On-Gaku Our Sound and the Post Punk Movement?

6 Mar

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Shout! Factory
Release Date: March 9, 2021

Defining On-Gaku: Our Sound will not be easy. We hear a cacophony of musical genres, and not all of them are mainstream. Perhaps it’s because Writer/Director Kenji Iwaisawa was very DIY in his approach. He went old school (hand-drawn) to craft this unique film, and his art style is very non-traditional. We don’t get the wide-eyed manga work. Instead, it’s a mix of Constructivism, Minimalism and maybe Dada. The way he draws his character’s eyes tells all here, and the fisheye look gives his character designs a quality which is very hypnotic.

I particularly like the fluidity found when rotoscoping frames of a film camera onto paper. I’m fairly certain Dire Straits music video “Money for Nothing” is an influence and instead of being very artsy, the technique is more earthy and subdued.

The home video release has a great selection of featurettes which not only goes behind the scenes but also gets you in the mood to see the film again! Even better are the live performances of nearly half the soundtrack!

Rather than hipsters being the stars, Kenji (voiced by musician Shintaro Sakamoto), Ota (Tomoya Maeno) and Asakura (Tateto Serizawa) are the Beavis and Butt-Head of their high school. They are slackers and at an early part of the film, decide to form a band. They aren’t all that skilled either, and to see them challenge Bill and Ted would be amusing. But not everyone gets an excellent time-travelling adventure. Instead, this trio deals with the everyday. But they do manage to impress a classmate, folk musician Morita (Kami Hiraiwa), with their primal sound and get in over their heads when they’re invited to perform at a local festival!

Kenji’s not quite Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, but I feel that was the type of character Iwaisawa was going for. Sakamoto’s talent makes the character behave like he’s far out there and disjointed from the world. Plus, the song selections and play style is very grunge. At the same time, I detect a bit of punk and folk mixed in.

There’s even some scenes which reveal a very Beatles like influence, and the nods to music don’t end there. If we’re to understand this work, picking apart the narrative is needed. There’re a few stoner comedy moments which don’t always sell, but when we see Sakamoto, Meano and Serizawa somehow manage to survive their fifteen minutes of fame, there’s no denying this film is Japan’s answer to Mike Judge and Greg Daniels sitcom, King of the Hill.

4 Stars out of 5



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