also the first track and music video. After watching this you can go on to watch the next song Aerodynamic and see that it is a sequential video. This puts the viewer in a position to watch the next video and eventually see the whole film at their own pace. It also gives later tracks in the album more purpose as they are now essential to the project as a whole. The title of the album Discovery is perfect for the project as even though this was a good few years before YouTube was created, the music videos gave fans something to discover online as they try to piece together the whole film.
I think that the impact of Interstella 5555 has been understated and overshadowed by the success and legacy of Discovery as an album. However, the music videos brought anime into the music mainstream and were unlike any other music video campaign. It giving young anime fans something they could relate to and paved the way for future 2D animated music videos that were released throughout the 2000s including Kanye West, Gorillaz, Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers and more.
It showed that animation was not limited to stop motion videos that were more prevalent in the late 80s and 90s and showed Western audiences that cartoons aren’t just pulp for children. It is an incredibly versatile and powerful technological tool that an upcoming generation of listeners could relate to just as easily, if not more easily than live action videos. The massive scale of visualising a whole album through anime also gave Daft Punk a huge amount of content for the upcoming YouTube boom and has been a massive factor as to how Daft Punk has had huge critical acclaim and sales over three decades, something that most artists could only dream of.