Story = B+
Video = A
Audio = A
Black and White are two orphans who roam the streets of Treasure Town, beating down any thug or yakuza who gets in their way. When mysterious foreign entrepreneurs appear with the intention of tearing down Treasure Town and replacing it with an amusement park, Black and White face their greatest adversaries yet. It is up to the destructive Black to save the fate of the city and up to the gentle White to save Black from his own dark nature. (Source: ANN)
I'll admit that I initially had low expectations for this movie purely because it is directed by an American (even though it is based on a Japanese manga and produced by a Japanese animation studio). Call it unjustified cynicism if you want, but whenever I see anime where the US has had some hand in its production, I usually end up disappointed. But luckily that's not the case with this movie.
The thing that makes it particularly worthy of praise -- for me anyway -- is the balanced way in which it presents Black and White's unrestricted freedom.
When it starts out, you see the two kids leaping up buildings, hopping across rooftops, chasing away challengers, and you even see Black beating the snot out of a gangster at one point. It's the kind of power and adventure that every kid has dreamed about having at some point (or maybe just me -- when I was a kid). And from that perspective, it starts out with a sense of almost whimsical nostalgia. And on top of that it does a great job of building up their attachment to each other as well as the city and all the people living in it.
But as you get further into the movie, you see that things aren't quite so carefree as they first seem, as the story shows the darker side of Black and White's wild abandon. The kids have to pickpocket to get any money; they survive cold winders with nothing but an abandoned car for shelter; and then those gangsters who Black beat up come down on both of them with a brutal vengeance. Plus, just as you get a feeling for the kids' attachement to each other, the plot works its hardest to try and tear the two appart. All in all, it makes for some unexpectedly heart-wrenching drama.
To be fair, there is a lot of strangeness in this movie that will probably confuse people. For one, the gangsters' main goal is to build an amusement park. Seriously. And it's not like it's a cover for some shady dealings either. It literally is just an amusement park and this is what Black and White are fighting against. Maybe it's supposed to be symbolic of commercialism's destructive effect on kids' pure imaginations ... something like that. But I have a feeling that the oddities are due more to the movie glossing over the story from the original manga than it is due to thematic subtlety. But even so there was enough plot explanation and character development keep me enthralled throughout.
Above the engaging plot and sympathetic characters, there is the wildly original animation. The visuals are colorful, playful, and unbelievably detailed. This movie has some solid replay value if for no other reason than that you will need to watch multiple times just to be able to absorb all the details. The art style is different from anything else I've seen in anime. It almost reminds me of something a child would do just because there is so much imagination in the details. Some people might think the visuals are too stylized, but I think the use of dynamic action and camera movement keeps the abstract visuals looking solid.
The music also matches and enhances the mood of each scene perfectly.
So to sum up, this a great movie with an original animation style that delivers on a lot of levels. Definitely recommended.