So Michael Arias holds the title of being the first non-Japanese director for a major anime film, the film being of course Tekkon Kinkreet (or Tekkonkinkreet as it is known in the West), an award winning 2006 feature-length animated movie by Studio 4C, based on the three volume seinen manga series of the same name by Taiyo Matsumoto.
The movie is essentially a metaphysical coming-of-age story concerning two orphans, the tough, canny Black and the childish, innocent White, who together form the group known as the Cats, self-styled rulers of the aging Treasure Town, a sprawling Metropolis somewhere in Japan. Of course, as the self-styled rulers of Treasure Town, these two young hooligans with amazing abilities need to protect it against would-be invaders and such, and thus it’s no wonder that they soon find themselves going toe to toe with a very scary Yakuza family. Unfortunately for them though, it turns out that the Yakuza may very well be the least of their worries…
And that’s really about that. The story starts out well, follows a nice and simply pattern but then unfortunately seems to lose the plot right towards the end, softening what could have been quite a nice, hard-hitting movie into something that just kind of fizzles away and doesn’t leave much of lasting impression. Sure, the characters and situations they find themselves in are quite interesting and sometimes quite enigmatic, but unfortunately this doesn’t make up for a weak-ended, kind of esoteric ending that we actually quite often find in Japanese productions (Neon Genesis Evangelion anyone?)
The animation is an interesting one because the style gone for is purposefully left quite flat with some awkward proportioning, all purposefully done to help reinforce the dream-like nature of the story as a whole. Admittedly this and the general selection of rather a bright colour pallet does work for the most part and certainly makes the movie stand out from the rest of the crowd, but I hesitate to say that it actually looks good. Interesting yes, stylish yes, beautiful… not really, or at least not really in my opinion. Thankfully though the art studio decided not to skimp on any detail or actual animation choreography, meaning that at least there certainly is more than enough to keep the eye busy, even if you aren’t necessarily enjoying the style in which it mostly gets presented in.
Musically and voice-over talent is however a different thing. Tekkon Kinkreet boasts a wonderfully solid and well-composed score and features a number of very talented voice artists that ply their trade particularly well. Add to that an awesome ending track courtesy of the popular Asian Kung Fu Generation band and some sublime general sound effects scattered throughout the film’s entire length, then aurally Tekkon Kinkreet really doesn’t put a foot wrong.
So in summary then? Tekkon Kinkreet is certainly an interesting experiment, both in visuals and story, but ultimately its rather weak ending does let it down quite a fair bit, especially after going to all that length of building up quite an intriguing story in the first place. It is certainly quirky and some might really enjoy it, but as for mainstream anime watchers, you can probably give this one a skip and not really miss out on anything too special.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised it won all those awards that it did in the first place! End result, 3 out of 5 stars on my scale then.
Related link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tekkonkinkreet