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.
In spite of its abstraction towards the end, Tekkonkinkreet has all the important ingredients to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience; after all, the characters are great, the world has a unique flavour, and the production values are to be respected on every level. I think a lot more people would like it if more people watched it, which is my way of saying pick it up and give it a try.
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.
Tekkon Kinkreet aims at being a masterpiece, but fails due to poor pacing, poor direction, and a lack of character empathy or development. The story is confusing and can't decide if it wants to be a human tale of strength or a fantastical tale of mystery, and the admittedly gorgeous animation is lovely, but distracts from the inherent problems the film has. Watch Tekkon Kinkreet if you want 110 minutes of interesting animation and fitting music; otherwise, steer clear of this one
First: I enjoy both versions, i think they did a great job with the dub. Wonderful scripts.
If you are a plot enthusiast, do yourself a favor and ignore all the people that write this one off. Yes, it can be a little confusing at first because there are several different groups of characters exacting agency and they all want different things. What joins the characters together isn't so much a cause as a place—Treasure Town. Not everyone in the movie has a clear or easy to understand goal, they all just want to exist in different ways and cannot do so without infringing on each other's happiness.
This is not a movie with a simple or nonsensical plot that acts as an excuse to show off the artwork (though the scenery and "costumes" are absolutely incredible). It is a movie that forces you to think a lot harder about what is going on in order to get something meaningful out of it. You might have to watch it more than once before you start to understand the clashing agendas of each character. But the cool thing is, it holds up each time. You can watch this movie over and over and get more out of it instead of less. None of the characters are one-dimensional, and there are a lot of them.
This movie provides great commentary on contemporary politics. It explores the relationships between the government, corporations, and organized vs. unorganized crime. It poses a lot of questions about what it means to grow up fending for yourself in an urban environment, and what each generation is and isn't entitled to upon being born. It also has a really neat, escapist, Peter-Pan sort of theme about the child's imagination (note which characters can "fly" and which can't, who manages to break into the childrens' world and how) coupled with brutal violence. It's more than just fun. It's beautiful, complicated... quite brilliant actually.
A anime film that could have easily been a Scorsese movie, this was a time when you can really see the art of animation transcend being just animation and deserve the title of a film.
Story - 7/10
For the most part the story is pretty easy to understand and follow. Two orphan brothers must do what they have to in order to survive and in doing so become the toughest gang around. Though when that toughness gets in the way of a redevelopment project run by the returning Yakuza leader and a sinister business man and Yakuza sub-boss their fun life of crime and play becomes deadly.
For the viewer the time the story changes for the boys is the same time things start to get a bit disturbing. Generally violence towards children is kept out of most art forms, but Black and White don't have that luck, eventually being pushed to the point where White fights for his life and Black fights for his sanity. In a great twist we see how, despite always believing White depended on Black, the opposite proved to be more so.
Animation - 7/10
Tekkon Kinkreet's animation is one of the first I've come across where it seems like each frame was given to a different number of animators and they each were entrusted with a specific character. Throughout the film the animation of each character is consistent yet each is done with a different style, unlike some films and shows where throughout you can see that a single animator was given a scene and it causes the look to differ throughout the film.
If this is true, I have no idea, it's just a observation of mine at the current time, it is a very intelligent way of doing things and it helped keep balance throughout the film, where as that jolt of a new style in a two hour movie can at times take away from the story.
Another style they used, which I first noticed and came to love in Summer Story (even though this came out first) was the outlining of characters in a color other than black. When a character is colored with lighter tones I really enjoy it, as it helps him or her pop more in the frame and offers a nice visual change.
As a whole I thought most of Tekkon Kinkreet's animation was top notch, while the faces weren't the most intricate or always visually pleasing, they did well to have them convert the emotions of the character. On the other hand the scenery was amazing, always full of detail, from the building and people to the trash and clutter of a city, it was one of the first movies that really seemed to get the true feel of a city in decay and not the over the top one we normally get.
Sound - 7/10
As with many Anime the soundtrack was there to add a bit of tension and fun to scenes, but nothing that will truly jump out at you to throw on your MP3 player or get you annoyed at the film, it was an overall average score, but its what you come to expect as not every show/movie can be Cowboy Bebop or Trigun when it comes to great music.
As usual my reviews are based on the English version and this time around they managed to get the voices spot on. Every character has a voice fit perfectly to their body and personality, each actor hit exactly the right chord to make you connect with every character, shut your eyes and you'd have no idea you were listening to people in a sound booth as opposed to actors living out the scene.
Characters - 9/10
I'm so happy this film wasn't weighed down by tons of useless characters and unnecessary sub plots. Outside of our two main characters, Black and White, you can count the other major characters on one hand….if you were born with six fingers.
Despite not having the time to fully develop each character, while keeping the story moving, you do get a great sense of each person and for the most part you can tell why they are the way they are.
Black and White are a great depiction of two brothers stuck in a bad situation, one who has to unfortunately be the parent at a young age and another who is almost blissfully unaware due to the fact his brother is doing everything in his power to protect him from seeing the reality of their situation and the decaying city around them. Despite having no parents Black and White are at times being looked after by two caring cops, Sawada and Fujimura and an old homeless man named Gramps who instills his wisdom on the two.
On the dark end most of the characters are pretty standard. Snake, the evil businessman and Yakuza Leader who has a gang of Ninja Assasins at his disposal. Suzuki, the Rat, another Yakuza leader and old criminal boss of Treasure Town who's idea it is to transform the city for profit alongside the Snake. Finally there is Kimura, a man who has fallen in with the Yakuza due to some hard times. Kimura is what we would assume Black's progression would be, forced into true evil due to his circumstances.
Overall - 8/10
With all things considered this is truly a top stand alone anime film, or as I've said just as a film in general. It may have its flaws in a slightly jumbled and rushed ending, but as a whole this sits up there with some of my favorite anime films, such as Summer Wards and a plethora of Miyazaki films. With true cinematographer levels of light and dark, a nice soundtrack and a engaging story TekkonKinkreet should be on every anime fans list.
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"?