Genre: Action, Psychological, Drama
Publisher: Studio 4°C
Adaptation: Tekkonkinkreet (manga) Story and Art by Taiyo Matsumoto
Director: Michael Arias
Producer: Eiichi Kamagata
Script: Anthony Weintraub
Music Composer: Plaid
Brimming with gritty violence, Tekkonkinkreet gives us a glimpse into the colorful and dark lives of two young boys named Black and White respectively. They live in a beat up car in Treasure Town, a city struggling between desires for it to remain unchanged and for it to move forward. The two are caught in the middle as the city is violently pushed forward, and Black’s own dark nature threatens to overtake him.
Honestly, when I decided to sit down and watch the movie I was expecting, at most, to have a bit of fun watching a somewhat gritty story about two boys wandering around a city. I wasn’t exactly sold on what I had seen of the animation style and didn’t think watching the movie would sell me on it either. To say the least, I probably wasn’t expecting as much from the movie as I should have. Well, upon sitting down to finally watch the film, I quickly found out that all of my assumptions had been poorly based. The story was gritty, sure, but I found that it was more focused on the dynamic between Black and White than the things happening around them. As for the animation style, I found myself lost in the detail and life of it almost immediately. Perhaps I should have expected it to happen, but by the time that first rooftop fight scene happened, I was already head over heels for this strange movie.
Although the story revolving around the decaying Treasure Town is interesting to see, the real meat and heart of the story lies in the tale of the city’s two protectors, Black and White. Although it’s never clear whether Black and White are brothers or best friends, it is clear that their bond is strong and something that is essential to their respective characters. Black, as his name would imply, is the one who most often gets his hands dirty by stealing the money the boys live off of, beating off the thugs that show up, and taking on the position of protector for White. Although he’s prone to violence and often appears to take relish in it, he isn’t completely evil. Around White, he reveals a different, softer, side where he cares more about keeping White smiling and happy than bashing someone’s head in with his trademark pipe. White also stays true to his name’s symbolism, as he, with his child-like mind and imagination, stays, for the most part, uncorrupted and shielded from the darker underbelly of his home. However, that’s not to say he’s oblivious to what Black does because he isn’t and, as he puts it, knows that both he and Black are missing screws inside. Together, the two create a yin and yang relationship where White’s purity and innocence keeps Black from losing too much of his humanity.
Though the symbolism and intricacies of their relationship are interesting, what I like most about the relationship between Black and White is the most simple: their love for each other. White’s smile and happiness are Black’s treasures; White knows both he and Black are broken, but that he has all of Black’s missing screws. They both understand what the other needs and what the other feels. They complete each other and their bond is all they need. The simplicity is beautiful and one of my favorite aspects of the movie.
In addition to Black and White, the side cast, from the gangster who only wanted to live a peaceful life with his girlfriend and future child, to the old gang leader desperately trying to cling to the past, to the old man who sees Black’s fragility, are an engaging bunch who also help make the movie shine. Although they never receive too much development, it’s easy to empathize with them and to feel the sadness that seems to envelop the noteworthy adults of the show. For the most part, the secondary cast was as much of a joy to watch as Black and White.
In terms of animation, Tekkonkinkreet is a feast for the eyes. As expected from something animated by Studio 4°C, the style of animation is anything but conventional. The character designs are almost deceptively simplistic, but once you see them in action, they just work. Highly expressive and full of energy, I can’t imagine the characters having more conventional designs that would only serve to limit their fluidity and mobility. The lack of detail in the character designs is definitely made up for in the backgrounds which are chock full of detail and color. Treasure town is a maze of buildings and signs and the attention to detail here really made the city pop and come to life. I suppose the main reason I grew to really like the animation style is because of how it manages to give everything its own sense of life. Although not a style that would fit many series or movies, its uniqueness only served to add more to an already amazing movie.
Tekkonkinkreet is an experience. It’s face paced and full of gritty action, but also has a sentimentality to it that makes you care for and hope for the characters. It successfully maintains its precarious balance between straightforward storytelling and convoluting the story too much. Most of the characters are extremely heartfelt and their stories are ones that are hard to forget. The development of the story and its characters is brilliantly done. There is so much to say in praise of this odd little movie, and it’s no wonder that it has become one of my favorite anime movies. I don’t have much else to say about the movie other than, if you haven’t seen it, you should really find some time and sit down, watch it, and enjoy the ride.