The Other Side of Animation 260: Tekkonkinkreet

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

There was an article going around in Japan that talked about the current climate of animated films that aren’t big anime franchise films. After Your Name was a smash hit in 2016, the industry has been trying to find the next big Your Name hit, and unfortunately, or what was apparent from that article, the returns haven’t been promising when the big franchise films like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and Jujutsu Kaisen 0 have been smash hits. That isn’t all true, with Belle becoming a financial hit, but it makes you hope that they do not regress into doing big IP-driven ONLY films. Now, we could talk about the fact that the industry all over the world keeps glomping onto the next big hit and trying to replicate it, and how chasing the trend first and making a good film second is always going to end in tragedy, but you know how the industry works. It takes action first without thinking about the long-term game. It’s a shame, because while making money is important, letting the art and the teams make something distinct is also important, because most franchise-based films are underwhelming. When you want to see something that looks like it goes off the beaten path, then you need to see films like Tekkonkinkreet

Directed by Michael Arias, one of the first non-Japanese directors for a major Japanese-animated film, this film is written by Anthony Weintraub, and was animated at Studio 4°C. The story follows two young boys named Black and White, dubbed by Scott Menville and Kamali Minter. They live on the streets of Takarmuchi, a once-thriving metropolis that is now bloated and overrun with criminal gangs trying to take down one another. Black and White try to take control of the streets by protecting everyone from said gangs. Can the two boys survive these dangerous times inside a crumbling city? What else is this character-driven city hiding or dealing with? 

While this is the part where we talk about the plot of the film, let’s instead focus on the standout feature of the film, the animation. If you were looking for something unique, then it would be tough to find something as distinct-looking as this film. The art direction was handled by Shinji Kimura, who also helped out in films like Children of the Sea and The Portrait Studio. Character designs were handled by Shojiro Nishimi, who also did character designs for MFKZ. They were able to translate the immensely detailed buildings and city life and blocky character designs from the original manga by Taiyo Matsumoto to life. Some moments in the film even go into this dream-like imagery that looks like it was all drawn by colored pencils. Even the action beats are as fluid as ever, despite the designs being blocky at points. The city feels intensely lived-in with so much of the city feeling like it’s falling apart. Most of the metal and buildings are covered in rust or chipped paint. There doesn’t seem to be much that isn’t overrun by industrial factories as the many civilians from the typical citizens, the different gangs, and everyone in-between give off vibes of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Shanghai, which were the direct inspirations for the city as they were looking for a Pan-Asian look. Even with the grime and roughness of the overall city via its visuals, there is a lot of love put into the world and how people love living there. The voice cast is also distinct because it’s more US-animation-driven than the usual anime dub casts you see in most Japanese animation. You have the likes of Scott Menville, Maurice LaMarche, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Phil LaMarr, Dwight Schultz, Rick Gomez, Kamali Minter, David Lodge, Quinton Flynn, Alex Fernandez, Yuri Lowenthal, Kate Higgins, Steve Blum, Matt McKenzie, Crispin Freeman, and Dave Wittenberg. It’s a nice mix of what you would normally see in US and Japanese animation. The music is composed by the group Plaid, and they bring this minimal touch to the world mixed with some industrial and fantastical beats. 

Now that we’ve got the talk of the visuals out of the way, what is this film actually about? It’s not that it’s a complicated story, it just follows more of a vibe or mood-like approach to its storytelling. It’s vastly different from what you would see back in 2006 and some would argue even now. Then again, with a film from the same studio that made Children of the Sea and is usually the origin of those fantastic anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond, you should expect something off the beaten path. It’s more flowing and not in your face as we follow the two brothers and the police chasing after the multiple gangsters trying to squeak out a living in a world that is constantly changing. It brings back historical moments like the change from 1970s New York when it was filled to the brim with sex, drugs, and violence before it was cleaned up. The city around them is dying and pushing them out, but some love the city as it is, while reminiscing about what it was like back in the day. The loss of childhood innocence, freedom, and dealing with your personal demons is rampant throughout this film, as there are tales of kids that run and fight freely throughout the bustling city streets. Corruption slithers its way through the alleyways, and this is all while the two brothers at the center of this story are both at the forefront and at points on the sidelines to focus on everyone else. It results in a story that is working on a more emotional than logical level, and that will definitely turn off some people. It’s not the most cohesive story as it goes through the different seasons, and much of what can be interpreted by the audience is either hidden within the dialogue or through visual storytelling. You might not want to focus too much on a film’s plot to get everything, and it’s not the best-told story, but with everything listed above, it’s one of the easier to follow films, whereas the similar-looking Mind Game, which Masaaki Yuasa directed, was a touch more complicated to follow exactly what the story and themes were without breaking them down yourself. However, sometimes, you may want to simply watch a movie that’s an experience and hits a certain part of your brain that likes those less straightforward stories.

