Black and White are two orphans who roam the streets of Treasure Town, beating down any thug or yakuza who gets in their way. When mysterious foreign entrepreneurs appear with the intention of tearing down Treasure Town and replacing it with an amusement park, Black and White face their greatest adversaries yet. It is up to the destructive Black to save the fate of the city and up to the gentle White to save Black from his own dark nature.
At the 2006 Mainichi Film Awards, the film won the Best Film Award. At the 2008 Tokyo International Anime Fair it won the Best Original Story and Best Art Direction awards. It also won the 2008 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.
Coming from the dream combination of the emphatically cool Studio 4C and much admired manga-ka Taiyou 'Ping Pong' Matsumoto, Tekkonkinkreet is a movie I've long waited to see. Based on those two names alone, you should expect several things - let's start with moody and stylish visuals; almost-surreal art that gleefully shuns fan-pandering anime conventions and embraces the meaning of creative freedom, and then there is Matsumoto's dazzling talent for empathetic story telling; his subtle use of natural dialogue and eccentric body language that's clearly intent on plumbing the darkest depths of the human soul.
Tekkonkinkreet is also known as Black and White, and so named
are the two main characters; both being delinquent street kids who live out of a rusty old used car in the concrete city-scape Treasure Town. Despite being mere children, their gang, the (stray) Cats, dominate the violent underbelly of Treasure Town's yuppie society, their attentions feared by thugs, police and yakuza alike. As is immediately clear, Black and White aren't normal kids at all; for a start, they can fly, but mostly, they are defined by their emotional eccentricities.
Black is just that; a black-hearted, blood thirsty thug who is constantly looking for a fight; his attraction to violence borders on sadism and often he can be seen with a giant crow perched on his shoulder, the meat-eating birds that feed off of human garbage aptly symbolizing his pessimistic views on life. His snot-nosed buddy White is the exact opposite; optimistic, innocent and constantly laughing, he has dreams of a future outside of Treasure Town; a vision of rolling blue seas and sparkling golden sand. Black and White live for each other; Black protects White from the city's violent undercurrents, while White's very existence anchors Black's true departure into darkness.
The plot is simply a means to that end, and quite frankly, isn't so important. Treasure Town is being steam-rollered by an unscrupulous theme park franchise and hence, they need to get rid of the tourist-scaring delinquent kids. Unfortunately for them, Black sees the city as his town too, and his unrelenting intent on causing trouble begins what is a gradual descent into violent madness. The heart-rending characterisation extends to an entire cast of misfits, not least of all a scar-faced ex-yakuza struggling against the tide of violence to forge a better future for his pregnant girlfriend. Early in the movie, this same yakuza shows his professional streak when he gleefully removes the ears from one unlucky fellow.
The tragic and emotionally intense characterisation is well balanced by extended sequences of brutal and kinetic action, not least of all an Akira style opening scene that sees Black and White chasing a group of rival punks across colourful roof-tops and moving traffic. The gravity defying jumps, flips and kicks are well complemented by an emotive electronica score courtesy of British dance group Plaid. Of special note is that the music really captures the beautiful and surreal elements of Tekkonkinkreet, whimsical dreams of a flower-laden future totally at odds with Treasure Town's overflowing urban metropolis.
A truly three dimensional effort; the excellent Tekkonkinkreet is a rewarding and exciting movie that offers bitter-sweet moments of friendship and family, morals and loyalty, set in an unrelentingly violent and cruel world dominated by industry and capitalism. Animated with beautiful perfection and stylized to the point of surrealism, it's a great looking film that both exploits and cherishes the inherent contradictions of the human spirit.
Believe the hype. If you see "ZOMG TEKKON KINKREET IS LIKE THE COOLEST THING EVAR!" Believe them. I had heard the hype about this anime for a long time, and I know to never take what people say about stuff like this seriously. However, I decided to go ahead and watch it, it couldn't be boring right? And I had seen a recommendation from Mind Game (another terrific anime) and so...I watched it. At first I was a little sceptical, the director is Michael Arias. This is the first thing he has directed. He produced the Animatrix, which
for me made this film just a little sketchy, but believe me, it is definitely amazing. Arias is not Japanese, but he believes very heavily in quality.
Story: Black and White, Kuro and Shiro are orphans, and they're the "Cats." In a word they're street thugs and it's mainly Kuro (Black) who does the fighting. Shiro (White) is missing something in his head and he constantly "phones" outer space to let them know how he's doing. The main relationship is between these two and it's expertly crafted. There are two police officers who really do a great job of balancing the anime. Their presence really keeps the movie level. The antagonist is Snake, he's trying to milk Treasure Town for all it's worth, to do this his plan is to create an amusement park. Kuro doesn't want that to happen. I'm finding it very difficult to explain the story and I really don't think that I can do it any justice at all. The story is multifaceted and multilayered. There are no scrap characters and every conversation is important. There are absolutely no wasted scenes in this anime. I was getting a huge Steinbeck vibe, I was feeling that this anime was doing a great job of channeling his "Of Mice and Men." White's dream of going to the ocean is a lot like Lennie's dream of owning a farm and tending rabbits.
