Thursday, December 17, 2020

On-Gaku: Our Sound Review: A Quirky Anime With Great Music

Release date: December 11, 2020
Running time: 71 minutes
ShintarĂ´ Sakamoto, Ren Komai, Tomoya Maeno 
Director: Kenji Iwaisawa

When you're a bored teenager looking for thrills, sometimes the only thing you can turn to is rock 'n roll. Having no skill, money, or even a full set of drums, a feared trio of high school delinquents nevertheless decide they are destined for musical glory in a quest to impress their only friend Aya, avoid a rival gang, and - most importantly - jam out. Animated almost entirely by director Kenji Iwaisawa, and featuring a lead performance by Japanese alt-rock legend Shintaro Sakamoto, ON-GAKU: OUR SOUND brings its own sound and vision to the Hiroyuki Ohashi manga from which it was adapted. With pitch-perfect deadpan humor, the film presents a highly original take on the beloved slacker comedy: a lo-fi buddy film with a blaring musical finale that will leave you wanting an immediate encore.

The animation style is the first thing you'll notice about this movie, it has an interesting, quirky design that looks hand drawn and definitely distinctive.  The characters all have additional lines around their eyes, and have a thinning, oval shape that lets you know that this is all one work.  The animation style is distinctive and will be hit or miss.  I didn't love it but I also appreciate how much work director Kenji Iwaisawa must have gone through to make it all.  It mixes some styles to give a unique look and one that is easy to appreciate.  For example, the characters appear hand drawn but the backgrounds often look like water colors.  And the style is not only in the animation.  The film has a look and style all its own, with some silly humor and a quirky main character.  There are odd pauses here and there before he answers things that will make you think your video has stalled.  And the main character has a serious, deadpan delivery that will make you smile and laugh.  

But as the title implies, the music is the main draw of this film.  It has some really good jazz rock guitar music at the start, but it goes through several different styles.  There is the main sound of the delinquents, but there are several other musical styles that are highlighted.  And these can be a lot of fun, especially hearing the character's analyze and riff on the different styles.  It is fitting that a movie about music would have really good music, so make sure to watch with a good sound setup.  But the movie will not be for everyone.  It has a slacker film style that much of the story feel like it had no drive.  I know that this is kind of what they were going for, but it just didn't click with me.  And the characters make snap decisions and pivot very quickly for seemingly no reason.  And some of the characters and situations seem to be quirky for the sake of quirkiness.  I wonder if that is part of the original manga, but I didn't love it.

On-Gaku: Our Sound's unique animation style, quirky characters, and fantastic variety of music make this an anime for the eyes and ears.

Rent it.

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On-Gaku: Our Sound is in select theaters December 11, 2020.

For showtimes, click here.

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