If the title Tekkonkinkreet suggests a mashup of different sounds, it’s not without reason: Part sibling drama like Grave of the Fireflies, part gangster story like Great Teacher Onizuka, and part battle between good and evil like Neon Genesis Evangelion, the movie is a collection of disparate anime parts that never really comes together. Maybe it’s because the screenplay was adapted from a manga series, or maybe it’s because first-time director Michael Arias wants to say everything in one film, but Tekkonkinkreet feels too outsized for its own good. Black (Kazunari Ninomiya) and White (Yû Aoi), two orphaned brothers living on the streets, are yin and yang personified: Black dispenses enemies with his aggressive street smarts, sheltering the blithe White from a town rundown with corruption and despair. Watching the two vault their way through their surroundings looking for scraps offers an enthralling window into the unbound hope of youth; Arias’s camerawork is nimble and spirited, while the atmosphere is appropriately decayed. But by film’s end there is no escaping Arias’s proclivity for heavy-handed philosophizing. Crows and doves siege the frame en masse, and Black engages in a conversation with the Little Devil Inside (“I’ll always be here if you need me…”) for what feels like an eternity. Hayao Miyazaki proved that less is more in his masterpiece My Neighbor Totoro, but whatever the genre, most major anime directors seem hellbent on spectacle. An otherwise delicate examination of childhood run amok, Tekkonkinkreet is undermined by its desire to be something bigger than what it is.
- Michael Arias
- Anthony Weintraub
- Kazunari Ninomiya, Yû Aoi, Masahiro Motoki, Min Tanaka
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