Noiseman Sound Insect
A scientist dismayed with what he sees as a “decadent” society creates an artificial life-form known as "Noiseman” who subsists by eating music, leaving only crystals behind. He soon finds out that Noiseman is perfectly capable of devouring him as well, and he is turned into a polyp-like creature in the process.
Sometime later, Noiseman has begun a "reign of terror" of sorts and employs gangs of bikers to destroy all traces of music, leaving nothing but noise. One biker's memory of music, however, snaps him to his senses and incites him to rebel against the oncoming chaos.
Back in 1987, Koji Morimoto, known for his work on Akira, released a short movie called "Franken's Gears" as part of the Robot Carnival anthology; it’s loosely based on Mary Shelley's story. Noiseman Sound Insect, one of his later movies, strikes me as an improved and expanded retelling of that short movie. This experimental piece is a storm of eye candy and spectacular animation wrapped together by a simple allegory, and it works because the movie is short and to the point; it it lasted any longer, it;’d feel pretty thinly-stretched. As it is, it takes full advantage of the visual medium to complement this allegory and never skimps on the animation budget, making for a fascinating piece that does precisely what a featurette should do: waste no time and leave an immediate effect.
The most interesting aspect of the visual style is the contrast between the relatively realistic design of the human characters and the heavily geometric design and rapid, eerily unnatural movement of the polyps and Noiseman himself, who resembles a sentient triangle whose sides never stay fixed in length. These artistic choices are what make the movie as interesting as it is; they end up making the visual allegory of chaos as noise and the literal destruction of music much more effective. It’s a great example of the staff taking full advantage of possibilities of animation, and Masaaki Yuasa and his animation team draw an astoundingly beautiful and disturbing world. The variety of angles used during the airborne-bike chases, the dreamlike motion of the characters under Noiseman's spell, the contrast between the jumbled, rundown buildings of this age and the memory of the serene, verdant world, colored and shaded to look like the viewer is seeing this scene underwater…I could go on, but honestly, it’s short enough that I’d just suggest tracking it down and seeing for yourself. I’ll also say that Yoko Kanno's harrowing electronic score of nightmarish swells and haunting drones establish the atmosphere of this world perfectly.
Noiseman Sound Insect hasn’t ever really made it over to the United States; I probably wouldn’t have found it if one of the people who co-ran an anime club with me in college hadn’t somehow stumbled on it and suggested it for a viewing. I’m glad he did; it’s definitely worth tracking down and spending the 15 miniutes on it. I actually hadn’t necessarily expected much, even with Yuasa’s involvement, because studio 4˚C hasn’t always been my favorite studio and I honestly wasn’t all that into “Franken’s Gears”, but it was a pleasant surprise. If you’re in the mood for a trippy little experimental piece, give it a go.
A cool little whirlwind of allegorical storytelling and experimental animation. Don’t watch this while you’re distracted. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: I would say that this is probably fine for older children, if they can handle the rapid onslaught of images. There is some bloodshed and younger children might find the scenes in which humans are turned into polyps to be scary.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Noiseman Sound Insect © 1997 Beyond C./BANDAI VISUAl
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