I’m not ashamed to admit that I had grown bored with the typical television brand of anime. Many of them looked quite alike to me, the same teenaged faces staring back from the screen, emo bang swept over one eye and backs weighed down by impossibly large swords. I’m not saying any of that is a bad thing…for you, but it was enough for me to get on the internet, turning my attention towards films and limited series in a renewed attempt to peel back yet another layer of the innovative world of Japanese animation. I am happy to report that my search bore strangely satisfying fruit with Tekkonkinkreet.
Originally a three volume manga (comic book) written by Taiyo Matsumoto, Tekkonkinkreet, a child’s pronunciation of tekkin konkrito (steel reinforced concrete) in Japanese, arrived in cinematic form in 2006. Set in a fictional Japanese city called “Treasure Town”, the story centers on two street orphans named “Black” and “White” who call themselves “the Cats”. Black is older, and more of a streetwise delinquent with White being his foil as a softer, dreamy child who seems out of touch with reality most of the time. Together, they run the streets of Treasure Town by rooftop, keeping unwanted gangsters out of what they believe is their city. When Black attacks Yakuza henchmen, interfering with their boss’s plans to replace Treasure Town with a theme park, a chain of events is set into motion that brings wave after escalating wave of dangerous killers to eliminate the Cats.
As I watched Tekkonkinkreet, a smile slowly widened across my face. From the first frame the film glowed with the individuality and bold expression that I was looking for. Sometimes gritty, other times very much surreal, the story leaps with the Cats between the brooding gangster dramas of Takeshi Kitano and superhuman action all too common to anime. Then there are those moments when we are taken on a ride into little White’s mindscapes, the only place that seems to give us any inkling of what level this kid is working on. He follows Black through the whirlwind of adult violence aimed at them both with his eyes in the clouds and feet in Yakuza face.
Finally, we come to the art style. Nowhere to be found are the iconic oversized eyes we’ve come to associate with this genre. Instead the artists seem to have expressed their inner creative flow, free of the rules and expectations of other anime; ethnicities shine through, limbs are longer, faces wider or overtly made thin, line work zigs this way then defiantly zags in the other. It’s all quite refreshingly modern in a way that serves it’s urban setting. In fact, I dare say that the artistic execution of Tekkonkinkreet emanates with a hint of graffiti and one has to ponder the art director’s background.
Tekkonkinkreet is a vivacious and wildly inventive break from the herd of average animation. Don’t just take my word for it though, check it out on bluray and dvd the next time you yourself are ready for a vivid ride.