Title: Tekkonkinkreet (2006)
Director: Michael Arias
Tekkonkinkreet is a film that comes to us from Studio 4C, the same guys that produced the amazing and unforgettable animated anthology Memories (1995), the mind blowing animation on Animatrix (2003) and most recently the feature film titled Mutafukaz (2017), which I’ve yet to see, but hear great things about. I hold this animation studio in high regard because their stuff is always cutting edge…its state of the art quality stuff. For example, on Tekkonkinkreet they started to fool around with mixing computer animation with traditional animation and the results were nothing short of amazing. It’s the kind of animated film you will want to watch more than once. So, what is this strangely titled movie all about?
The title of the film, which might sound weird to English speakers, actually means ‘steel reinforced concrete’ in Japanese, which makes sense when you think about how the story takes place in this complex city landscape, where buildings are piled up into one another. At times the city itself feels like a character all its own, dying, decayed yet menacing. But the main characters in the film are actually two kids named ‘Black’ and ‘White’. Black is the older brother type, always taking care of things, solving problems and saving White from trouble. White is a kid, a daydreamer, whose head is up in the clouds dreaming about a perfect world where man and nature can coexist in peace and happiness. I loved how he sees himself as an alien, reporting what he sees down here on Earth. Together, Black and White see “Treasure Town” as their town, not to be messed with by anyone. It may be old and decayed, but it’s theirs, it’s actually the only thing they can call their own. So you better not mess with it, or else. So, what happens when a Yakuza gang lord strolls into town with the idea of turning Treasure Town into a pleasure den in order to trap young people and turn them into puppets?
So yeah, at heart this is a story about young people looking for freedom from the suffocating urban jungle that they live in. White is always dreaming of playing amongst flowers, insects, animals. He dreams of swimming in the ocean with dolphins and looking for interesting rocks at the edge of the beach. But his reality is another one. He is homeless, and lives on the grimy dirty streets of Treasure Town, where every day is a struggle to survive. I thought that was a beautiful message to address with a film, how the city, the concrete, the cars, the pollution, the crime on the streets all that stuff that we deal with on a day to day basis can get to us. Of course we will day dream of a more beautiful place whenever we can.
The film is also about religion and governments wanting to control people, to trap them, ensnare them somehow to keep them distracted, so they won’t even realize they are being used. This is all represented by the main villain, who says he is doing all this in “Gods” name. In many ways Tekkonkinkreet also reminded me of Pinocchio, with its story centered on ensnaring the youth with drugs and games. Best part about the story is how the youth themselves identify the enemy and realize they have to do something to protect “their city” from this great evil. This is a very rebellious film, with many symbolisms pointing towards taking matters into our own hands if we have to, reaching into that dark, violent part of ourselves if need be. Black is named Black because he realizes he has this capability of tapping into his dark side. White is pure, chaste, childlike. Polar opposites that totally need each other, like the ying and the yang. Like tit for tat. One cannot live without the other. They are brothers, eternally intertwined. I loved how the film truly augments that feeling of a strong, brotherly love. And how it speaks about how we are both good and evil, for what is light, without dark. Nothing is pitch perfect good, or pitch black evil.
Finally, the visual side of the film is astounding. This is one of the greatest strengths of the film, but what’s great about Tekkonkinkreet is that it balances those great visuals with a great story, so it’s a fantastic balancing act between eye candy and an immersive, emotional tale. Director Michael Arias seems like a guy who likes to charge his films with emotional content and I love that. Tekkonkinkreet is not a spectacle void of emotions. The film also has elements of magical realism, because it’s not a complete fantasy, yet characters do jump inhuman lengths from one building to another. Characters seem to defy gravity at times, going as far as deftly having fights on top of moving cars and trains. There’s also a strong surreal vibe to the film, with dreamscapes and visions being vividly depicted and yeah, the film even has some sci-fi elements in it, with what seemed like cyborgs or aliens to me. I say “seemed” because another thing I liked is that certain elements of the film aren’t fully explained, they are left open for you to interpret in your own way. What is firmly orchestrated though is what these images represent, and to the observant film watcher, these symbolisms should not go unnoticed.
Rating: 5 out of 5