As most people who read this site are probably well aware, I am a big nerd, I am a sucker for anime, and I am also a big big sucker for things that look pretty. A couple days ago, I got a chance to watch Tekkon Kinkreet, a new Japanese anime movie that's been getting a lot of buzz. You can watch the opening credits, below if you like. Although the quality of the video's not that great, it at least demonstrates that it looks damn good.
As you can no doubt learn from google-ing the title, it's about two street urchin brothers, Kuro (Black) and Shiro (White) who live in a Blade Runner-esque metropolis called Treasure Town. (Which bears a really uncanny resemblance to Sonny Liew's Sanya ). If you've seen any anime in the last 10 years, you probably know that this concept is not unusual. But the setup is less important than the execution of the movie. And whether we identify with and care about the characters.
Which I did. The main characters are fairly well developed. How much you enjoy this movie is probably going to depend upon whether you like Kuro and Shiro. I liked them. Although Kuro is sort of set up as the darker, "evil" one, he has a pretty distinct moral code, and the film does have moments where you suspect that he is less than satisfied with his life. Shiro is occasionally frustrating, but a believable character. He tends to say prophetic things, but the filmmakers generally manage to steer clear of making him either too prophetic, or too irritating. What I felt that the film did best though, was not making either of the kids cute. They were likable and interesting, but the film also makes no bones about the fact that these two kids are very dangerous, and major players in the politics in the city. Also their relationship to each other, they have a deep almost symbiotic bond, is also believable.
Given the Black White pairing of the movie, it already clues you in that this is going to be a movie about duality. So we get several pairs or opposites in the film, besides the central characters of Black and White. A parallel set of street urchins, Dawn and Dusk, a yakuza Kimura, and his boss the Rat, two cops: a rookie and a veteran. Some of these pairs are more developed than others, but the theme of duality is certainly reinforced.
As the film opens, we are introduced to several potentially destabilizing factors to the city's status quo. A rival pair of street urchins, Dawn and Dusk, arrive to claim Kuro and Shiro's turf for their own after being pushed out of their own town. As well as the reappearance of the Rat, a notorious gangster, which threatens to upset the precarious status quo.
As the film progresses, a multiple sided power struggle ensues, which will determine the fate of the city. Or so it would seem. What is intriguingly subversive about the whole thing is that beneath this narrative of urban decay, nostalgia, and gentrification, is the insistence by certain members of the cast, that the city will develop and change regardless of the outcome. It's just a heartless creature like that. Many characters will refer to Treasure Town as "his town," a point of view that is consistently undermined. I suspect Tekkon Kinkreet supports the view that the city belongs to no one but itself.
These events pull Kuro and Shiro farther apart, and once separated from his only reason for living, Kuro begins to fall apart and succumb to his inner demons. Tekkon Kinkreet has interesting things to say about strength, physical and mental, as well as power. Who the truly dominant member of the pairing of Kuro and Shiro is less obvious than one would initially suppose.
At its heart, Tekkon Kinkreet is really about human relationships. The bonds between the characters are very believable, supported by the visuals and also by the voice actors. The voice acting was really superb, understated, but really very believable. I was pretty favorably impressed by Kazunari Ninomiya (that guy from the band Arashi) as Kuro. Everyone's been saying nice things about him since he was in that Clint Eastwood movie about Iwo Jima, but I'm generally prejudiced against boy band actors. I take it back now. Yusuke Iseya was also pretty damn good as the yakuza Kimura.
This movie probably isn't for everyone. It has one of those "what the hell" type of endings that's quite common in Japanese animated films. However, I felt for the most part, the film kept it in line with the logic of the film. Admittedly this logic is not the logic of every day life. Children jump from the tops of trains, leap hundreds of feet in the air, float down to the ground like leaves. However, while this is not strict realism, I did feel that the logic of the film in this regard was consistent. The buoyant way that Black and White are able to bend the laws of physics probably have a lot to do with their state of mind as children, as well as being exceptional individuals. It's Wonderland logic, but even Wonderland has its own rules, even if they're at odds with ours.
There are some loose ends that aren't tied up though. Or perhaps were parts of an initially larger plot that didn't get tied away properly. However, generally they didn't get in the way of my enjoyment or understanding of the movie.
All in all, I liked it. So go watch it.