A surreal fable about love, loyalty and the spirits of places adapted from manga by Taio Matsumoto, this anime feature employs an unusual, watercolor-influenced style that explodes into an orgy of eye-popping, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY-style visuals at its bizarre conclusion.
Treasure Town is under siege: An aging metropolis riddled with memories, it's teeming with upwardly mobile young people, rapacious gangsters, orphaned street children and homeless old men. They all consider it "their town," but feral kids like Black (voice of Kazunari Ninomiya) and White (Yuu Aoi Ninomiya) control the streets. The teenage Black imagines himself as a dark avenger with the spirit of a raven, while 11-year-old White, whose mental age is that of a much younger child, "phones" in reports to the alien headquarters from which he was sent to maintain peace on Earth. The boys live in an abandoned car and scrounge for food, trusting only fellow outcasts like Gramps, a war veteran reduced to living on the streets. The local police, including Fujimura (Tomomichi Nishimura) and his underling, Sawada (Kankuro Kudo), try to get the boys off the streets, but Black is determined never to give in to authority figures of any kind and he and White are inseparable; each unconsciously realizes that he has the potential to complete the other, though that potential has yet to be realized. But their way of life is under siege: Local yakuza bosses strike a deal with the sinister Professor Snake (Masahiro Motoki) to demolish Black and White's run-down but atmospheric neighborhood, which includes a once-thriving red-light district, in order to build a garish amusement park called Kiddie Kastle. Sentimental underboss Suzuki (Min Tanaka) who is nicknamed "The Rat" and is a deep believer in traditional astrology wants no part of the destruction of Treasure Town, and his associate Kimura (Yusuke Iseya), increasingly disgusted with the gangster life, begins making plans to escape with his pregnant girlfriend. Snake, meanwhile, is determined to remove all obstacles that stand between him and his goal, and imports a gang of near-indestructible alien killers to eliminate everyone who opposes Kiddie Kastle.
Los Angeles-born, Tokyo-based director Michael Arias and art director Shinji Kimura (STEAMBOY) create a vivid, decaying world that strongly resembles 1950s Tokyo. Black and White are a little too cute and cartoonish for the heavy metaphysical freight they carry, but the older characters are effectively realized, especially the world-weary Suzuki and the freaky Snake. Anime enthusiasts will want to take a look, but the film is too uneven to serve as a good introduction to the form. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh