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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Tekkon Kinkreet'
(Yû Aoi, Alex Fernandez, et al / DVD / R / 2007 / Sony Pictures)

Overview: 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. Tekkon Kinkreet is a dynamic tale of brotherhood that addresses the faults of present day society, true love lost, and the kindness of the human heart.

DVD Verdict: 'Tekkon Kinkreet' is a first in the anime world as it's the first time an American director [Michael Arias] has ever directed an entire piece of animation in Japan! Sure the anime industry is no stranger to creating animated works under American creative staff. But this the first time one has completely taken the helm within the Japanese system ... and his final effort is both wishy and washy.

Based on an acclaimed, beloved manga series by Taiyo Matsumoto, the film takes place in a graffitied, old-Tokyo-like city called Treasure Town. Commanding this turf are a rooftop-hopping urchin gang of two named Black and White. Black is a hard-bitten, clear-eyed youth with a taste for assault, whlst his 11-year-old brother White is forever childish and fo the most part needs Black to tie his shoes.

The unfolding story is basically about the healing power of friendship between two very demented homeless children, It's also a deeply surreal and disturbing portrait of both urban and human decay. It echoes the plight of the city at the center of urban renewal.

However, as much as Arias' visuals are indeed hypnotic, from the lived-in geographical detail to some nice digital shading that suggests a viewpoint either glassy or smudged; and with some quite restless camerawork along with always escalating action, Arias has somehow rendered a very emotional, very human story inert and lifeless!

Indeed, his approach to dramatic timing is clinical. It's as if he's debugging code rather than telling a story. Scenes that should leave us breathless fall completely flat, such as the beautiful opening fly-by of the city. Arias plods from cut to cut relentlessly, allowing us no time to digest or pay attention to body language. Characters who were central to the manga are still treated like they are, but they barely get enough screen time to do anything important, so what scenes they have left fly by seemingly nonsensically.

And what of the all-important dialogue? Well, the screenplay [written by Arias' friend and fellow newbie Anthony Weintraub], has nearly as many clichés as it has lines of said dialogue! And man, does this film have a LOT of dialogue! In fact, I don't think I've watched another manga film before that HAD so much frickin' dialogue comtained within it - especially in the jam-spoken-packed first half of the film!

Together, those failings conspire to give us 110 minutes of aforementioned non-stop dialogue, pounded out lifelessly in rhythm with little to no regard for its meaning or its undertones. Forget about subtext or symbolism, Arias can't even keep his mind on the story. The backgrounds are peppered with homages to artists ranging from Edvard Munch to Thai traditional shadow puppets, but to no effect or importance. The music, a barely passable electronic score, forces whatever emotion is appropriate for the scene down our throats like a children's cartoon. 'Tekkon Kinkreet' is rated R for some violent and disturbing images, and brief sexuality and is told in Japanese with English Subtitles. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

A Conversation with Director Michael Arias and British Rock Band Plaid
Filmmaker Commentary
The Making of Tekkon - Director Michael Arias' 300 Day Diary
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese