I acknowledge that there’s widespread criticism regarding this movie; I’ve read in various places that the scenes don’t connect very well, that the director has no idea what he’s doing, and that the visuals are nothing but a failed attempt to compensate for the poor story. I, on the other hand, never noticed these ‘problems’ and don’t see what all the complaining is about. I enjoyed Tekkonkinkreet because it didn’t mistake confusing the audience with being meaningful – despite some abstraction towards the end, I always knew exactly what was going on and enjoyed the ride for the action-oriented symbolism it was.
At heart, Tekkonkinkreet is a metaphor for the light and dark sides of human existence – the entire narrative is geared towards establishing this theme. At first Tekkonkinkreet presents an idyll along the lines of Peter Pan in which stray kids can live as they please. Like the lost boys, Black and White live a life free of rules and grownups, and survive by engaging in petty crimes and good-natured gang conflict. Once the yakuza arrive, however, life in Treasure Town becomes rather sinister; events start to spiral out of Black’s control and the movie subsequently descends into a weird, disturbing sequence of events involving a lot of gory violence and bizarre plot concepts.
The downside (or strength, depending on your viewpoint) of Tekkonkinkreet’s approach is that, as it gets more involved with its symbolism, the simplistic ‘kids v yakuza’ plot becomes rather secondary. The result is an abstracted ending heavily focused on Black and White’s personal development. Although some will undoubtedly be put off by this, I think more patient anime fans will enjoy the change in focus.
Tekkonkinkreet’s environments are exceptionally detailed and atmospheric, and actually remind me a lot of Akira; much of the scenery is a hodgepodge of detail, bustling activity, and inventive colour tones. Opening with a bird’s eye view of Treasure Town, my first impression was that the city looked good enough to eat. The character designs, on the other hand, with their distorted features and disproportionate limbs, are very much a part of Tekkonkinreet’s bizarre overtones.
On top of this, the movie offers a handful of high-octane action scenes, which are exciting and visually delightful.
Both the Japanese and American voice actors are fantastic. I especially like the Japanese voice actor for Rat, who manages to be emotive even whilst speaking in low tones. The American White is another praise-worthy performer.
As for the soundtrack, it’s a mellow, edgy mix of jazz beats and industrial music. Only a few people with fringe tastes in music would listen to this outside of the context of the movie but it still makes for an excellent gritty atmosphere while you’re watching.
Black is easily my favourite character. Although his personality could have done with a little more explanation in the first half, his distinctive streetwise attitude instantly caught my attention. Black considers himself to be the boss of the city, which isn’t a far-fetched claim – even the police respect his role on the streets despite his young age. With a personality defined by his mature calm and cocky aggressiveness, Black is instantly admirable, if not necessarily likeable. Moreover, the fact that his attitude easily frightens others makes him highly intriguing.
His brother, White, reminds me a lot of Ed from Cowboy Bebop. While White may be freakier than Ed and have clairvoyant powers to boot, he shares that habit of talking childish nonsense and being prone to wild fantasies. I couldn’t engage with White on any normal level since he’s so disconnected from reality; however, he fits Tekkonkinkreet’s style so well that he remains entertaining nonetheless.
Although their sibling love is not portrayed as delicately as the relationship in, say, Grave of the Fireflies, the brothers still take a very emotional journey together; I thought the everyday events they shared quite touching.
As for the antagonists, most of them are typical yakuza bullies. While the boss is nothing to write home about, a couple of his minions are portrayed with far more care and attention. For example, Rat, an old-fashioned gangster, finds himself caught in the storm of change; new honourless businesspeople are running the show and destroying his traditional way of life. His defeatist outlook in the face of such developments is revealed with a healthy dose of sadness.
I'm a big fan of Studio 4C; self-described classics such as End of the World and Princess Arete, not to mention various shorts in The Animatrix, are older Studio 4C titles that I feel should not be missed by any anime fans. Thus, when I saw that Tekkon Kinkreet was also created by Studio 4C, I couldn't help but watch it. Unfortunately, Tekkon Kinkreet ended up being an even larger disappointment than Paprika.
In a cinematic fashion, Tekkon Kinkreet opens with a sweeping and panoramic shot of a rusty and run-down city - the camera flying through the air alongside a flock of birds. It is this shot alone that instills a sense of excitement and wonder - and ultimately ends up being the major disappointment due to how high it sets your expectations.
In a plodding and inconsistent manner, we are introduced to the main players of the story: two orphans, the violent Black and potentially mentally-handicapped White, a random band of Yakuza mobsters, and the pale-faced villain of the story. Further obfuscating any chance of a well-paced introduction is the inclusion of endless amounts of dialogue, coupled with admittedly gorgeous animation techniques. You are generally so enthralled with the pretty CG and bizarre character designs that it's difficult to pick up on the very weak and uninspiring plot.
