Tekkon Kinkreet (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Friday, January 25, 2008
Release Date: Monday, January 07, 2008

What They Say
From the creators of Animatrix comes this visually-stunning new anime film based on a popular Japanese manga written by Taiyo Matsumoto. In Treasure Town, where the moon smiles and young boys can fly, life can be both gentle and brutal. This is never truer than for our heroes, Black and White, two street urchins who watch over the city, doing battle with an array of old-world Yakuza and alien assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis. Tekkonkinkreet is a dynamic tale of brotherhood that addresses the faults of present day society, true love lost, and the kindness of the human heart.

The Review!
My first venture into the world of high-definition anime proves to be as visually stunning as expected, but somewhat lacking on the story side…

There's a wide range of audio tracks available here, mostly in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the Japanese track is also provided in uncompressed 5.1 PCM form, and that's the one I went with. The full soundstage is used to good effect, both for effects and background music, and placement of dialog and effects to match what's happening on-screen is almost perfect. More action-oriented scenes really sound the part.

Video comes in 2.35:1 widescreen format, so even on a 16:9 widescreen TV you'll have letterboxing to deal with. There's probably a little bit of the "wow" factor at work here – I'm more used to watching content that's been upscaled to 1080p, instead of being natively in that format – but this film really does look good, at least in terms of backgrounds. While the character designs for the film are very simple and almost border on stick-drawings, Treasure Town itself has been lovingly realised, with rich detail on just about every surface that the hi-def transfer captures very well. Movement is smooth and fluid, and there were no encoding problems that my eyes managed to catch. Simply beautiful.

Coming in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, we get a rather busy cover featuring most of the shows characters – major and minor – set against the Treasure Town cityscape, with Black taking centrestage. The rear has the usual technical information, screenshots and promotional blurb.

Most of the Blu-ray discs I've seen just drop you straight into the main feature and let you pull up the menu as a pop-up later – Tekkonkinkreet at least provides a more traditional main screen when you load the disc. It's a simple one, though – a white background with a montage of clips from the show running against it, while a piece of the movie's BGM plays over the top. Options are provided for Play, Languages, Scene Selection and Special Features. With no transition animations to sit through, it's all quick and easy to use.

Three extras are available for those with time to spare – an 11-minute interview with director Michael Arias and Plaid, the British duo responsible for the film's impressive soundtrack; a 43-minute 'making of' feature done in the form of a video diary by the director; and a commentary track to the main feature. Definitely a decent set of bonuses.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Treasure Town may have a name that evokes images of richness, but it's a slum that is home to the brutal side of life, where Yakuza lords and alien assassins make life difficult for the locals. It's also home to Black and White, a pair of orphans who see themselves as the area's protectors against all things evil. Black takes his role seriously - amongst the gangs, he's already got a reputation as a kid with a taste for blood, and is treated warily. White, on the other hand, never seems to realise what's going on around him, and just helps Black out with his 'jobs' in the way any kid would help a friend. When they cross paths with property developer Snake, though, they may have bitten off more than they can chew - Snake is determined to raze large parts of Treasure Town to the ground in the name of progress, and is more than willing to resort to underhand means to get rid of anyone who would oppose his plans - and that includes Black and White...

Tekkonkinkreet is a strange beast – it's based on an manga by Taiyo Matsumoto & animated by a Japanese studio, but it has an American director and a soundtrack composed and performed by a British band. As such, it's anime, but with a slightly different tone and style that come from those foreign influences – and those changes from the 'normal' anime style in some ways mirror one of the film's main themes. Some will like them, to others it will mean they'll have a hard time seeing this as 'real anime'. Personally, I like the way the film's been presented, but there are other issues that spoil things a bit.

Snake's been brought in by the local Yakuza to help find a way to improve their takings from the area – like all gangsters, they're in it for the personal riches, and Snake's proven elsewhere that his methods can be very profitable. They'll bring a lot of change to Treasure Town, though (both good and bad, to be fair), and that's what some people are having problem with - Tekkonkinkreet is as much about people's attitudes and resistance to change, as it is about Black and White themselves. To them, this is their area, and they don't want any outsiders like Snake coming in to change it for them. There are others that feel the same way, and so battle is joined.

There's a lot of time spent setting up the story – introducing the characters, showing us how Treasure Town is run, and Black & White's role in that. This part of the film suffers from pacing problems – it's real "slice-of-life" territory, and when you've read the packaging and know that "alien assassins" are coming down the line, there's an urge for the story to just get on with it and get to the action.

It's the introduction of those "alien assassins" – Snake's extremely loyal, extremely powerful hired henchmen – that shift the story into action territory, and this is the most enjoyable sequence in the film. Black, when backed into a corner, has all the aspects of a cornered rat, and the way he fights back – and how even White steps out of his dreamworld for a little while to play his part – brings home the strength of feeling that they have for their home and what they'll do to defend it. The stresses and strains of their fight eventually gets to both boys, though, and that's where the story moves into its final stage, as both essentially begin to lose their grip on reality. At this stage, things get downright surreal and you need to really pay attention to get any sort of feel for what's going on – but there's an ending that should keep everyone happy and that provides good closure to the story.

For as long as you keep looking at the gorgeous backgrounds and listening to the excellent soundtrack, Tekkonkinkreet is all good – it's a real treat on the senses and worth every penny for that alone. The story, though, is disjointed – it's a slice-of-life piece, an action movie, a thought-provoking tale, but at different times and not as an overall piece. The whole package just doesn't hold together as well as it should, and that's what spoils it for me. The underlying story gives the film the potential to be so much better than it is, but the chance to do that has been missed in the execution. Instead, we get something that is interesting and entertaining, but not special – always a frustration when you know a film is so close to being there.

In summary:
Tekkonkinkreet is aurally and visually impressive, as you'd expect from a high-definition title, but the story is a little harder to follow than would have been ideal – you need to put in some effort to get the most out of it, although if you do that it can be quite rewarding to watch. As an early example of what high-definition can do for anime, it's definitely worth a look as a title to show off, but as a story it's a bit of a missed opportunity.

Japanese Language 5.1 PCM,Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,French Language 5.1,German Language 5.1,Italian Language 5.1,Spanish Language 5.1,English Subtitles, English SDH Subtitles, French Subtitles, German Subtitles, Italian Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Dutch Subtitles, Arabic Subtitles, Bulgarian Subtitles, Croatian Subtitles, Danish Subtitles, Finnish Subtitles, Greek Subtitles, Hebrew Subtitles, Hindi Subtitles, Hungarian Subtitles, Icelandic Subtitles, Norwegian Subtitles, Polish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Romanian Subtitles, Slovene Subtitles, Swedish Subtitles, Turkish Subtitles,Filmmakers' Commentary,Conversation with Director Michael Arias and Plaid,The Making of Tekkonkinkreet: Michael Arias' 300-Day Diary

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: B - Europe and Africa
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MSRP: £17.99
Running time: 111
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
Series: Tekkon Kinkreet