by Abby Ho, Amanda Low, and Rose Ho
Two young brothers named Black and White live rampantly in the bustling slums of Treasure Town. When the Yakuza and other mysterious figures step in and try to take control of the city, Black and White go to extremes to protect each other and their home using supernatural powers (including flight and telepathy), but their relationship is tested by White’s helplessness and Black’s tendency towards violence.
(Warning! Spoilers ahead!)
Abby: So what did you think?
Rose: It was very visually interesting but I was kind of bored by the story.
Amanda: Overall, I liked it (I know that sounds generic), but it was the supernatural element that didn’t quite fit? Like the introduction of the three purple alien dudes felt a little, I dunno, out of place? Also yeah, I can agree with you, Rose. The visuals outshone the story by far.
Amanda: I enjoyed the character of White a lot. He was perhaps the most interesting character.
Abby: I think so too. I especially like when he imagines things. I think as an animation it was really intense, but then the story was a little lacking. It also took me some time to get into it. I left with mixed feelings…like I enjoyed the art a lot, as well as the contrast between White and Black, but then I was thinking, is the contrast too apparent?
Amanda: I wanted the story to really capitalize on the innocence of White’s character in contrast with the dirty, empty Treasure Town. And the story did try that a little bit, but maybe not enough for my taste?
Rose: It was interesting that there were about four or five different visual styles and it all blended together. Sort of like a bunch of different artists and filmmakers came together to make it.
Rose: It was very experimental-looking. I also liked that they didn’t just draw/paint the frames in a static way but incorporated “camera movements” and even had long takes and POV shots, like when the mobster gets on the elevator and goes to a meeting. And that weird, psychedelic break that Black has near the end…There’s just so much going on stylistically. It became more atmosphere than anything coherent. I was confused too by Black’s experience at the end.
Amanda: I think that confusion lends itself well to that part though. Black’s going through a psychotic break and it’s disorienting.
Rose: Yeah, but the blend of supernatural (Black and White’s connection, the mythical Minotaur, the three alien hit men) didn’t make sense to me. Or didn’t mesh well together. Plus, I mean, their names are Black and White.
Amanda: No doubt the film wanted to play with the theme of balance (these two brothers need each other to survive) but I felt like it could be represented in a way that wasn’t as in-your-face. I thought the film had something good going with the theme of the Innocent White versus the Bad Dirty Empty Treasure Town with Black being the protector. But in the end it was more like, ‘White Needs Black and Black Needs White’. Also, I feel like the Town’s storyline didn’t have a real ending?
Abby: Oh, but I was going to say the movie played with the idea that the kids were not really innocent, or as innocent as White may have appeared, because of that ending scene where they connected in such a weird way and Black had a Minotaur battle.
Amanda: I think the kids being corrupted has something to do with the town being corrupted which is why I felt like the town’s story line needed a strong conclusion. Because all we know is that the town changes.
Rose: Mmm, and I was confused by how much of the kids’ (possibly) mental problems were supposed to be supernatural stuff how much was their real selves.
Abby: Hmm. Yeah, actually I agree. I was going to say before that it seemed to gloss over mental health issues and paint it in a way to look almost supernatural? But the film itself didn’t really give me space to place myself in anyone’s shoes, so I don’t know, I think I’m a little torn?
Amanda: I actually felt fine with it being a contained universe on its own. Treasure Town is a unique place with unique people, and its own problems. We are merely spectators. If we can’t relate, it’s because we aren’t living in this bubble. Anyone else thought White may have been autistic?
Rose: “Be happy, be happy”. Yes. Plus, he’s unable to dress himself, he communicates by drawing, and he has an innate, inexplicable connection with his surroundings and his brother.
Rose: What did you two think Suzuki and his mentor-mentee relationship with Kimura? Or the dude who wears a jacket but no shirt and has weird eyebrows? Snake? It’s like Yakuza but also aliens.
Abby: I didn’t know what to think about Suzuki/Kimura. If it was his mentor why did he tell him to stop being part of the gang?
Amanda: Suzuki told the guy to take a break after he got brutally beat up by Black. I don’t think that meant, “leave the Yakuza and never come back”. At least that’s the way I read it.
Rose: It’s kind of impossible to leave that lifestyle without dying, I guess. And he does die.
Amanda: Yeah. Alien Yakuza killed him though, not Human Yakuza, if that counts for anything.
Rose: But he has a wife and kid, so is the message “life is unfair” or “kids are the hope for the future”? Also, can the Alien Yakuza stand in for Capitalism? Like they want to turn Treasure Town into a theme park/arcade?
Amanda: I thought it was more like, “The city changes and you can’t do anything about it”.
Abby: I agree with the capitalism idea.
Amanda: Yeah, and Suzuki was against it because the old town, even in its dirty old state, had charm to it. Building the theme park is emotionally empty.
Abby: What about the other yakuza?
Rose: Oh! The Apache gang?
Amanda: I thought they were an element of the Old Treasure Town. The Yakuza (Suzuki) wanted to get rid of the Apache gang for financial/power reasons, sure, but by doing so, they’ve killed yet another part of the Old Town.
Rose: But Suzuki had ties to Old Treasure Town, even greeted the policeman. Maybe he left in his youth, got powerful, and came back? Anyway, he’s pretty interesting. Took his own death-by-mentee very zen-like.
Amanda: I think Suzuki and his gang only wanted take the Apache gang out for power. By doing so they caused change. Which parallels Snake’s Alien Gang taking Suzuki out and causing change. Like the old man said, the town constantly changes.
Rose: Oh, nice connection, Amanda.
Abby: Like a “change is inevitable” kind of idea? I also think the town is constantly changing but also everyone leaves town. The couple in the car? Who were like, “I hate this town”, as they were driving away? Even Black and White had planned on leaving the town and living on a beach “when the piggy bank is full”.
Amanda: Well, White did. Black just kinda went along. Black was adamant in keeping the town the same.
Rose: Black is so consumed with saving “his” town.
Abby: Yeah. But then I kind of interpreted that after the Minotaur scene, Black was happy to leave town too, like when he reflects on his scar on his hand. I think the movie also talks about how people only consider their own version of the town but in the end the town is still going to change no matter who claims it. It lives past everyone’s version of that town.
Amanda: Yeah. I like that a lot.
Rose: Like the town is it’s own character? That would go in line with the swooping camera movements and the kids’ ability to fly and see the town as a bigger picture. I guess I mean the visual style lends itself to seeing the town and the kids’ very full and detailed surroundings as a major part of the film. Not as a person exactly but there’s certainly a focus on the look of the town.
Amanda: A+ art direction.
Rose: Here’s another question: Is Treasure Town an allegory for the world or just for Japan?
Abby: White does call it Japan.
Rose: Is it weird to ask, what is the “treasure” of Treasure Town?
Abby: Maybe it’s irony. There is no treasure in the town?
Amanda: It was once flourishing but now no longer. Yeah, maybe it’s ironic.
Abby: Overall, I enjoyed it, mostly because of the artistic style. It was very interesting and it seemed like we had a lot to unpack!
Amanda: Yeah, exactly. There were elements of the story I enjoyed and elements I didn’t.
Rose: Yes. I didn’t really like it at first, but discussing it with you guys helped me appreciate it more.
Abby, Amanda, and Rose are visual art staff for LooseLeaf Magazine.
Abby Ho is a Canadian born-Chinese artist. She is interested in the accessibility of art and how art can be used as a social tool to bridge gaps within different cultures, and subjects such as psychology or biology.
Amanda Low currently studies under the Drawing and Painting program at OCADU, and is interested in the current developments in painting, racial issues and the digital realm. She approaches both subjects through art making.
Rose Ho is a Toronto-born, Chinese-Canadian who graduated from OCAD University with a degree in art criticism. She loves writing about art and culture, delving into the history, symbolism, and cultural theory surrounding works of art, and learning about different global perspectives through art, film, and literature. In her free time, she writes film reviews on her blog, Rose-Coloured Ray-Bans.