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DIRECTED BY: Nobutaka Yoda, Hibiki Yoshizaki, Yuichiro Saeki
FEATURING: Hanon, Ano, Eve
PLOT: A story about a friendship between two schoolgirls, Taki and Aki, and their shared dream of a one-eyed monster serves as a framing device for a series of songs by the Japanese pop singer Eve.
COMMENTS: It begins with two schoolgirls discussing dreams in a diner. (Where would take that premise?) Taki relates a dream of a one-eyed monster, then leaves to get the girls a refill on their tea. Suddenly, Aki realizes she’s had the exact same dream.(Later, she will overhear people on a public bus describing an identical nocturnal vision.) Aki looks up and the diner is deserted; Taki is gone. Aki’s voiceover tells us she never heard from Taki again. A peppy guitar riff begins playing, Aki pines for Taki, and eventually a music video commandeers the screen.
And so it will go: little bits of story alternating with longer stretches of music by Eve. Eve is a camera-shy presence, commonly shot from behind so that we see only his shaggy blond mane, or seen in silhouette, or with his face hidden deep inside a shadowy hood, or with a bullhorn posed before his face as he shouts a particularly enthusiastic verse. The creativity required to constantly find new ways to shroud his identity is impressive. Musically, I suppose he’s competent; his tongue is fluid and precise as he drops cascades of syllables, with every song delivered in the same uptempo style, half-rapped, half-sung. Eve’s voice is pleasant but nothing special, although as a 53-year old American male who favors avant-garde jazz, I’m about as far away from his target demographic of teenage Japanese girls as possible. Despite the bubblegum sound, Eve’s lyrics tend towards the melancholic—not to mention the vague. (“It hurts, this restless center of a flower.”)
Those who aren’t fans in particular of Eve’s music will be tuning in for the animation, which doesn’t disappoint. First, a flock of animated white doves fly before the hooded singer. Then, brief inserts of anime characters pop in, happily hopping along to the beat. With each new song these characters and abstract whirligigs share more of the screen with the singer, overlaid on live concert footage, taking up more and more of the stage, swirling in patterns that obscure Eve almost entirely. The eye symbol, in various forms (e.g. briefly blinking into and out of existence on a skyscraper), begins to dominate the imagery, until we finally arrive at the film’s 6-minute all-animated centerpiece. A city of schoolgirls and schoolboys, equipped with happy-faced masks that flop in front of their real faces, share a city with tall, identical cyclopes: conformist youth flanked by fascist elders. But, using combat skills they learned from first person shooters, the kids revolt and slaughter their monster overlords, in a carnival of carnage recalling Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 scored to a techno beat. More music videos in the accustomed style wind down the action, and as a bonus, a second full-length animated short plays over the closing credits.
The title suggests the story of Adam and Eve, but aside from a few stray apples seen lying about, you won’t find much in that line of inquiry. Clearly, it’s Eve’s poppy music and the psychedelic anime routines that are the draw here. But the thin narrative does at least suggest themes of teen love, teen alienation, teen sexuality, and teen suicide, with a sly queer slant. Good stuff for the young, but even us crusty Gen-Xers could screen a lot worse entertainment in an hour.
Adam by Eve: A Live in Animation currently streams exclusively on Netflix.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“… simply looking at its fluid, fascinating collision of dreams with reality, it’s a satisfyingly bold adult animation project, one interested less in clear narrative, and more in visual expression for its own sake.”–Kambole Campbell, Polygon (contemporaneous)