Art: The art is amazing. Every scene is breathtakingly beautiful. The backgrounds are detailed so well that I occasionally paused the screen just to admire their beauty. The art is probably the best I've seen in an anime and the details are beautifully rendered. The characters style is slightly minimalistic. Compared to the backgrounds the characters are very bare, but this suits the feel perfectly. The characters fit in so well with the backgrounds and interact with the world so well. The art is absolutely beautiful. Every scene of animation is beautiful. There are so many sequences that took my breath away, there is never a choppy scene, no scene feels clunky. The animation is so perfectly fluid and I cannot express how amazing it is, it has to be seen to be believed. The one thing that I thought was perfectly done was how the art and the mood of the anime clash wonderfully. The colours are very bright and vivid, and if you really weren't paying attention you'd think that this is a very bright and happy anime. But the anime is dark, it's quite dark and the art only shows that darkness at certain intervals, but for the most part the anime is bright and colourful, whereas the mood is dark.
Sound: This is one of the first anime that I've seen where I was activally paying attention to the background music. It was all perfect, it was all fast and just amazing. I'm a firm believer in that music in anime does not make or break it, it either makes a good anime better, or worse; or a bad anime better or worse. In Tekkon Kinkreet, the music makes an already excellent anime even better.
Character: Every character is incredibly, and sometimes painfully, human. With the exception of the alien assassins of course. The relationships between the characters, especially between Black and White are so beliveable and so incredibly real. I found myself caring so much about all of these characters, which is not something that I regularly do. It's amazing because every character changes and every relationship changes as well, it's rare to see how realistically each character's change is portrayed.
Enjoyment: If you haven't noticed already, I love this anime, it's completely and utterly perfect. There is not a boring or meaningless scene. There are no pointless characters, every character is unique and human. Kinkreet is very original and it really does an amazing job of everything that it does. I cannot express how enjoyable this anime is, you really need to watch it for yourself.
If this isn't at the top of your list, put it there. I believe that in order to appreciate anime you have to see both terrible and amazing anime. To me there are very, very few perfect anime, I would have a hard time listing them on my hands. However, this anime is so close to perfection that I would myself, call it perfect. Watching this anime reconfirms the reasons why I started watching anime in the first place.
This isn't going to be an easy one to review. I have very mixed feelings towards Tekkon Kinkreet. It's one of those anime that to me wasn't great and certainly wasn't bad. However, that isn't to say it was average. It's more accurate to say it was simultaneously spectacular, and a total piece of shit...so it ended up in the middle.
Oh and Spoiler alert! I can't really talk about why I'm conflicted with this film unless I go into some spoiler territory.
Plot and characters:
We are introduced to a wild and beautifully animated city. According to the director, this city was created by taking elements
from Japan, China, and India. Our main characters are 2 orphans named Black and White. Black is an angry, brooding, violent anti-hero. White is a special needs kid who remains pure and innocent despite being surrounded by crime and poverty. Together they balance each other out and form a very obvious Yin-Yang dynamic. The first 1/4th of the film is Black and White living together in the slum called Treasure Town and defending their turf from Yakuza. We get some very touching scenes of brotherly bonding. We're introduced to the city and Tekkon gets to demonstrate its beautifully fluent animation and vibrant colors. Everything is going great. The movie at this point is safely in 8/10 territory. Then everything starts going wrong.
Around 1/3rd through the movie, an evil foreign real estate developer is introduced. This guy wants to destroy the slum where our heroes live in order to build a giant amusement park. That's right! It's time to rip off the plot of such great films as "Breakin 2 Electric Boogaloo and basically every Disney TV movie from the 90s. It gets better. The evil real estate tycoon introduces 3 super powered assassins who can fly. We're just going to throw in super powers and kick any small sense of realism out the window halfway into the movie. The tycoon's plan is to have the assassins kill Black and White. Once the 2 orphan defenders are dealt with, the rest of the slum will give up hope and evict themselves...I guess. The first assassin is dealt with when White pours gasoline on him and sets him on fire. White is pretty pleased with himself and says "Maybe this whole rotten city should burn!". WTF Tekkon!? We're over halfway through and out of fucking nowhere you turn the sweet retarded kid into Rorschach?! White ends up getting injured by the 2nd assassin and is taken into protective custody. We also get a touching, tragic scene in which one Yakuza thug is forced to kill his old boss at the behest of the tycoon. The Yakuza guy loved his old boss, but the Tycoon will kill his family if he doesn't obey. The boss understands this and accepts his fate. It's probably the best scene in the entire movie and if had ended here, we would still be in 7/10 territory.
