Review by: Edward Zacharias
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
Genre: Graphic Novel (Fiction)
MSRP: $29.95 US
Rating: M (Mature)
Release Date: Available Now
A definite winner in every way.
I must confess that this was my first time picking up TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE seeing as it has been released before as three separate volumes but holding the rather beefy edition that bundled all three of the volumes together I began to kick myself for not having picked it up sooner. Reading the first five pages you can see how this marvelous work of art won the 2008 Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best U.S. Best Edition of International Material that just so happens to come from Japan.
A great choice, is what I say and the reason is that there’s nothing quite like it. Author Taiyo Matsumoto not only created a deeply moving story of two characters that go together like peanut butter goes with jelly but he also created a fantastical city the begins the evolve right before your eyes. You see, in the city of Treasure Town – where the defenders of the city are two orphaned street urchins – unusual animals can be spotted and some children can actually fly. This is a place where the criminal element mourns the passing of the old days when things were just black and white.
Treasure Town’s “superheroes” come in the form of two young orphans with the simple names of Black and White. While Black is the more sharp-minded child, White is the more incoherent one whose babbling is almost strangely philosophical. The pair not only defend the city from street punks and Yakuza scum but they are the heart of the city. Without White there is no Black and vice verse so these two children are ying to each another’s yang. They defend the city with violence, which makes them feared not only by criminals but also citizens and the police.
Yet there is change in the air and who else but Black and White can sense it when the sudden appearance of a children’s theme park pops up in Treasure Town. In the center of this new edifice are two Yakuza henchmen who have come to despise the changes in the city. The one called Rat longs for the old days while the once-loyal Kimura has sided with a new criminal family that has come to change everything about Treasure Town including getting rid of Black and White.
Of course, getting rid of these boys is not an easy feat. You see, while they’re children these boys have unusually enhanced strength and they can actually fly. With the new growing threat, both Black and White find themselves in the battle of their lives. In one chapter, the boys go up against Kimura, trashing him to the point of disfiguring him. Instead of seeking revenge, however, Kimura comes to understand that these boys are important to the city and comes to be one of their biggest supporters. With numerous memorable moments – such as the moment the police take White away from Black or the three seasoned assassins that hunt them down during one chapter – it’s hard to want to put this manga down.
As I mentioned, Treasure Town is a unique city and Matsumoto’s interesting artistic style makes it one of the most memorable places you’ll see in a manga. Speaking of the art, the uneven lines and clashes of black against the white panels make the visual style different yet fitting to the universe Matsumoto created. As far as the storytelling is concerned, TEKKONKINREET is a violent tale but the bloody fights take a backseat to the powerful tale that has a deeper meaning you can only get by reading it more than once. Believe me when I say that I shed a tear or two while reading it much like Michael Arias (director of the TEKKONKINKREET animated movie) said in the volume’s introduction.
TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE is one of those unforgettable stories that will stay with you long after you finished reading it. Having the three volumes packed into one nicely packaged book is really the way to go and owning this one means you either love good manga or know that this is one masterpiece that deserves to be read again and again. If this is your first time reading it, you are in for a treat that will certainly have you scrabbling to see the animated film afterwards.
Black and White literally jump off the pages of this manga and will remain two of the most endearing and memorable characters to date. It’s easy to see why this book managed to win this year’s Eisner Award (and an Editor’s Choice Award from us). The story is just one of those unforgettable tales that is not short on surprises or emotion.
Matsumoto’s art is uniquely his own and it really stands out in this manga. The influence is truly European but it somehow just works for this particular story and theme.
TEKKONKINKREET: BLACK & WHITE is not only surreally compelling but it is also one of the most brilliant work of literature you will read this year. Taiyo Matsumoto not only created a fascinating world but the two main characters will certainly haunt your thoughts. This is certainly a Must Have for any manga collector.