Tekkonkinkreet opens this year's Animation Nation festival, running from today until 1 Dec 07, showcasing a selection of animated feature films, shorts and documentaries from around the world. Last year, the festival scored a coup in having Paprika screened just after its Japan premiere I believe, and had the noir styled Renaissance screened too. This year, both Tekkonkinkreet and the highly acclaimed 5 Centimeters Per Second were sold out in days when tickets when on sale, and it's a pity I may not be able to catch the latter due to conflict in schedules.
Nonetheless, Tekkonkinkreet lived up to its hype, although I found the story to be a little too perplexing for my liking. I guess with Japanese anime, some come with a huge dose of the fantastical, and you might not catch all in one screening, leading to longevity as you discover something new each time you view the movie. The story centers on 2 orphans, Black and White, who are essentially the Cat clan, guarding their city Treasure Town from perceived external threats. But they soon find that the big boys such as the Yakuza are slowly muscling their way in to establish money spinning business in the form of theme parks (heh), and inevitably discover they are within the crosshairs of a major turf war.
The attention paid to detail is simply amazing, as it seems like not a pixel on the canvas was wasted. Treasure Town itself is a sight to behold, with its dizzying levels that don't seem to end, and the camera playfully whizzing through buildings, bridges, nooks and crannies giving sense to claustrophobia. It's like Gotham City, only brighter, messier, and of course, without the Dark Knight, now instead, having Black and White play vigilante, Batman and Robin style. Being just boys, they possess (and here's where its fantastical) superhuman skills, putting martial arts swordsman to shame with their ability to scale buildings with the ease of a simple leap.
Yes, our boys have skills like the Yamakasi, only that it's magnified ten thousand times. The set action pieces are excitingly crafted with excellent sound effects and design going into overdrive. The action pieces are spaced out quite well, starting with the satisfying chase sequence with Dusk and Dawn, with the flight-for-your-life battles with robotic assassins, and topped off with the urban legend Minotaur justifying his status. In between the fights are the quieter moments of course, with subplots that put the spotlight on the myriad of Yakuza characters, and the brotherly love shared between Black and White, who share a dream of an idyllic life at the beach house, where they can live in peace from the unnecessary bustle of the city, and from the trouble that comes looking for them.
Based on the manga by Taiyo Matsumoto, I suspect there being a need to read up and do some research in order to appreciate this movie more. Akin to a cyberpunk movie where you can read its multiple layers, Tekkonkinkreet is first and foremost a visual spectacle, hands down, and doesn't fail in providing a Wow factor with its presentation.