October 1, 2008

Studio 4°C’s Genius Party Beyond has just been confirmed for fps as one of the many delectable films on the menu at this years Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. This is an incredible treat for fans of the studio who brought us Tekkon Kinkreet and for animation enthusiasts alike as the anthology film has seen very few screenings on North American shores.

Festival details, further film listings, and more will be available soon on the official Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema site! We'll post a full schedule here on fps as soon as it's confirmed.

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September 9, 2008

Anime After Dark is a new event being kicked off this year by the Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. On October 18, a collection of anime features will be screened at the Somerville Theatre from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (Among the lineup: Grave of the Fireflies, Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, Cat Soup, Project A-ko, Tekkon Kinkreet and Millennium Actress.)

The cost? A mere twenty bucks if you buy tickets now, $25 if you wait until September 20, and $30 at the door.

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September 28, 2007
In the last of this week's three-day Tekkonkinkreet tour, we present our latest video podcast: a music video set to Plaid's "White Dream"—or, more accurately, to the Shinichi Osawa remix of "White's Dream," from the Tekkonkinkreet soundtrack remix CD. The video is directed by Michael Arias, who generously provided it for us to post here.

Watch the video

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September 27, 2007

White's Dream is a music video based on the Tekkonkinkreet movie. Set to the Shinichi Osawa remix of Plaid's song from the soundtrack and directed by Tekkon director Michael Arias, the video encapsulates most of the movie from Shiro's (White's) perspective.

Tekkonkinkreet review
Michael Arias interview
Tekkonkinkreet image gallery
Tekkonkinkreet soundtrack
Tekkonkinkreet soundtrack remix CD

Image credit: © Taiyo Matsumoto / Shogakukan, Aniplex, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Beyond C., Dentsu, Tokyo MX.
Special thanks to Michael Arias for providing this video.

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September 26, 2007
Interview by Emru Townsend and Tamu Townsend

Tekkonkinkreet has a long history, having started with a CG short created in the late 1990s, based on the Taiyo Matsumoto manga Black & White. Originally created as an exercise, Tekkonkinkreet was eventually slated to be a feature helmed by seasoned director Koji Morimoto—and then, silence. It wasn’t until late 2005 that it was announced that Tekkonkinkreet was on the boards again, this time with Michael Arias (who had created the original short) directing. The result was a heady, lush and sometimes baffling feature that saw very limited theatrical release in North America and is now out on DVD. Shortly after the film opened this year's Fantasia film festival, we interviewed Michael Arias via e-mail about the story behind Tekkonkinkreet.

Read the interview

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Tekkonkinkreet made its North American DVD/Blu-ray/UMD debut today, and we're celebrating with three days of related bits of Tekkon goodness on the site. First up: an image gallery featuring movie stills, original background art (including pre-production images, like the cropped segment at left), and even reference photos from director Michael Arias. Unless you happen to hang around Studio 4°C, you've never seen some of these images before. Check it out.

See the gallery

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July 20, 2007
It's back to school in September, and to help you cope with the transition there's a ton of anime titles coming out. Hmmm, textbooks or animation? It's a tough call.

Kicking things off right after Labour Day weekend is the debut of Essence of Anime, Manga Entertainment's equivalent to Bandai and ADV's Anime Legends and Essential Anime brands. They'll start by re-releasing Appleseed (the so-so 1994 OAV, not the recent CGI feature), Blood: The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, the first volume of Karas, Ninja Scroll, Perfect Blue, the Read or Die OAV and Street Fighter Alpha. The week after comes the high-definition releases of Wings of Honneamise, in both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Two weeks after that is the DVD/UMD/Blu-ray release of Tekkon Kinkreet, which only just opened in limited release across North America.

And there's plenty more where that came from.

New titles:

7/31 - Night Shift Nurses: Kranke Vol. 2 (Adult) (DVD)

8/7 - TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Blu-ray)
8/7 - TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (DVD)
8/7 - TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (includes DVD edition) (HD DVD)
8/14 - Secret World of Benjamin Bear: Teddy Lessons (DVD)
8/15 - Night Shift Nurses: Experiment Vol. 2 (Adult) (DVD)
8/18 - Backyardigans: Super Secret Secret Spy (DVD)

