Astro Toy Classic with Rob Bricken - The Crescendollsby Rob Bricken, Oct 4th 2009
Series: Interstella 5555
By: Daft Life
Announcement time! Do to circumstances beyond my control — namely my day job as editor/writer/head nerd of ToplessRobot.com — I unfortunately have to move Astro Toy back to a bi-monthly schedule. I'm sure this disappoints all 18 of you who read this column, and for that, I am sorry. But I'd rather do one good column every two weeks than one crappy column ever week, and I hope you would too. If you wondered how a job that requires me to do no more than sit on my ass all day, play on the internet, and occasionally type a few things could possibly interfere with the non-work of writing about internet toys, I would look at you in consternation and quickly change the subject.
So guess what — it's time for another Astro Toy Classic! Not, like last time, because I'm momentarily out of modern toys to review, but I did want to take a column to mention that I owned this awesome limited edition Interstella 5555 figure set and you almost certainly don't (well, definitely no more than 5554 of you).
If you don't know about Interstella 5555, come sit on my lap and let me tell you the tale [Ed.’s note: Never sit on Rob's lap. Never.] of French techno-electro-pop duo Daft Punk's awesome 2001 album Discovery. Now, like most French kids growing up in the ‘70s, they had grown up on legendary anime director Leiji Mastumoto's seminal series like Space Cruiser Yamato (a.k.a. Star Blazers) and Captain Harlock, and were huge anime fans. Now, Daft Punk had made Discovery as a concept album — I'll get into the story in a minute — and they went to Japan, went up to Matsumoto himself, and asked if he'd animate it. He said yes. And in 2003, Interstella 5555 was released.
The anime is a 60+ minute music video of the entire album. There's no dialogue whatsoever. The story, such as it is, is about a blue-skinned alien band which is kidnapped by an evil human music label executive who wipes their memories, disguises them as humans, releases their music on Earth in order to get 5,555 gold records… and thus rule the universe. If this isn't awesome to you, you can go.
The band is freed by Shep, the ex of the bass player Stella, but loses his life in the process. Then the Crescendolls (their Earth band name, which I'm using since their original alien band was never named) stop the evil executive and destroy his gold record machine. Then they play a concert for the universe and everyone rock the @#$% out.
Knowing full well that they had co-created one of the most awesome thing ever, Daft Punk also worked with Matsumoto to release a 5-figure set in 2003 of the Crescendolls and Shep, limited, naturally, to 5555. The figures each stand 3 ¾-inches tall (well, except for little Baryl) and have limited articulation like you'd find in the old-school (as in ‘70s) Star Wars figures — legs, arms, head and waist, all swivel joints. Since they were sculpted specifically to hold/play their instruments (Shep has to hold his helmet, natch), they essentially have one pose and that's it. And yet, that's enough.
There's not enough difference between the characters to give write-ups to each one, which is why I scattered the pics of the individual figures throughout the column. Obviously, there's room for improvement: you can see what they look like without their instruments. Plus, Shep's helmet doesn't even come close to fitting on his head. Baryl's drumsticks are easily bent but hard to straighten out. Stella's petite feet make her difficult (but not impossible) to stand, and her hair is sculpted slightly weird so her bass strap can slip over her shoulder.
While younger collectors might think these figures look like crap, I find them delightfully “classic,” with their simple (but not crappy) paint jobs, their wide leg stance (Stella's skirt being one hunk of plastic), and rudimentary articulation. Obviously, compared to most action figures from 2003, these things are lacking — but intentionally so, I would imagine. Even if they weren't, they still exude a retro charm that, coupled with the intrinsic coolness of the anime they're based on, makes this set one of the gems in my collection.
Obviously, I'm looking through rose-colored glasses at these guys, partially because of my love for both the album and the anime, but it's not just that. If you watch Interstella 5555, it's clear that Daft Punk really wanted to create something that reminded them of the anime of their youth — and the fact that they got Leiji Matsumoto to make it, a man who hasn't changed his artistic style since the ‘70s began, only reinforces that. Interstella is an homage, and thus, these figures capture that feeling far more than more modern figures would have or could have.
It also doesn't hurt that these things are collectible as hell, and fact that 1) they were even made and 2) that I got one (special shout-out to my buddy Zach Oat of Television Without Pity for scoring these for me) makes me forgive a lot of their theoretical faults. Back when the set was first released, they ran for $100, and obviously they're a hell of a lot more rare now than they were then. Only two sets were on sale on eBay when I was writing this column, one for $150, one for $275 — and both were from international sellers, so you'd need to add significant shipping to that.
My recommendation would be to hunt down the DVD of Interstella 5555 — it's much more easily found, usually runs $10-15, and is 60 minutes of awesome anime set to awesome music. And it it makes you want these toys — or, if you've already seen it, love it, and also want the toys — nyah nyah too bad losers nyah nyah I have them and you don't nyah nyah nyah.You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (which is safe for work).
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