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Tekkonkinkreet Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2008
ImageTraditionally, anime has been an artistic endeavor reserved for Japanese filmmakers. Having spent the last ten years in Japan, Los Angeles born director Michael Arias introduces audiences around the world to his animated masterpiece, “Tekkonkinkreet.” Arias is obviously a student of the genre, having worked for acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki as well as additional sequence directing work for one of the “Animatrix” shorts. In “Tekkonkinkreet,” Arias shows that he has his own distinct vision and style while still incorporating the essential elements of traditional anime: head scratching philosophy and mind blowing visuals.

Based on the popular manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, “Tekkonkinkreet” tells the story of two young orphan brothers, Black and White, defenders of the fantasy world that is Treasure Town. Black is the older of the two and assumes a paternal role to his savant like brother, a dreamer in the truest sense of the word. White seems to have an overly heightened sense of joy and awareness toward life itself, but still remains tough as nails when it comes time to fight. The boys jump great distances, even fly high into the air, battling other street gangs, the Yakuza, and local police. They’re like lovable, but ultimately innocent, superhero street-punks, striving to keep the nostalgic city out of the wrong hands. For Black and White, Treasure Town is their life, their town, and they will stop at nothing to keep it the way it is.

It isn’t long before land developers take interest in Treasure Town. They plan to reduce the city to rubble then build a massive amusement park in its place. The developers dispatch the film’s antagonist, Mr. Snake, who quickly recognizes that Black and White pose the only major threat to their plans. Snake employs the help of three alien assassins to dispose of Black and White. It is here that the boys face their biggest challenge: learning about the balance of positive and negative forces around them and within themselves, which keep life and self in harmony.
I will admit that upon my initial viewing, the themes were not so easily identifiable. Anime doesn’t rely on popular American storytelling devices, usually the turn-off for most people that dislike anime (whether they’re aware of it or not). This was my fault as the sheer beauty of the visuals made me lazy at times, ignoring plot points and blatant symbolism. While I don’t believe that any film should require a second viewing in order to enjoy it, “Tekkonkinkreet” has so much to offer on multiple levels that the viewer can only benefit from a second experience. There is so much time, care, and attention put into every frame of this movie that one can view it as a work of art alone. Throw in a perfect score by Plaid, a heartfelt story, and a host of wild characters and I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite films of 2007.

“Tekkonkinkreet” mixes an organic hand drawn style with occasional CGI 3D backgrounds, resulting in a marriage of breathtaking imagery. Every frame is jam packed with detail, allowing the viewer the opportunity to pause the film at any given moment, with plenty to explore. The palette is as colorful as anything I’ve seen in recent memory, providing constant visual stimulation regardless of what’s happening with the story. Even the finest lines are rendered to perfection without any trace of aliasing. Blacks are deep and rich while still retaining great detail in the shadows. Quite simply, this is a perfect demonstration of how stunning anime can be.

Accompanied by an uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround mix, “Tekkonkinkreet” has some of the greatest sound work I’ve ever heard. Action segments are aggressive with lots of pounding from the LFE channel, but the film relies more on subtle sound design to bring Treasure Town to life. Ambient sounds constantly fill the surround channels, creating a truly immersive experience, while the score by Plaid provides a wonderful sense of nostalgia and fantasy, making it the perfect accompaniment to the visuals. Those expecting an over-the-top actioner with tons of explosions will be disappointed. The brilliance of this sound mix lies in its balance, creativity, and restraint.

All of the special features from the standard DVD release have been ported over but are presented in disappointing 480i\p. Michael Arias is joined by screenwriter Tony Weintraub, and sound designer Mitch Osias for the lone commentary track on the disc. Enjoyment of this feature will depend primarily on how much of a fan you are of the film, as these guys aren’t the most naturally entertaining trio. Next up is a 42 minute making-of covering the production from start to finish. This is an informative yet enjoyable piece, well worth the time to anyone that liked the film. Rounding out the bonus features is a ten minute conversation piece with Arias and the British music team, Plaid. Seeing as the score was one of my favorite elements of the film, I was more than excited for this one. My expectations may have gotten the best of me as this was definitely a let down. It isn’t terrible, but failed to really keep my attention.

For anime fans, Michael Arias’ directing debut is easily a must see. Containing some of the most beautiful animation ever committed to film and a haunting score, “Tekkonkinkreet” is a definite achievement in its genre. Will that brilliance entertain a non-anime fan? I’m not too sure. I find anime to be like my other favorite Japanese import: sushi. You either love it or you hate it, and no amount of persuasion by either side is going to make anyone change their mind. But, for all the hi-def home theater folks, the audio/video package on this release is well worth the price of a rental alone.

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