Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tekkonkinkreet


   I seem to be on a roll with these animated flicks and so far I haven't hit a bad apple yet. Tekkonkinkreet is fantastic. It's an anime movie based on a 90's manga of the same name. It's about two kids, Black and White, in Treasure Town, a place that's gritty but oddly beautiful. The movie is action packed, but not in the conventional sense. Yet make no mistake, for a character driven, coming of age, crime drama, there's no other like it. Tekkonkinkreet leaves any semblance of competition in the dust, quite literally soaring through the air with stunning verve and confidence.

   Black and White are brothers, Black is possibly 13 or so while While is 11 but you'd be forgiven for thinking he's five or six. As per their names Black is moody and brooding but balanced by White's unrelenting childishness. The dynamic is obvious, but the style of the movie makes it feel fresh and the two boys feel like genuine characters. They seem to 'run' the town, treating it like their playground and then some. The cops steer clear, other gangs steer clear, and not without good cause. Black is a hell of a fighter. Put him in a room full of thugs, all grown ass men, and smart money is still on Black.

   The movie's action scenes, although not the bread and butter of the story, are still crafted with stunning vision and brought to life with excellent animation. I can't stress that enough. The movie will remind you of the 'Beyond' segment from The Animatrix, and the comparison is dead on. The director of Tekkonkinkreet, Michael Arias, worked on that gem too. There's a flavor to this movie which is difficult to put my finger on, but I've a feeling it's not just one little secret ingredient. No, the thing about this movie is that it is absolutely more than the sum of it's parts. It could've been a bloated, nonsensical slog, with it's emotional core lost in the translation from page to screen... but thankfully that's not the case.

   The movie is the most alive during the scenes when Black and White interact. Their dynamic is wonderful and their emotions feel genuine. This is high praise considering how 'alive' the movie also is during it's kinetic and dizzying action scenes as the boys run through and fly over the city. Eventually their rule becomes an annoyance for the Yakuza who're trying to muscle back in on Treasure Town, obviously Black is having none of this- setting the stage for a series of dramatic showdowns and a tense vibe throughout the movie.

   Nevertheless, the city itself is brought to life with immense detail not unlike the city from Metropolis (2001). Both are visually arresting and endlessly stylish, but Tekkonkinkreet pulls off an extra trick with it's unique setting. Treasure Town feels like a fantasy city, but it's also a very grounded and gritty place with slums, litter, trashiness galore, and yet it's all part of the atmosphere and this vividly realized environment in which the movie takes place. Even the mundane bits of the city are detailed in the extreme, making the whole place seem like it belongs to a surreal and heightened reality. It seems to me that a lot of the movie is visualized through a childlike outlook, giving it that fantasy edge.

   I could complain that the story is nothing special and that the climax is confusing, but the movie garners so much good will through it's ups and downs that you're willing to go along for the ride, regardless of where it takes you. Sometimes the movie feels a bit disjointed and nonsensical, but Black and White are the consistent anchor throughout and it was easy to keep sight of that. Tekkonkinkreet is bursting with color, wit, adventure, drama, and personality. It's a unique and fascinating thrill ride that's easy to praise for it's heart as much as it's animation, style, and action. A whirlwind blend of all the things that make movies like this great, and then some.

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