9/3 - Gumby Essentials Vol. 1 (DVD)
9/4 - Appleseed (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Blood: The Last Vampire (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Ghost in the Shell (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Karas Vol. 1 (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Ninja Scroll (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Perfect Blue (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - Read or Die (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/4 - SpongeBob SquarePants Season 5 Vol. 1 (DVD)
9/4 - Street Fighter Alpha (Essence of Anime) (DVD)
9/11 - Ah My Goddess Season 2 Vol. 3 (DVD)
9/11 - Best Student Council Vol. 6: Don't Go! Hello (DVD)
9/11 - Guyver Vol. 6 (DVD)
9/11 - Wings of Honneamise (includes DVD edition) (Blu-ray)
9/11 - Wings of Honneamise (includes DVD edition) (HD DVD)
9/11 - Xenosaga Vol. 1: Enter the Gnosis (DVD)
9/18 - Barbie as The Island Princess (DVD)
9/18 - Kappa Mikey: Lost in Transportation (DVD)
9/18 - Red Garden Vol. 1: Live to Kill (DVD)
9/18 - This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Collection (DVD)
9/18 - Toys That Rescued Christmas (DVD)
9/25 - Air Vol. 2 (DVD)
9/25 - Air Vol. 2 + artbox (DVD)
9/25 - Tekkon Kinkreet (Blu-ray)
9/25 - Tekkon Kinkreet (DVD)
9/25 - Tekkon Kinkreet (UMD)
9/25 - Utawarerumono Vol. 6: A Song for Posterity (DVD)

10/2 - Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: The Laughing Man (DVD)
10/2 - Max & Ruby: A Merry Bunny Christmas (DVD)
10/2 - Tenjho Tenge Complete Collection (DVD)
10/9 - Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 1 Set (DVD)
10/16 - Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Box Set (DVD)
10/16 - Hellsing Ultimate Vol. 3 (DVD)
10/16 - Hellsing Ultimate Vol. 3 Special Edition (DVD)

11/6 - Naruto the Movie Deluxe Edition (DVD)
11/6 - Naruto Vol. 17 (DVD)
11/13 - Pokeom Season 1 Box Set 2 (DVD)
11/20 - Death Note Vol. 1 (DVD)
11/20 - Death Note Vol. 1 Deluxe Edition + figure (DVD)
11/27 - Bleach Vol. 7 (DVD)
11/27 - Hikaru no Go Vol. 11 (DVD)
11/27 - Naruto Vol. 18 (DVD)
11/27 - Ranma 1/2: Season 4 Box Set: Outta Control (DVD)

12/4 - Mar Vol. 4 (DVD)
12/4 - Naruto Box Set 5 (uncut) (DVD)
12/4 - Naruto Box Set 5 Special Edition (uncut) (DVD)
12/4 - Zatch Bell Vol. 13 (DVD)
12/18 - Death Note Vol. 2 (DVD)
12/18 - Full Moon Vol. 7 (DVD)
12/25 - One Piece Vol. 12 (DVD)

January 2008:
1/8 - Shonen Onmyoji Vol. 4 (DVD)
1/15 - Karin Vol. 5: Ascendance (DVD)
1/15 - Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 2 Vol. 8 (DVD)
1/15 - Law of Ueki Vol. 11 (DVD)

Date changes:

9/18 - Noein Vol. 5 (DVD)

10/16 - Zipang Vol. 7: Return to the Future (DVD)
10/23 - Karas Vol. 2: The Revelation (DVD)

March 2008:
3/31 - Highlander: The Search for Vengeance Special Edition (DVD)

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July 12, 2007

One of the most obnoxious things about Hollywood movies is the tendency to put kids in danger to mine a little extra anxiety from the audience. It's a cheap stunt, because bad things rarely happen to kids in Hollywood films. (Steven Spielberg is a serial offender here. Remember Short Round on the bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, or Tim climbing the soon-to-be-re-electrified fence in Jurassic Park? Right.)

There's none of that fake danger in Tekkon Kinkreet, the Studio 4°C film that opened the Fantasia film festival this year. The young protagonists live in a harsh, gritty world that gives no quarter, and that sometimes takes the movie to places that Hollywood movies fear to tread.

Tekkon Kinkreet is the story of Kuro and Shiro (whose names literally translate to Black and White), two of the many orphan children who prowl the streets of Treasure Town. Shiro, the younger of the two, is the innocent, while Kuro has no problem with getting his knuckles (or a length of pipe) bloody to protect him or their turf. In this mix are two cops (one older and wiser, who keeps an eye out for Kuro and Shiro, the other a young rookie); a young yakuza who's leading his boss's advance into Treasure Town; and a mysterious and sinister elfin character who aims to turn a fair chunk of Treasure Town into a massive theme park.

There's a lot going on in this movie, and every one of its 100 minutes is put to good use. The kids, the cops, the yakuza and the developer all have some sort of interplay between each other (sometimes with words, sometimes with violence, sometimes with both), but just as importantly, they each have some sort of interplay with the city itself. In fact, Tekkon Kinkreet is as much about our various relationships to the urban landscape as anything else.

