"Nice idea, disappointing execution."
Tekkon Kinkreet (2006)
Director: Michael Arias
Writers: Anthony Weintraub
Producers: Eiko Tanaka, Naoki Kitagawa, Yasushi Shiina, Osamu Teshima
Cast: Japanese version: Kazunari Ninomiya, Yu Aoi, Min Tanaka, Yusuke Iseya, Nao Omori, Masahiro Motoki, Yukiko Tamaki, Tomomichi Nishimura; English version: Scott Menville, Kamali Minter, David Lodge, Rick Gomez, Alex Fernandez, Yuri Lowenthal, Maurice LaMarche, Maurice LaMarche
Running Time: 110 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NINGEN'S REVIEW: Black and White are two boys living in a "ghetto" in Japan. [Or Pan-Asia, depending on the director's interpretation.] They generally like robbing and assaulting people for fun, but they're dismayed that some faceless yakuza-sponsored corporation wants to clean up the place; and so they try to stop them. But how can they do that, when they can't even stop their fragile friendship?
TK can essentially be interpreted as "Ping Pong with gangsta 'tweens", seeing as it's from the same creator. Unfortunately, while Ping Pong at least tries to have a sense of realism about its subject matter, the TK anime decides to turn the urban manga into a crime film on acid. While that usually works when Miike does it, TK fails, because it drags out a simple premise into some arthouse borefest with empty cliches which missed the point of the manga entirely. [For example of one of those cliches, there's the groaner, "All you need is love."]
But the film suffers from the same problem of contemporary American animation in general: It's not enough for the director[American, himself, btw.] to make a point; he has to hammer it in to people's heads, because audiences are too stupid to get it. It's a far cry from the Japanese method of subtlety and nuance which has enabled its 2-d-based artform to survive the CG "talking animal and object" machine of the West. In addition, the relationships between cops and gangsters, and the relationships between teens and adults, tend to be glossed over, in favor of pointless and lengthy metaphorical dream sequences which serve to hurt the pace of the story.
The rich and detailed animation is about the only saving grace of TK. But it's hampered by the need to out-do the competition, rather than establish its own style. And thus it feels like a Japanese answer to American arthouse animated films produced by Bakshi and Eastman, rather than a fresh and new take on anime.
And the characters in TK come off very one-dimensional, and not very "real". While their cartoonish designs and mannerisms in the manga served to give them depth, the movie tries to make those cartoonish traits the focus of their personalities. So, for example, the boys end up fighting and screaming through most of the flick, while they usually are more inquisitive and "innocent" in the manga.
Still, for an East-West collaboration in animation, it could've been a lot worse. At least it's not the misfire that was Spirits Within.
Nice idea, disappointing execution.
NINGEN'S RATING: 6/10