Tekkonkinkreet: A Near-Perfect Blend of Asian and American Sensibilities

Anime fans and anyone who appreciates animation that explores complex characters and gritty subject matter should seek out Tekkonkinkreet, a remarkable piece of filmmaking that makes its way to limited theatrical release in the U.S. today after a successful run on the festival circuit. Directed by The Animatrix producer Michael Arias, the film is currently playing at The Quad in New York City and The Landmark in Los Angeles.

Tekkonkinkreet is based on the Japanese Manga by Taiyo Matsumoto and is being promoted as the first anime feature written and directed by Americans. Working from a script by Anthony Weintraub, Arias makes his feature directorial debut a memorable one as he brings Matsumoto’s exciting and heart-wrenching tale of childhood innocence lost to the screen with a masterful blend of traditional 2D animation and state-of-the-art CG technology. Animation was handled by Studio 4′C in Japan.

While it may have two children as lead characters, Tekkonkinkreet is not a Miyazaki film. While it does have some fantasy elements, it’s a violent, R-rated tale of street survival and underworld dealings. The title is a play on the Japanese words for ‘concrete,’ ‘iron’ and ‘muscle,’ which accurately describes the world of Black and White, two children who rule the streets of Treasure Town. Even the Yakuza are afraid of these boys who occasionally fly and beat down all challengers. Black is the oldest of the two, and while he appears at first to be White’s protector, we soon learn that White is the only thing keeping him from spiraling further into the darkness and being lost forever.

Times are changing and a greedy developer named Snake has moved into town with a plan to build a new city. The Yakuza are easily bought out, but the only thing standing in the way are these two kids who will fight with everything they have to preserve the only way of life they know. The action and tension escalate to a bloody conclusion when Snake sends in powerful alien assassins to take care of them.

I could go on about what a shame it is that a film like this and Satoshi Kon’s Paprika can’t get wide releases in the states while far inferior works are pumped into 3,000+ theaters, but I understand that these movies are not for everyone, Still, if you’re new to anime, this may be a good place to jump in as it offers a good blend of Eastern and Western storytelling, and presents characters that audiences can care about. If it doesn’t come to your town, look for it on DVD in September.