Based on the Taiyo Matsumoto manga Black & White and directed by Michael Arias, Tekkon Kinkreet shares elements of other anime films that feature outsider children. Like Grave of the Fireflies, Kuro and Shiro have struck out on their own, with the older character willing to take on any burden to protect the younger's health and innocence. Like Akira, the movie dwells mostly among those who live in the city but who have dropped out of society. And like Kakurenbo, these kids' relationship with the urban landscape has little to do with its intended use, but is in many ways more intimate and more thorough than for ordinary citizens.

The movie looks fantastic, with Treasure Town a lush forest of rooftops, fire escapes, cables and signs. The characters who inhabit Treasure Town are angular, slope-shouldered, asymmetrical—they owe more in look to Mind Game than, say, Naruto—and fit right in with the bustling, chaotic city. I was quite surprised during the post-screening Q&A when an audience member implied that most of the film was clearly CG; not only because it's obviously not the case, but because if there's any film that proves it doesn't matter which elements are CG and which are hand-drawn, it's this one. The appropriate tool is used at the appropriate time, and it's put together not with the express intent of hiding the seams, but of making the scene work. The end result is something you'll want to repeatedly freeze-frame when the DVD comes out, but which you should catch on the big screen when its limited North American run starts on Friday, just to drink it all in.

Tekkon Kinkreet
Directed by Michael Arias
100 minutes
Buy Tekkon Kinkreet Limited Edition on DVD (Region 2) at YesAsia.com
Buy Tekkon Kinkreet on DVD at Amazon.com
Buy Tekkon Kinkreet soundtrack CD at Amazon.com
Buy Tekkon Kinkreet soundtrack remix CD at YesAsia.com

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June 29, 2007
Our pals at the Fantasia film festival have unleashed this year's lineup, and as always, animation fans are well served—but they have to do a little more work to get their fix.

Features seem a little diminished, but not so much as last year. The fest starts and ends strong—Tekkon Kinkreet is the opening film, and the Korean Yobi the Five-Tailed Fox is the last animated screening, on the second-to-last day of the festival—but those are the only two features on 35mm film. The odd-looking stopmo film We Are the Strange is in high-definition video, but the other features (the Flash-animated Minushi, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow and Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society) are all projected, standard-definition video. Previous Fantasia fests prove that watching projected video can still be enjoyable, but spending four days at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema watching nothing but 35mm reminds you of the kind of difference the medium makes.

There are also two short feature documentaries that are about animation, and they're screening together. Animania is about Canadian anime fandom, which appears to focus on how the current generation of teen fans relate to anime. I've seen and heard so many reports on teen fandom I'd be inclined to give it a pass, but last year—back when the movie's focus was less on the teens—I was interviewed extensively for Animania, and I was asked some very interesting questions. I'm hoping they applied the same kind of thoughtfulness to their adolescent subjects. (And no, I'm not in the actual Animania movie, but apparently I'll appear in the DVD extras.) The other documentary is the French Ghibli et le mystère Miyazaki (Ghibli and the Mystery of Miyazaki), which needs little explaining but which is definitely a must-see, especially with interviewees like Isao Takahata, Moebius and Takashi Murakami.

Fantasia's real source of pleasure for animation fans comes from the animated shorts, but that's also its real source of pain. For years I've been preaching that animation shouldn't be ghettoized, that it should be treated like "regular" film. The problem is that Fantasia gives me just what I ask for, scattering its animated shorts among omnibus films (Ten Nights of Dreams) and over a dozen collections of shorts, only two of which are animation-specific (a best-of compilation from last year's Ottawa fest, plus the latest edition of The Outer Limits of Animation, which inexplicably includes the two-year-old, almost overexposed, not-terribly-out-there In the Rough). Miraculously, it's possible to see all of the animated shorts with only one schedule conflict: The one screening of The Outer Limits of Animation is at the same time as Watch Out! Beyond the Genres of Korean Short Films, which includes the 34-minute The Hell (Two Kinds of Life).

And really, that's the most amazing thing about Fantasia this year. They've added a third cinema to their venues, but in three weeks of screenings there appear to be fewer repeats than ever before. It's a testament to the passion of their crew that they're still going so strong.

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June 28, 2007
The first event of the Platform International Animation Festival took place on Monday night with Competition 1. Irene Kotlarz, Director of Programming (pictured) got things rolling and welcomed and eager crowd that had already been well-taken care of by registration and other volunteer staff. If there were any fires being put out in the background, attendees sure didn't know about it. The festival has been a well-oiled machine so far.