 

While its visuals and atmosphere may overtake the story and how the story is told, Tekkonkinkreet is a film that you don’t get too often and should be celebrated when we are all, as of right now, looking for films that are different from the big franchise fodder or tentpole releases. Yes, they might not always work out 100%, but no film is ever going to be quote on quote, “perfect.” Yes, that would be nice, but then every film would be boring. Wouldn’t you rather talk about a film that has some big hits and maybe some misses of varying sizes? At least you have more to talk about than just, it’s good, it’s bad, or something in the middle that doesn’t leave that much of an impact on your filmgoing experience. As of writing this film, there has been no re-release and there is a Blu-ray and DVD release, but the Blu-ray seems like it’s hitting that out-of-print situation where it is hitting absurd prices on Amazon and the like. It’s a shame, because this is a fantastic film, and you would hope a company like Discotek or GKIDS would re-release the film. Still, if you can get a hand on a copy out in the wild, you are in for one of the many examples of why animation is such a vibrant medium, and how it’s not just for kids. Now then, the next time ya see a review, you will be hanging out with DreamWorks The Bad Guys

Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 236: My Little Pony – A New Generation Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

There is always this hurdle that fans of a new film or show based on a beloved property has to go through whether they like it or not, the new iteration of said property. With something like My Little Pony, the last incarnation of the show had a decade worth of seasons, DTV specials, and a feature-length film. Like, that’s a ton of stuff for one generation of a show. It’s time for a change of pace and that’s going to happen for any long-time running series. At the end of the day, what it all adds up to is that the new incarnation of the franchise adds something distinct to make it stand out, and the execution of said new entry in the franchise is entertaining. Luckily, My Little Pony: A New Generation has put its best hooves forward for a rather magical time. I promise you, the horse puns will be as minimal as possible in this review. 


Our story follows Sunny Starscout, voiced by Vanessa Hudgens. She is an earth pony that lives in a nice oceanside town known as Maretime Bay, a community full of only earth ponies. In this incarnation of the franchise, it takes place after a rather long length of time from the last show, and now the earth ponies, the pegasi, and unicorns are segregated and live separately from one another. Sunny is the only one to believe that there used to be a time period where they all lived in harmony, and is constantly laughed at for believing in something as optimistic as living together in peaceful harmony. One day, as she is almost forced back to her place, a unicorn shows up and causes the entire town to crumble into chaos. This new unicorn is named Izzy Moonbow, voiced by Kimiko Glenn in her second horse/pony appearance this year alongside the amazing Centaurworld. Sunny soon realizes that something is amiss in Equestria due to the fact that unicorns can’t use their magic. Sunny and Izzy then go on a journey around the land to try and reunite the three races and bring the world together. Along their journey, they meet two pegasi ponies named Zephyrina Storm and her sister Pipp Petals voiced by Liza Koshy and Sofia Carson, and Sunny’s friend from Maretime Hitch Trailblazer, voiced by James Marsden. Can our heroes find a way to unite the world and bring metaphorical and literal magic back to the world? 



With this being a brand new batch of characters and a new setting, is there enough here to make the film and world feel different from the previous show? The world feels a little more technologically advanced with certain pieces of tech like phones and HD screens being noticeable, which doesn’t fully take away from the magic and timelessness of the previous show, and honestly adds a bit more to the overall theme of how the world has metaphorically and literally lost all of the magic. It still has its fantastical details, but the setting helps bring the film up to date in a better way than the 90s version did where they took out the magic and just placed the ponies in a “50s era/Happy Days” setting. It takes a pseudo similar approach to how Onward handled its lost magic approach, but without the discrimination and themes of segregation and propagandistic campaigns. 