Now we enter act 3 and here is where things REALLY fall apart. The foreign real estate tycoon succeeds in tearing down the Treasure Town slum and building an amusement park...surrounded by more Chinese/Indian slum. I can't wait for Disney World to build a park in the endless, sprawling slums outside Bengal! The tycoon though is STILL obsessed with killing Black and White! He develops a plan to kill Black in the middle of his own amusement park using his remaining assassins. Never mind the fact this would create a massive panic and badly hurt visitor numbers to his park. Character motivations in this film make zero sense. Speaking of which, the yakuza thug reports back to the tycoon and just decides "fuck it! I hate this guy too much!". The thug kills the tycoon and gets shot in return. Whelp, his family is fucked. It also completely undermined the best scene in the movie. We aren't done yet though! Black goes completely insane without having White by his side and develops multiple personality disorder. We're 90% in and its time to just throw in multiple personalities. Since we have no time left, Black quickly kills the assassins and banishes his dark personality in 5 minutes simply by thinking about White's innocence. This is definitely the fastest and easiest I've seen dissociative identity cured in a movie! It's almost like it had no reason to be here! Black reunites with White and the film subverts expectations yet again by ending perfectly happy with them playing at a beach. As for the 5 or so murders and 12 assaults Black commits in this movie with tons of witnesses? Who gives a shit?! It has zero repercussions! The film just kind of ends and I don't feel like anything was really learned or accomplished.
Art and Sound:
The art and animation is amazing! This film just oozes with style and personality. It has a very unique aesthetic that kind of reminds me of Yuasa's style. The soundtrack is honestly nothing special and I wasn't impressed with the voice acting. This anime was written and directed by an American guy. If this anime is famous for anything, it's that little bit of trivia. So I went with the English dub. Big mistake. White's voice actor is a 6 year old child who had no prior acting experience and according to IMDB has never worked again after this. The dub is just fucking painful in places and the soundtrack does this film no favors.
Tekkon Kinkreet is a visually stunning film! If you consider anime to be a purely visual medium and ONLY a visual medium, you can still love every second of this film. I just want to make it clear that I'm not some uncultured asshole who gives low ratings to purely visual experiences. I didn't go on Letterbox or IMDB and give low ratings to "Man with Movie Camera" or "Olympia". Those are great films and I rated them accordingly. Tekkon is in fact a narrative story and to me doesn't just fail in telling that story, it failed HARD. It still has individual scenes that are good, but the total project is just...ugh. It has this weird obsession with subverting expectations in the stupidest possible ways. I think the director just gets giddy to jerk the wheel and send us all over a cliff. Tekkon Kinkreet is like watching City of God as written and directed by a drunk Rian Johnson. No matter how pretty it looks, I just can't personally rate this one above a 6.
Tekkon Kinkreet took me by surprise. At first I noticed the superb art and choice of colour, but then the story evolved and it completely took me of guard.
Story: It's sad and dark but not too heavy due to its more comical scenes. The only thing I could've wished for was more backstory as well as explaining more in depth of Kuro's feelings, why he did the things he did etc.
Art: Simply amazing. My eyes had several orgasms watching this. I also like how they chose to colour this, it is very colourful and happy for such a sad story, but it really works! I
think it was intentional to do so, I think that all the details and happy colours were there to show us the false image of reality, how we see the world. The story and the art clashes, but in a way that made me think. I thought that maybe this is a cheerful story watching the first minutes; but the further I got the more I felt like something was wrong, the story didn't match, life in this city wasn't as easy as what met the eye, it wasn't pleasant or beautiful, it was ugly and full of hatred, sorrow and dysfunctional living conditions. The false image gave a pleasent rethinker and a very interesting feel to the movie, it was almost as if you were confused but understood everything. Colourful art that feel sad isn't and everyday experience.
Sound: It fits the story and didn't feel repetitive, but nothing that really stuck with you after it ended.
Character: Oh damn do I love Shiro! My heart broke when he screamed that heartclenching scream while being taken away from Kuro. Shiro has a Asberger's feel to him(but that's not confirmed), very childish for his age but also very wise, he's accurately pictured as a child but also someone who has been abandoned, living on the street and been forced to grow up too quickly. Kuro acts like the parent, taking care of Shiro and putting him above everything; without Shiro he feels no reason to live. What I like about Kuro's character-display is that we are shown that he's vulnerable as well, that he too is still a child and not always the strong tough guy saving the day.
Enjoyment: I loved it, it had me glued to the screen the whole time and not because the story was fast and you had to try and keep up with it, but because it was so utterly beautiful.
Overall: This was a fantastic ride and I'm so disappointed for not taking it upon myself to watch this earlier. The characters were so real with flaws and feelings and actions based on real thought and emotions; everything isn't perfect, sometimes you don't make the perfect decision and sometimes your feelings aren't rational but that's human. When the characters expressed feelings they expressed it in a realistic way, I could literally feel Shiro's pain in my bones. And all this while this beautiful artwork is doing it's thing, being colourful was a bold move but also the right move, I don't think the story would have been as good if it was dark through and through.
I'd recommend it to everyone, even if you aren't a sucker for sad animes this is worth your time, it's the perfect amount of sad and happy. And if that STILL doesn't float you boat, watch it for the art and visuals, so so beautiful! The art man, THE ART!
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