The first short to screen was Torill Kove's The Danish Poet, this year's Oscar winner. Luis Cook's The Pearce Sisters was a standout Aardman short and one of the newer shorts in the selection. Recently acclaimed shorts such as Run Wrake's Rabbit and Theodore Ushev's Tower Bawher were shown and I became newly acquainted with Herzog and the Monsters.

The opening night party offered a chance for people to reconnect and make some new contacts in a great setting and others snuck off later in the evening for Comedy vs. Art, featuring an animation face-off between Bill Plympton and Joanna Priestley.

Tuesday was the first full day of the festival and I started off the day at the Meet the Animators panel moderated by Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine. The thread that ran through all of the discussions dealt with passion for animating. Marc Bertrand of the National Film Board said he would rather people make films for themselves with themes they care about rather than impressing a producer. Motomichi Nakamura suggested that animators put work in their portfolio that they really enjoyed and not put in the rest.

The highlight of the day was the feature Tekkon Kinkreet, with its lush visuals and bold style. Director Michael Arias (pictured) was in the house and answered an extended Q&A about the making of the film.

After Competition 3, I could barely survive Animation From Hell, which screened Shut Eye Hotel, Bill Plympton's new short. So many activities can get a bit taxing, and I had to get ready for another day replete with great activities.

(Photos by official festival photographer CJ Beaman.)

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April 30, 2007
It's good week to live in France. By that, I really mean it's only good to live in Nantes or somewhere really close by. Amer Beton, the French-subtitled version of Tekkon Kinkreet, opens on Wednesday theatrically in one theatre in that city, quite a few hours away from Paris. Allocine has the trailer and 4 excerpts of the film. Amer Beton was also the French version of the comic from which the film is adapted, and in English it was originally published under the name Black and White.

Now that Sony has picked up distribution rights, many people have been more hopeful. IMDB lists an American limited release for the second week of July, and I have yet to see or read anything for Canada outside of the festival circuit.

Several sites have been repeating that a domestic DVD release is set for the end of September. It seems to have begun with an announcement from Anime News Service, and picked up by several others, including the very reliable Twitch and Anime News Network. However, I have yet to see the date on the Sony website, despite most sites linking back to Sony's upcoming DVD releases, which are only listed until June. Viz is also planning to re-release the comic a few weeks before that, so it does make sense, but I'm still checking.

While all of this TK news is heartening, it bothers me that distributors still don't have enough faith to give innovative features a chance by giving them more theatrical exposure. I can't see it hurting their DVD sales, only increasing them.

At the end of the last week, the English Tekkon Kinkreet website went live, and you can access the trailer from the main page.

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December 31, 2006
It wasn't hard to decide on the subject of our look back at 2006; almost from the beginning, observers were commenting on the number of features being produced in North America, and the biggest news in January concerned the union of the old and new titans of American feature animation, Disney and Pixar. Meanwhile, festival audiences were being treated to exquisite and daring new films from abroad like Princess, Renaissance, The Christies, Book of the Dead and the oblique, partly animated The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes and anime fans found themselves in the midst of a feature revival with Origin: Spirits of the Past, Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast-Food Grifters, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Paprika and the recently released Tekkon Kinkreet—each one different from the other in style and tone.

Read the article


October 7, 2006
Almost a year ago I posted about Tekkon Kinkreet, an anime adaptation of the Black & White manga, which is in production under the direction of Michael Arias and due for a Japanese release this December. Thanks to a tip from Anime News Network, I just found out that four trailers are available online, in QuickTime and Windows Media formats; you can get to them by clicking the "Media" button on the lower left side of the main window of the official Tekkon Kinkreet site. Enjoy.

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October 19, 2005
No, I don't mean a 1940s gangster film. Animatrix producer Michael Arias is slated to direct an anime adaptation of Taiyo Matsumoto's manga, Black & White, due for a 2007 release.

The Anime News Network article on the topic quotes Matsumoto saying that he saw a 30-second clip from of an animated Black & White from Arias ten years ago. (Actually, they're citing an article in Big Comic Spirits magazine.) It seems like a few errors have been introduced somewhere along the line; that clip is from a four-minute pilot titled Tekkon Kinkreet, which was being directed by Koji Morimoto. I saw it while working at Softimage in 1999 or 2000; Arias (who was working for Softimage in Japan at the time) was, if memory serves, acting in the role of a technical consultant and software developer, much the same as he had done for Princess Mononoke (both productions used Softimage software).

In any case, Tekkon Kinkreet was quite captivating. It'll be interesting to see what Arias can do with seven more years of software development.

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