Tekkonkinkreet: Anime Review

Tekkonkinkreet is an anime that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, but just never gotten around to it. It’s a film from Studio 4*C and fits a sort of middle ground between their more art-for-art’s sake films like the Genius Party anthologies and Mind Game, and the more clear-cut adaptations like their Berserk trilogy. It’s also an outlier in that it’s an anime film that is directed by an American (and not a Japanese American either) who didn’t come up through the industry.

Movie poster for Tekkonkinkreet

Tekkonkinkreet is an adaptation of the manga by Taiyo Matsumoto and is set in the fictional borough/city/district of Treasure Town. Treasure Town is something of a city within a larger city, separated by the rest of the larger metropolis by being an island, and it’s become something of a slum. The population is generally poorer, and ostensibly various gangs run things, with ultimately the ones somewhat running things are two orphaned kids – Black & White. Black is the more quick witted and street-smart one, but who also has a repressed violent streak. White is more innocent and naive, living in a semi-constant daydream and who is implied to be mentally impaired to some degree, though I’m not going to give the character a diagnosis.

When the Yakuza, lead by Snake, decides to gentrify Treasure Town and built an amusement park as part of it, this ends up putting them in conflict with Black & White. The fighting between the two groups escalates, endangering White, and putting Black at growing risk of being overcome by his more violent side. Through all of this, the police try and fail to keep a handle on things, and an older Yakuza, Suzuki, tries to figure out if there’s a place for him in the future.

Tekkonkinkreet is, frankly, visually stunning, in motion and in stills. The backgrounds have an extraordinary level of detail to them, comparable to some of the background work on Otomo’s Akira, or more recently the background work on Yuasa’s Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken (Yuasa himself having worked with Studio 4*C on Mind Game and Genius Party). The visuals also fit well with what of Taiyo Matsumoto’s art I’ve seen – grounded, but abstracted rather than stylized.

Director Michael Arias and Studio 4*C also integrate CGI into the animation into some really solid ways – using it as a mechanism to allow for the sort of one-take shots that would otherwise be extremely difficult to do in traditional animation (possible – like with “Cannon Fodder” from Memories – but difficult). Not to mention a certain unsteadiness of the camera (like you get with faux-documentary series like The Office), and a couple shots where they’re rotating the camera around a character – breaking the 180 rule to represent a shift in (or loss of) perspective.

It’s a spectacularly done film, and it makes the fact that the damn thing is out of print (and hasn’t joined the 4K UHD Anime Club) such a bummer. I do hope GKIDS or Discotek Media gives this thing the license rescue it deserves, because I’d love for there to be a way to see it in R1/A outside of piracy or hoping your library has a physical copy.

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