Tekkon Kinkreet

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/06/07 10:18:07

"The Town, at the very least, is a Treasure"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: The decaying city is a staple of anime and science fiction (though "Tekken Kinkreet" doesn't really fit that genre). It appears in many conventional urban genres, too, but they seldom have the ability to really show the audience just how magical the place is to its inhabitants, or just why they remain so fiercely loyal. For all cities are described as characters in a story, these characters are seldom as original as they are in a fantasy like "Tekken Kinkreet".

Treasure Town, a rough area of the city of Takara, is both crowded and decrepit. There are fanciful signs piled high, and there's a jolly contrast between neighboring buildings. Still, you don't have to look very close to see that the paint is peeling, or that those signs don't provide much light. We spend a lot of time in a junkyard, and it doesn't miss our gaze that Treasure Town is on an island, easily neglected by the surrounding city. It's a beautiful place from about fifteen or twenty feet above ground level; once you're on the street, it's a little more dangerous. Still, by that time the place has already gotten under the audience's skin a little; the visuals of the city are simply a visual feast - most drawn by hand, but scanned into a computer so that the camera can move freely.

That's the world that two orphan brothers, Kuro ("Black") and Shiro ("White"), live in. Homeless, living out of a car in the junkyard when not visiting "Gramps", an older homeless man, these children also serve as the city's superhero guardians, although older brother Black must also give a great deal of personal attention to White, who even for a ten-year-old can sometimes seem very disconnected from reality. They're going to have to be on the top of their games, because a pair of Yakuza - "Rat" and Kimura - are returning to Treasure Town, but to a certain extent their only front men for a group of developers looking to build a family amusement center - and they've hired the monstrous looking "Snake" and his inhumanly powerful goons to make sure it gets done.

The first voice we hear is White's, and it certainly sounds like a kid playing make-believe, so there's a good chance that we're in unreliable-narrator territory. That's probably the simplest way to view the film, too - the fantasy lives of a pair of young children living on the streets, which means that any gaps in logic can be easily explained away. If that's the case, though, these kids have some pretty dark fantasies. Kids probably wouldn't view an amusement park as a threat to the city - that's an adult view. There are some moments that are almost unquestionably happening in the minds of the boys, and director Michael Arias will often go to a different art style to depict that.

Those sequences are often depicted in what look like watercolors, or feature the boys imagining themselves underwater. The visual style tends toward the loose and somewhat abstracted in any event; it's reminiscent of the studio's previous film Mind Game. While few characters look as flat-out demonic as Snake and his henchmen, Arias and company favor slightly caricatured character designs and a thin line that sometimes gets swallowed by the coloring. The coloring itself tends to invoke classic ink & paint rather than the potentially flashier digital tools which were actually used, except when people get some ugly bruises.

Anthony Weintraub's script is a lot more coherent than that of some manga adaptations, perhaps because the source material (sold in the U.S. as "Black & White") is only three volumes long. A few of the characters seem to get short shrift - especially the cops - but he does a good job with Black and White. Arias's work is also very impressive, frequently using the techniques of live-action film even while giving its characters the ability to all but fly: A scene where Black attacks Kimura's office especially looks like it was shot with handheld cameras.

The visuals are never less than striking, more than enough to keep the audience's attention when the story starts threatening to go off the rails toward the end. Treasure Town may be a brutally harsh place, but it's worth a visit.

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