REVIEW: DVD Release: Tekkonkinkreet

Film: Tekkonkinkreet
Release date: 24th September 2007
Certificate: 12
Running time: 106 mins
Director: Michael Arias
Starring: Kazunari Ninomiya, Yu Aoi, Min Tanaka, Yusuke Iseya
Genre: Anime
Studio: Sony
Format: DVD
Country: Japan

Adapted from the three-volume manga series by Taiyo Matsumoto, Tekkonkinkreet literally translates as “reinforced concrete,” – hardly tells the story when set against kaleidoscopic drop of some truly gorgeous drawings.

Ostensibly, it is a boy’s film as the premise bases itself on gangster films - our two street urchin protagonists, the aptly named "Black" and "White", find themselves coming into contact with an ever-escalating variety of Yakuza as they try to take over the ridiculously sublime Treasure Town…

The film’s original manga form is what is known as a "seinen manga”, which is a subset of the animated genre that targets males - usually from between the ages of 18 and 30. This arguably accounts for such a great deal of violence within the film which, while completely justifies the progression of the film, become more intense, more bloody and more important to the survival of our two heroes. Matsumoto also utilises a much more avant-garde style of animation, which is becoming more of the ‘norm’ in the Western world. The result is something that successfully delivers on appeasing any and all who are looking for high quality, hand drawn animation, which surpasses the eternally vapid conveyor belt of repetitiveness that is Pixar.

The intrinsic parts of Tekkonkinkreet prove to be the messages that the director and original creator are wishing to convey to their audiences, of which there are two major points. Firstly, we have the ying and yang nature of Black and White: how their coexistence is precisely that; how they are mirror images of each other; and how, in essence, they are two parts of the same whole - that you could be forgiven for thinking someone spliced a singular entity at birth to form two.

Black is the streetwise member of the "Cats", as they are known within the city, as he has a savvy and cunning which has enabled him and White to be high on the Treasure Town food chain. As expected for orphaned children, each has their issues, and with Black it is the impression that he is only one bad day away from total insanity and mental breakdown, while with White the issue is that if he were to have a mental breakdown, there wouldn't be much to break.

White is stated as being 11 years old in the film, yet quite clearly finds it difficult keeping a grasp on reality and his surroundings as his mental age is, quite obviously, less than that. However, it is not merely the extent to which White relies on Black for survival within the treacherous confines, but it is also how much Black, in turn, relies on White, as the director twists the uses of Black and White and indeed ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as roles interchange in all quarters.

Secondly, we have yet again another confrontation, another coming together of two forces, yet this time it is more theory based. Treasure Town is a gloriously colourful island sitting sedately in the centre of a river, yet its buildings and inhabitants, for all their grandeur, seem incredibly outdated. Treasure Town isn't exactly a time warp, but you could be forgiven for thinking so, as it is a place contented in its own time - for the Yakuza this is not acceptable, as they wish to bring Treasure Town forward into the 21st century, to update the scenery, and to turn it into a money-making venture of epic proportions. This second theme resonates with a fear of old replacing new, yet the new not being perhaps as grand as everyone believes it to be. It is a fear of traditions being eradicated by a machine, which has no need for sentiment, and this feeling, from both points of view, is embedded within characters on all sides of the battle. The phrase "my city" is uttered on numerous occasions as individuals all attempt to lay claim to the treasured turf, yet none truly understand what the phrase means, or why they are saying it.

The film does not carry the usual infuriating hallmarks of a manga-to-anime switchover, where the viewer struggles to relate to the story and the characters. In this instance, any preconceptions are staved, as Tekkonkinkreet absorbs the viewer all but instantly in a cacophony of animation, sound and, perhaps surprisingly, emotion.

Michael Arias’ energetic style of directing results in a cerebral journey for the senses - and one of the coolest reveal shots in cinematic history. BL

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