Oh yeah, while this is a film based on a toy line of multi-colored ponies, the film is unapologetic with its themes and commentary. The overall world in this film is split up, due to the works of discrimination and propaganda fueled by racism and it’s also mentioned in the songs as well. Sure, this is nothing new in the world of My Little Pony, but it’s nice to see them not regress in terms of world-building and storytelling. This has happened before where the previous incarnations had some substance to them, but then the more recent one was just “sell toys who cares about plot and substance”.  While the story and characters do feel like this is a pilot film for an upcoming series, the characters are likable. They are distinct within their designs and personalities even down to subtle animation quirks that they are given due to this being a film. It’s also nice that they aren’t going full tilt with “they are the previous generation, but 2.0” with the cast of characters. They all feel distinct, and this is the first time in a while where a male lead is introduced into the core cast. Some of them could have had a bit more time to be fleshed out, but again, this is probably a pilot film and their personalities are going to be expanded upon in the main series. 

Animation-wise, while it won’t be competing against some of the bigger CGI films of the year like Luca and the upcoming Encanto, A New Generation does look attractive. It has good character animation, the texture compositing makes for a rather lovely film, the color palette is pleasing, and it’s pretty much a better-looking version of the other toy and show-based film of this year, Paw Patrol: The Movie. Boulder Media, the Irish studio behind the first season of The Amazing World of Gumball, and many other productions helm the animation here, and they did a fantastic job. You don’t need to spend millions and millions of dollars on theatrical/feature animation, you just need to know how to work around the budget and make it look satisfactory. Having the highest-end animation doesn’t always mean the film is going to be good. 



The voice cast is quite strong with actors that include Vanessa Hudgens, Kimiko Glenn, James Marsden, Sofia Carson, Liza Koshy, Elizabeth Perkins, Ken Jeong, Jane Krakowski, Phil LaMarr, and Michael McKean. And yes, the original cast of the previous incarnation of the franchise does make an appearance with Tara Strong, Tabitha St. Germain, Andrea Libman, Ashleigh Ball all playing their respective characters for a humorous and lovely 2D animated sequence. The songs are also another mainstay from the franchise and they are quite good in this film. They were composed by Alan Schmuckler and Michael Maher, while Heitor Pereira composed the overall score of the film. The songs are diverse in tunes and the singing is actually on point for a lot of the characters, but there are going to be songs you will like more than others. 

There are only a few criticisms to be found with this film. The first one is that the story and its overall execution does feel like a pilot film for a TV series. The pacing feels a touch repetitive in terms of how the story unfolds, and like previously said in the review, not all of the five main characters get development. The later they are introduced, the less time they have on screen. They are likable, but if you were a fan of these characters, then you will have to wait and see how they turn out in the upcoming TV series. There are also some mixed feelings overall to be had with how the final act unfolds. It’s like when you go from Bayonetta 1’s final boss, which is this deity that throws literal universes at you, and you finish it off by throwing it into the sun, to Bayonetta 2’s final boss who is this human-sized boss when the previous bosses were gigantic individuals. It feels like a step backward to go from a powerful demonic pony from the first season of the previous show to a mama’s boy that uses something that you would find in a Super Mario game piloted by Bowser Jr. He fits the overall theme of the film, but still. 

A New Generation is, well, a new incarnation of the franchise that hits it out of the park with an overall fantastic first impression. It has a solid core theme, the animation is quite lovely, and it’s an enjoyable time with a solid soundtrack to boot. The fact that there was a lot of obvious effort put into the film is incredible. This could have easily been some slapdash film put together to get the new series off the ground without doing anything different, and yet here we are in a period of time where even some films made with a license in tow can be rather delightful experiences. If you are hesitant to check out this new film because you were such a huge fan of the last show, well, it’s understandable, but you should also get over it. Embrace both the old and the new. It’s on Netflix for free, so you have nothing but time to waste in that regard. Next time, we shall journey back to Netflix for a limited series that is such a delight! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!