Animation studio AC-bu explains its wonderfully weird film charting Powder’s transition from office worker to full-time musical performer
"It's like someone really good at art tried to make something awful, but it turned out amazing."
"The weird art styles and music feels really comforting"
"the most bizarre things keep popping up on my recommendations but im thankful because this is pretty rad"
I was going to try and write something terribly informative about this music video, waxing on about animation styles and inspirations, After Effects and yadda yadda yadda. But a quick scroll through the film's YouTube upload and these blessed commenters have all but done my job for me. Watch the video below and I promise you'll see exactly where they're coming from.
The promo in question is for 'New Tribe', a new tune by Japanese artist Powder, produced exclusively for her recent mix compilation Powder In Space, released via Beats in Space. The film itself, created and produced by Japanese animation studio AC-bu, is loosely based on Powder's journey from nine-to-five desk job to full-time DJ and musician. But, as our dear YouTube commenters above have so eloquently expressed, there really is a lot more to it than that.
LBB's Addison Capper spoke to the team at AC-bu to find out.
LBB> How did the relationship with Powder initially come about? What did she approach you with and how did it lead to the final script?
AC-bu> We know Powder through a long-time mutual friend of ours. She didn’t really ask us to do anything specific for this video, so we got the idea from simply listening to the music and considering how we could expand the feeling of the song in an interesting way.
LBB> The overarching theme is Powder's journey from nine-to-five job to full-time DJ. Is that right? I think there's more to it than that!
AC-bu> Yes! That’s definitely one of the stories the video is based on, which comes from Powder’s full bio and included in the liner-notes that we received from her. However, that subject was something secondary to the whole story.
It’s meant to be a kind of satire throughout, picking one of the current social problems in Japan as a focal point. In this video we dealt with the case of the Tsukiji Fish Market relocating to another location. Basing the story on this actual fact, we wanted to abstractly express the way we can update our decision making process. When we have to make a decision inside our mind, the brain tends to be forced to choose from two options - yes or no. But we didn’t think it necessary to deny ourselves an alternative option like this - and an update of that thought process could be a way to ascribe ourselves to a ‘New Tribe’.
LBB> The animation style is amazingly trippy - every time I watch it I feel like I spot something new! Can you tell us about the style you went for and the creative thought behind it?
AC-bu> We understand that we have a bit of a gap in the taste of what we make versus what’s currently considered to be cool or accepted widely in the world. However we try to take advantage of this gap and keep throwing in random ideas and information as much as possible - maybe that over-expressed approach emphasises the gap even more, providing the viewers with new discoveries with every view. So people might see us as somewhat ‘trippy’.
LBB> There are a few scenes - such as the fish market - that seem to blend animation with live action. Is that right? Why is that a process you wanted to explore here?
AC-bu> We have always been consciously mixing non-uniformed elements or textures all together in a single project. These mismatches create a rawness that initially feels wrong. But when it stacks up, it somehow provides a strange sense of high-ness to the viewers.
LBB> Fish features quite a lot! You’ve touched on this already, can you explain why?
AC-bu> To make a big decision in life, momentum and energy is very important, and we see that energy as ‘freshness of emotion’. The fresh fish is a metaphor for the spontaneous emotion.
LBB> Some of my favourite characters are the people spinning around that almost seem to be made of parts that aren't connected (sorry, that is a hard thing to explain!). What inspired the look and feel of these characters?
AC-bu> There is an application called LIVE2D. It’s a little difficult to explain briefly in text but it can create a mockup 3DCG animation by using a drawing - for example a female character - and separating her body parts into layers. We try to recreate that structure by using After Effects’ 3D layer. We intentionally turn or tilt the character a little more than it should be, to a point where the graphic collapses in a subtle, ecstatic way, and creates a new dimension to the artwork combined with a 3DCG-ish look. We were happy to be able to try a new expression on this work.
LBB> What can you tell us about the character design of Powder as she becomes the DJ? What inspired it?
AC-bu> Powder is called ‘Momo-chan’ by friends. Momo means peach in Japanese so the character’s shape is simply based on a peach. The ‘P’ written on the character’s shirt also comes from Peach and, of course, from Powder.
LBB> Are there any hidden messages / characters that viewers should look out for?
AC-bu> There are some minor details but we are more happy with people feeling or seeing something in it in their own way.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
AC-bu> To be honest, as the deadline was getting closer and closer we were not really sure if the video was going to be something good or not - until we finally finished it. However, from experience, it always turns out to be a better result this way, compared to when we can kinda picture how it will look from the start. Usually there’s no shortcut or express-way to solve that kind of struggle of creating something, so we just try hard and be as creative as possible till the end.