On-Gaku: Our Sound – OIAF 2019 Review

Imagine the mumble-core likings of Hong Sang-soo, mixed in with a bit of Aki Kaurismäki and John Carney’s Sing Street, and you essentially get On-Gaku: Our Sound. Produced for a micro-budget of $40,000 USD, Kenji Iwaisawa and his crew of resourceful, resilient teammates managed to put together one hell of an entertaining light 60-minute feature.

Do the jokes sometimes run on for far too long, where it just becomes repetitive to watch? Yes.

Is the narrative slight, where the plot doesn’t take as many risks as it should have, with it’s characters, environment, and plot progression? Definitely.

Is it a beautifully inspiring comedic romp, that shocks and impresses the most stern of viewers? Absolutely! 

The official winner of this year’s Nelvana Grand Prize for Animated Feature at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, On-Gaku: Our Sound was arguably the most risky, bold, and eccentric film from this year’s tasteful selection. The film is economical in what it’s set out to do; to create an experience worthwhile, that will burst a few laughs and maybe possibly teach the occasional spare moral. Adapted from the manga of the same name by Hiroyuki Ohashi, Iwaisawa adds his own style and visually appealing flare to the original source material. Created a decade after the first volume was published in Japan, this cinematic return to these endearing high schoolers, is warmly welcomed by both observant fans of the original material, and the majority of newcomers, who simply seek for a good time. 

On-Gaku: Our Sound is a bit of an endurance test though. It sometimes challenges the viewer into various situations that feel tacky and poorly paced, that come from a genuinely good place. It’s never boring, although it does test one’s patience during its elongated second act. It isn’t until the bombastic finale, where the film truly rocks it’s heart out. A particular bit involving a recorder had me laughing and crying from tears of pure amusement and hilarity. The final minutes, including a beautiful scene involving a local rock concert, are easily the highlights of this very special film. Iwaisawa should be very proud of what he created. 

Bound to be a cult-classic in the near future, among the community of hyper-active anime nerds and obscure pop-art critics, On-Gaku: Our Sound is a good time, front to back. It’s a flawed fluff piece of sorts, that will garner acclaim and a genuine fan base over time, and for good reason too! It’s an endlessly enjoyable and quotable film, that never fails in enchanting it’s audience with the various adventures of Kenji, and his rag-tag gang of band-mates.

On-Gaku: Our Sound screened at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival. The film is currently seeking international distribution

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