And what is the plot, you ask? Two orphan children try to stop a bad man and his cohorts from tearing down the city and building an amusement park for their own profit. I guess the goal of the story is to make you feel sorry for the kids, to want them to be able to keep living in poverty in their squalor, etc. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not feeling it. Perhaps part of the reason is because the kids are shown as being violent and somewhat ruthless (at least on the part of Black); regardless, it wasn't convincing.
Ultimately Tekkon Kinkreet's major failure is its pacing and direction - you are jerked abruptly from scene to scene in a flurry of pretty effects, and eventually are left to ponder the question, "why am I still watching this?" There is absolutely no sense of flow; each scene stands alone, while the transitions between them seem forced and unnatural.
Unfortunately, the poor pacing and direction unwillingly places another black mark on the idea of American intervention into the anime world, as Tekkon Kinkreet, while produced through Studio 4C in Japan, was directed by the American Michael Arias. Whether these problems are based on the direction of Arias, or the story itself, remains to be unseen; regardless, the failure will surely be judged as indicative of American "interference" into the anime realm.
There's no mistaking the animation of Studio 4C; it's incredibly detailed like a Miyazaki film, but gritty and primitive enough that it could come from the loins of no other. Tekkon Kinkreet tries to up the bar a little by incorporating loads of stunning CG shots, which are seamlessly integrated. The beginning of the film is most impressive, showing the kids jumping from flying car to flying car, with the rest of traffic zipping along in the background.
Later on in the film, though, the story and character development take a major back seat while the animation tries in vain to support the sinking ship. Gorgeous panning and zooming effects introduce each scene, which presumably is done to distract us from the god-awful pacing and flow. Distracting from a poor story is possible; distracting from poor pacing is pretty much impossible.
The last thing I'll say about the animation is that the character designs are unmistakably ugly. Though the background shots are complex and rich with life, the characters are overly simplistic and unattractive; nothing but basic lines and shading compose their faces and bodies. The main villain reminds me of Astroboy days, when certain characters had noses that looked an awful lot like a limp... "you know what."
Like its animation, Tekkon Kinkreet's audio is well chosen. Cinematic orchestral tracks are mixed with an occasional high octane EBM piece - both of which fit perfectly with the scenes in question. Very often though, there is no music at all; the silence instead is highlighted by a very convincing array of sound effects.
Unless Tekkon Kinkreet was made, on purpose, to be all style and no substance, its goal was undoubtedly strong character development. Saying this goal is not met is an understatement. Black and White are unconvincing, the main villain is predictable and boring, and the stories of minor characters are forgettable in the midst of the flurry of confusion. In addition to the normal human characters, we are introduced to some fantastical ones as well: the indestructible soldiers that can defy gravity at will, and something called the Minotaur which surfaces near the end (and is the cause of massive amounts of eye rolling). I felt nothing for any of the characters and any attempts at development seemed forced and fake.
Demograph: 15+ but gets better with age
Black and White live in a clapped out Fiat 500. They are orphans, and White is retarded. Black looks after White in the dangerous Treasure Town, stealing to keep them both alive and eventually escape. When the Yakuza plan to take over the city and rid it of the verminous street-kids, Black must fight to protect White and claim the city as his territory.
I read Black and White in the much-missed 'adult manga' magazine Pulp in the late 90s. A touching, stylish and original manga, it sat well in Pulp, and well on my bookshelf.
This adaptation has a lot to offer as well. Overall I don't think it was quite as powerful as the manga, but it certainly has visual flair in surplus.
The story is Matsumoto's, and is interesting and charming though perhaps not fantastically original. The conveyance of emotion is strong; Black's emotional breakdown is touching.
Michael Arias' use of computer graphics is second to none. The beautiful, even romantic cityscapes revolve in glorious vibrancy. Like Ōtomo Katsuhiro's, Matsumoto Taiyo's designs turn mundane concrete and metalwork into true spectacles; bathed in colour, intricacy and poetry. For me, that is surely the essence of anime; one which is often spoiled by splicing-in out of place CGI or relying solely on it. Arias succeeds with his own programming, created specifically for such a task. The result is not a video game, nor a collage of disjointed media: it is simply a 3D anime.
The character designs are flawless, charming and perfectly rendered on screen. It is exactly like watching the comic.
Nice music, good voices (Japanese)...
People have complained that the characters aren't likeable. For me that is incomprehensible. White, as my girlfriend rightly pointed out (first time for everything, right fellas?), is adorable. His semi-retarded persona is only lovable. Black is also a touching illustration of the disturbed street-kid.
