Jun 3, 2011

[Movies] Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

Tekkonkinkreet (2006)It's interesting how companies like Pixar and Dreamworks animation have helped herald a change in terms of how Western countries view animated features. Gone are the days when cartoons automatically meant something strict for children and more and more they've tried to explore the medium, although mainly from the more comedic side of the spectrum.

In truth, they're still playing catch-up with Japan, who has always viewed the amazing world of anime as a separate art form in itself. And thus you get some very powerful and striking stories but told through animation of various kinds. The message is more than the medium used to convey it after all and the end results can be pretty impressive. And Japan has been doing this for many years now and thankfully it looks like there's no end to their efforts to push the envelope and see how far things can go.

This movie was...well...wow. I hardly know where to begin in today's efforts to post a worthy review for the piece. And it's certainly a work of art in its own right, one with a powerful message about human nature, the question of good and evil within each of us and ultimately the innocence of children.

Tekkonkinkreet is a 2006 Japanese animated film adapted from the manga of the same name created by Taiyō Matsumoto. It was directed by Michael Arias and animated by Studio 4°C. The movie won the Best Film Award at the 2006 Mainichi Film Awards and the 2008 Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

In Treasure Town, the streets are truly ruled by two children - Black (Kazunari Ninomiya / Scott Menville) and White (Yu Aoi / Kamali Minter). Black has a strong tendency towards violence and is a fierce street fighter who definitely has a darker side to him that he barely keeps in control. Whether with just his fists or improvised weapons like lead pipes and such, he beats down any challengers to his "rule" in Treasure Town. In contrast, White is pretty much a personification of innocence. He appears to be somewhat out of touch with reality given his propensity to ramble and go off-tangent in the middle of conversations. Then again, this just may be the product of a hyperactive imagination as is typical of young children everywhere.

But now the yakuza have started to move into the town with the plans turning the city into an amusement park. With their leader Snake (Masahiro Motoki), he proceeds to direct his group of inhuman assassins to eliminate Black and White. While they're mostly left to fend for themselves, they just may find help in the form of detective Fujimura (Tomomichi Nishimura / Maurice LaMarche) and his young protege Sawada (Kankuru Kudo).

The animation style, which really helped to set the tone for the movie, may be familiar with the short film "Kid's Story" from The Animatrix. Its unique mix of clean lines and backgrounds with less defined or seemingly deformed characters makes for a unique way expressing various emotions throughout the movie. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the early days of MTV's now-defunct Best of Liquid Television series or something. It just all felt so distinct, different and new in terms of how it all came together in a way that helped propel the story forward.

The writing at the core of this story is definitely solid - something I assume we have the original manga to thank for the most part. The initially simple tale of a pair of street kinds playing king of the heap turned into a much more complex piece about how the various aspects of ourselves work with others, the nature of the old giving way to new forces and the need to fight for your own space in the world. It can be as simple as a tale of two friends who watch out for one another and yet with all these other diverse elements mixed in.

Admittedly, I can see how this movie generated mixed feedback upon its initial release. It's one of those animated features that can be very difficult to understand when you try to dig into it or it can be extremely shallow if you refuse to look past the surface imagery. But I feel that no matter how you look at this movie, there's a greater story being told beyond what we see on the screen. And that may take more than one viewing to fully appreciate, at least by my estimates. But as far as movies go, I don't see the problem in watching this movie over and over again.

Tekkonkinkreet is definitely not your typical movie - animated or otherwise. It's a compelling narrative with a complex puzzle for a plot but multiple levels of pay off once you get to the end. It gets 4 scary attacks by the yakuza henchmen out of a possible 5.

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