On-Gaku: Our Sound review: wild hand-drawn anime that took seven years to make

There’s a scene early on in the standalone anime movie On-Gaku: Our Noise that represents its scrappy underdog mindset. After acquiring a bass guitar from a complete stranger and getting whatever else they require from their high school’s music space, overdue Kenji and his pals Ota and Asakura go back to his location to jam out. After beating at their instruments for a while throughout an excellent 360-degree montage, the trio time out, rapt in utter awe at what they’ve simply done. “What just happened felt so good,” Kenji states with monotone genuineness, the other 2 nodding in arrangement. On-Gaku: Our Noise is a story of artists who can’t play music, however still discover satisfaction in the act of developing. It’s a deadpan pal funny about amateur enthusiasm, produced through the raw power of an animator’s amateur enthusiasm.

On-Gaku: Our Noise, based upon a manga produced by Hiroyuki Ôhashi, is the feature-length launching of newbie director Kenji Iwaisawa, who made the movie throughout 7 years with a mostly amateur group. The last task uses its freewheeling Do It Yourself perceptiveness loud and happy. The plot centers on Kenji, Ota, and Asakura, 3 high-school ne’er-do-wells who choose to begin a band on an impulse that’s equivalent parts motivation and dullness. This ultimately leads to them being welcomed to dip into an approaching summertime celebration, despite the fact that they understand definitely no tunes, and can just increasingly bang away at their guitars and drums with the sort of monastic concentration and repeating anticipated from a post-rock band.

Kenji smashes his guitar in On-Gaku: Our Sound

Image: GKIDS

Along the method, there are hijinks including Aya, the trio’s schoolmate and just female pal, and a mohawked gang of competing goons from a nearby school who are itching to begin some difficulty. However truly, the bulk of On-Gaku: Our Noise’s run-time just grazes versus these components prior to going back to luxuriate in the experimentalism and absurdity that manifests naturally through teenage idleness. “When you think about a story about high-school students starting a band, you tend to think about a youthful tale involving friendship, love, or struggles,” Iwaisawa said in an interview with Deadline. “But On-Gaku didn’t have any of those obvious elements, which is why I especially enjoyed the story.” It’s an unapologetically vibe-oriented movie, capturing the easygoing capriciousness of being young and discovering your bliss.

It’s a narratively unassuming yet eccentric premise, brimming with the same sort of offbeat Gen Z humor and energy featured in animated sitcoms like Beavis and Butt-Head or Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. Such comparisons feels especially pertinent in terms of the film’s art style, with simplified yet memorable character designs that feels like a cross between the work of One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 artist ONE and the animations of Swedish illustrator Magnus Carlsson, perhaps most popular for his 1997 music video of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.”

The design of the film’s characters are essential to much of On-Gaku’s quirkiness and humor, with the majority of the film’s most memorable laughs prefaced by long pauses locked on Kenji’s nigh-perpetually expressionless face before he flatly delivers nearly every one of the witheringly hilarious punchlines. The film’s distinct hybrid of rotoscope animation, hand-drawn characters, and painted backgrounds is also a big part of On-Gaku’s defining quirkiness.

Kenji leaps into the air for his big finale in On-Gaku: Our Sound

Photo: GKIDS

The film’s quirkiness is also attributable to its use of hybrid animation in the form of rotoscoping alongside its more traditionally animated assets, which give it almost magnetic visual appeal. The characters’ relatively rigid designs are rendered with charming clumsiness and innocuous fluidity. It’s as entertaining to watch these characters just sit around and shoot the shit as it is to see them bang away at their instruments or burst into some off-the-wall chase scene.

Curiously enough, what stands out the most about On-Gaku: Our Noise’s, err, sound design is that in spite of its narrative emphasis on rock ’n’ music and the original songs composed by musicians like Tomohiko Banse, Grandfunk, and Wataru Sawabe, it’s a comfortingly quiet film, for the most part. The scenes of Kenji and company walking through the streets of their hometown, with an ambient buzz of human activity peeking at the audible periphery of the action on-screen, are arguably some of the movie’s best. They draw the audience not just into a scene and place, but into a peculiar, approximate sense-memory of adolescence.

On-Gaku: Our Sound is humorous adolescent-rock comedy with an irreverent sense of dry deadpan wit that would feel right at home along with the likes of Daria or Home Movies. If this is what Iwaisawa was able to accomplish on his own over the course of seven years, the 40-year-old director has a bright future ahead of him, and the world of anime is fortunate to have him.

On-Gaku: Our Noise is now offered for leasing on Amazon, Vudu, and other digital rental services.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.