“Adam by Eve” isn’t technically a documentary, but it could be. With a general lack of documentaries on the state of J-pop available to non-Japanese, this 59-minute film manages to catch up viewers on what’s going on with the current artistic state of the genre.
Currently streaming on Netflix and billed as “live-action animation,” “Adam by Eve” combines real-world footage with animated footage supervised by Studio Khara. There’s a plot – a high school girl searches for her best friend as the world around her warps into something more fantastical – but the film is more about immersing viewers in a surreal experience through music and imagery. , a sort of animated version of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”
It’s an appropriate mood for a work centered on Japanese musician Eve, who makes sporadic appearances throughout the film and whose songs provide her soundtrack. Eve’s animated music videos proved as effective as his rhythmic rock in establishing him as one of the country’s emerging stars. He also caught the attention of overseas fans after providing the theme song for the anime series “Jujutsu Kaisen” last year.
Directed and edited by Nobutaka Yoda, “Adam by Eve” is essentially a multi-song music video in the vein of Daft Punk’s “Interstella 5555” that offers insight into Eve’s visual and sonic aesthetic. As far as an individual musical act goes, it’s a welcome change of pace from Netflix’s typically dry documentaries, which rely a little too heavily on access to talking heads. In contrast, the central protagonist of “Adam by Eve”, Eve, is never clearly visible. His face is constantly blurred or obscured as the film’s trippy visuals take center stage.
Anonymity is a trend led by artists such as Yorushika, Yoasobi and Ado, which can be interpreted as a form of rebellion to our love for overexposed Instagram influencer culture. The use of animated avatars isn’t necessarily new either, but today’s young artists are trying to enhance their music experience with animation, an experience filled with references and jokes for those who are part of the culture.
So while “Adam by Eve” overtly presents itself as a long-form music video, it essentially acts as a documentary on new musical and aesthetic trends among young J-pop creators – the connection to anime being particularly relevant. In the world of Japanese pop culture, being in the know means being able to name musicians as well as hosts.
Mainstream J-pop is also taking notice. In July 2021, pop group SixTones released an anime-style video for “Figure”, while in January they released the similarly animated “Uyamuya” – both dubbed the “YouTube” versions. Record labels are also using the aesthetic to release older urban pop tracks such as Miki Matsubara’s 1979 hit “Mayonaka no Door: Stay With Me”.
Around the world, music isn’t just an audio experience, and it hasn’t been for some time. A flashy music video can make you go viral, while thousands choose to chill with the Lo-Fi Hip-Hop girl daily. Japanese artists like Eve look to their country’s rich visual arts history to complement their songs and find a new way to present Japanese music to the world.
“Adam by Eve” is streaming now on Netflix.
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