Noiseman Sound Insect
A scientist dismayed with the decadence of society creates an artificial life-form known as "Noiseman," who subsists by eating music and leaving only crystals behind. His creator, however, soon finds out that Noiseman is perfectly capable of devouring him as well, and he is rendered into a polyp-like creature. 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 entitled "Franken's Gears", loosely based on Mary Shelley's story, as part of the Robot Carnival anthology. The same director's Noiseman Sound Insect strikes me as an improved and expanded retelling of that previous short. This experimental piece is a storm of eye candy and spectacular animation wrapped together by a simple allegory, and the film's brevity is what allows this combination to work. If it were to last any longer, it would constitute a dearth of ideas stretched across too long a running time, as I felt was the case with the same studio's Tekkon Kinkreet. 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 do not stay fixed in length. It is such artistic choices as this that make the film as interesting as it is, for the allegory it presents, in which humans, having recalled the existence of music, work to rescue the world from the chaos of noise, is made all the more effective by them. It is a textbook example of the possibilities of animation being fully taken advantage of, and the work of Masaaki Yuasa and his animation team is nothing short of astounding here: the variety of camera angles used during the airborne-bike chases, the dreamlike motion of the characters who are under Noiseman's spell, the clear distinction between the jumbled, rundown buildings of this age and the memory of the serene, verdant world that is presented almost as if the viewer were looking from underneath water. Exceptional, too, is the word that I would use to describe Yoko Kanno's harrowing electronic score, whose nightmarish swells and haunting drones establish the atmosphere of this world perfectly. If there was any issue I would take with the presentation, it is that the design of the human characters, while competent, is not especially interesting; probably by coincidence, the main pair somewhat resemble the title character and Sakura from Naruto, of all things. Correspondingly, the characters themselves do not have a huge amount of personality, and while I had no real issue with them this is not a story whose strength is in character development. I speak of my impression of the plot itself alongside that of the art because they are codependent: Noiseman Sound Insect does not have an especially profound story, but that is made up for by the joy of experiencing the flurry of animation that makes a potentially tired allegory into something immediately understandable and fascinating to the viewer.
Noiseman Sound Insect has never really made it over to the United States, and while one can find it on the internet with some effort, I would never have heard of it had I not stumbled upon Jason Huff's take on it at The Anime Review. It's worth tracking down and worth fifteen minutes of your time. I didn't expect much of it given my general dislike of Studio 4˚C's output and my disappointment with Morimoto's early short, but there was ultimately no reason for me to feel that way. I warn that its frenetic style can make it difficult to keep up with, but I would otherwise suggest you give it a go.
The story is not especially deep, but the synergistic combination of animation and plot that this short achieves is fantastic. Be warned, however, that because of the pacing it is not a film to watch when distracted. — Nick 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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