Reel Comics - Taiyo Matsumoto's Tekkon Kinkreet
Reported by Jing - 12:53 PM on September 10, 2008
ENI's mini-series "Reel Comics" aims to inform the fans about the people working behind the scenes. We're talking to those who make it all happen and the challenges they face in bringing the comic related properties to life in today's world of multimedia entertainment! PK Eislet takes a close look at Taiyō Matsumoto’s collected edition of the manga titled "Tekkon Kinkreet" with comments from Michael Arias.
The Eisner Awards are essentially the Oscars of the comics industry. Held annually at the San Diego Comicon, and named after the late great Will Eisner. This year among the 45 categories (ranging from Best Artist to Recognition for Humanitarian efforts) Taiyō Matsumoto’s collected edition of the manga “Black and White”, titled "Tekkon Kinkreet" (The title is a play on words, loosely translating into: Imagination can not be contained by steel and concrete) won the relatively new award: Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Japan Although the original series which was published in the mid-nineties. The collected edition is only just now reaching the USA.
It’s easy to see why this book is winning awards. In addition to the epic story and art, the 600+ page edition features a dust-cover with new art, a full color pull out poster, 12 additional full-color manga pages – the first time these pages were published in the U.S. The forward also contains an insightful interview with Michael Arias, Anthony Weintraub – Director and Screenwriter of the Award winning Animated film also newly released on DVD.
Michael Arias and American living in Japan first read the manga in 1995, which was “a weird time in Tokyo, just after the Kobe quakes and right in the midst of the Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks.” Arias hadn’t been in Japan long yet the landscape was changing dramatically. This sense of the city as a living, evolving thing struck him profoundly. Even so when a friend handed him copies of the original manga, and told him “ This will make you cry”, Arias didn’t believe him.
“I definitely cried a lot those first few reads. There are still scenes in there that get my juices flowing… I never thought a comic book could do that…. I felt that if I did not digest Tekkon Kinkreet, I would not be able to move on in life.”
Ten years later he actually got the chance to do so, as the first non-Japanese to helm an animated motion picture for a Japanese studio.
The story in Tekkon Kinkreet is fairly simple. Two homeless children struggle to survive on the streets of “Treasure Town”, defending their turf against other street dwellers, gangs, and the Yakuza. White is innocent and optimistic, but mentally and emotionally stunted. Meanwhile, his older brother Black is strong, fast and extremely intelligent, but also angry and bitter. The two boys keep each other in balance until a foreign industrial company comes to “gentrify” their town, which of course includes tearing down the old neighborhoods and build shopping malls and theme parks.
But where both the book and the film shine, is in the characterizations. Even the city, Treasure Town, has a life of its own and is uniquely realized. The book plays out an ensemble cast of nearly 20 characters whose lives all intertwine and converge as the story plays out. Both medias also play out like an ode to the feeling of loss. The theme of destruction resonates in both the manga and the film. But the story is also very careful not to pass judgment, rather by asking questions, it allows the reader to come to their own conclusions.
Although the story, and character relationships are abbreviated some, the film also makes sure to imbue the city with many of the same fully realized characters. Arias got his start working on Special Effects films such as the Abyss, later went on to develop software used in rendering backgrounds for Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke”, and continued to develop his talent on “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” before performing as one of the producers for the “Animatrix”. It’s no surprise then that the city in the film is completely and beautifully rendered. Every action takes place in a “real” location that is geographically consistent within the fictional city but also alive with bustling street life. Whether it’s street merchants, or families, stray animals, or school children the city in Tekkon Kinkreet is alive!
Michael Arias: “We tried to use real places for reference as much as we could. There are a lot of places there that have an incredible amount of texture to them…We must have taken 10 rolls of pictures alone of just telephone poles around Tokyo… I also took a couple of trips to Hong Kong and various cities in Sri Lanka and Indonesia to get some of their flavor in the film as well. I didn't want the movie to be set explicitly in Japan.
I wanted it to be set in some kind of parallel universe that's kind of like Japan, but not really Japan…The chaos is very Asian: old stuff, new stuff, these amoeba-like cities that are constantly consuming themselves,”
The animated film also utilizes techniques not normally seen in animation, but often in live action fare such as documentaries, such as whip pans, zooms and handheld shaky cam, that takes the viewer into the thick of the action.
The character design in both the books and the film does take some getting used to. In fact, as drawn in the book, many of the characters are downright ugly. The Animation models are a little more graceful but not by much. But it doesn’t matter, because the characters soon win the audience over through sheer personality as their lives become richer and more developed.
The DVD contains both the original Japanese audio track (with subtitles) as well as an English dub. There is a Director’s commentary, and 3 making of featurettes.
TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE is rated “M” for Mature Audiences and has a Suggested Retail Price of $29.95. In addition to TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE, Matsumoto’s other notable works include BLUE SPRING and NO. 5 (both published by VIZ Media) and PING PONG, which was also adapted into an award-winning live action film that is available domestically from VIZ Pictures.
The Animated film is rated “R” and is available from Sony Pictures and 4C Studios in DVD, Blue-Ray, and PSP and can be purchased at Online Stores or your favorite video retailer.
Both are fantastic and worth checking out!
MORE Manga NEWS & UPDATES