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.
In the rusty and run-down Treasure Town, young orphans in their respective gangs rule the roost and use the landscape as their playground. The violent Black and naïve White are two such orphans who are unafraid of fellow children and Yakuza alike; never have they found a foe who could best them in a battle – until now. A strange man and his even stranger (and seemingly indestructible) henchmen have plans to tear down Treasure Town and erect an amusement park in its place, and they’ll cut down anyone who stands in their way. Can Black and White save their home, and each other?
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