Someone said they couldn't feel anything for either of them because they are criminals. What kind of comment is that? Sure, they are. But that's what the story is about. Does it make films like City of God or The Godfather emotionless?
It gets a bit odd towards the end, and the ability for the children to perform fantastic acrobatics throughout is a little strange. But anime can take such liberties. However, what's the deal with the line "I gotta say I never met a tall guy worth a shit"?
Tekkon Kinkreet--a title I hope to type as little as possible in the rest of this review--is a strange movie. The whole thing sets out to tell you that it's a little bit strange, and it delivers on that promise.
That said, it's quite good. Just strange.
There are at least two plots in this, and a variety of subplots. The most obvious plot is that of the Cats--Black and White--against the yakuza and the monster they bring in, Mr. Snake. This plot, once you set aside a lot of the urban fantasy elements, is pretty straightforward.
The more interesting plot is the relationship of Black and White and Black's battle against his inner demons. This plot is largely played out in the Black's subconcious. I think. In fairly classic tradition for anime as they enter their conclusion, it gets a little surreal in the end, and what's going on and how becomes less than entirely clear. But I grew up on Evangelion--surreality I can handle. In Tekkon Kinkreet, at least, I don't have to watch a naked teenage girl melt into goo while giggling. This is a net win.
There's a legitimate complaint to be said about the narrative jerking around a bit, but we're talking about an anime that is operating on a fairly symbolic level, so I'm not sure those complaints hold too much water. In any event, they didn't interrupt my train of thought. But then, I only watch these things in 20 minute increments. If you sit down and watch it properly, you may hate it. Which is entirely your problem.
I have to preface this by saying I love reductionist art. The character designs that people have complained about delighted me, because I enjoyed seeing the level of differentiation the characters had even though each were composed of just a few pen strokes. It upped the surrealism of the movie, which I think is the only way you can swallow everything, so I call it a win.
The backgrounds and scenery were equally fantastic, and detailed to a level that really called out the contrast between the city and the people in it.
Lastly, the actual animation was slick and pretty--there are some delightful to watch moments when the Cats are navigating the city or engaging in their chief recreation of purposeful violence.
The sound was good. I didn't notice the music much. Moving on...
The characters in Tekkon Kinkreet are split between the well developed and the archetypical. Black and White are well developed, beginning as a pair of violent street kids and showing real depth in their relationship. Black experiences some genuine evolution of the course of the movie, which is good, since that seems to be the actual plotline. White, while seemingly unchanging, still grows in depth over time.
The stand out character is actually a yakuza, Kimura, who over the course of his personal subplot goes from a petty gangster like any other to a sympathetic character trying to build a life for his family.
The other characters are interesting, but as I said fall back on archetypes. Mysterious villain, wise kindly old man, hard-edged cop, and so on. I can forgive this because there was less than two hours to develop all the characters. Hopefully you're a reasonable minded individual and can forgive this as well.
I liked it. Surreal, but no melting people. I may even watch it again someday, so I can decide whether people were literally flying around or there was some metaphor I was missing.
Is it time for another review already? Yes! It's that time again, and this time armed with ThePatches pro tips; I'm ready to tackle another one. Today's review is on Tekkon Kinkreet, which is an anime created by Studio 4°C, and was an iTunes purchase for me on my recent travels.
Have you ever heard the old country song by Toby Keith "A little less talk, and a lot more action"? That's what this anime felt to me. Before you start getting out the pitch forks, let me say that I enjoyed the anime overall. As a fan of anime like Fairy Tail, Naruto, and Bleach, this anime left me bored. I actually put it down for a week, before picking it back up and finishing it.
That's a shame, because the story of the two orphans trying to survive in an evolving run down city is a great storyline to follow. You follow two characters named Black and White, which symbolize more than you think, as they attempt to run "their town". Without giving away too much of the storyline, take care to notice the similarities of Black with Evil, and vice versa with White. Even though the storyline had a great premise, I found that it left me lacking content. It seemed to pick up a story and end a story with no real beginning or end. This may be because I was watching it off iTunes. Something I'm missing, or something that was left off. Doesn't matter either way, as when the anime ended, I didn't feel a loss of a connection with any of the characters.
As far as animation is concerned, they were so-so as well. The animation took more of an art-form instead of a compelling anime. Again, as you may have read in my other reviews, I'm a lover of newer drawing style. The city and landscapes were drawn well, but the characters seem to be missing something. This may be due to my lack of connection as referenced above, but I couldn't help but be bothered by the character animations.
Overall, I gave it an 8 out of 10, and I'm sure this review will bring some hate. I just didn't really care for it, but it was a decent anime at the end of the day.