Like Plaid, Tekkon Kinkreet is certainly inventive
in tone and style; Arias also is unfamiliar, and his lack of notoriety is surprising - given the fact that this film is a
hugely innovative anime putsch produced by Studio 4ºC, the junta behind Memories (1995)
a collaborative movie by Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto and Satoshi Kon; Morimoto's Eikyu Kazoku (Eternal Family,
1997/98) and Otomo's Steamboy (2004).
Yet while Tekkon Kinkreet is Arias' feature movie
directorial debut, he's hardly a novice.
Having started out in the film industry back home in 1987,
Arias has tweaked the special effects and computer graphics, and been a software technical consultant, on American movies
as varied as James Cameron's The Abyss, David Cronenberg's M. Butterfly, and the Coen brothers' The
He also helped develop the Back To The Future ride
at Universal Studios with special effects whiz Douglas Trumbull (Blade Runner).
But Japanese anime held its own attraction.
"I'd been a longtime fan of Studio 4ºC's work, particularly Otomo-san's and Morimoto-san's
projects," Arias acknowledged. "Morimoto-san and I made a short film together, based on Tekkon, back in 1999 - and
it was through him that I got to know Eiko Tanaka, the president of Studio 4ºC. It's a great place - a bit of a mom-and-pop grocery store, with a make-it-up-as-you-go-along
atmosphere. It's very artist-friendly."
By all reports, it's been a bit of a career roller coaster
for Arias ever since.
He produced, helped supervise, and tweaked the CGI for "Beyond,"
the best segment of the Matrix animation offshoot The Animatrix, as well as on another of the segments,
"Second Renaissance," back in 2003.
Three years later, international focus is only just now coming
to grips with the feature-length, groundbreaking visual entity that is his first movie.
"It was a great deal of work," Arias admitted. "I'm not sure
that I'll ever be able to muster that kind of energy again! At the same time, I had an incredibly talented and supportive
crew working with me."
That talented crew included Masahiko Kubo and Chie Uratani,
the joint animation directors here, who previously worked on Trigun and Hayao Miyazaki movies, respectively. Art
director Shinji Kimura cut his teeth on '80s anime classics like Otomo's Akira and Mamoru Oshii's Tenshi no Tamago
Behind the scenes there's been another pivotal "crew member":
the guiding influence, support and inspiration of Studio 4ºC's resident enfant terrible, Koji Morimoto.
He also happens to be Arias' favorite Japanese animator.
"His vision, his style, his use of music," Arias gushed somewhat
reverentially during the course of the interview. "I could go on for a while. He's been a fantastic friend, a wonderful mentor
and teacher, and a great big brother to me. He also helped me out of some tight spots on this movie as well."
As it turns out, despite its innovative artistic bent, Tekkon
Kinkreet - like most Japanese anime - comes from that most traditional of animation source materials: a comic book.
In this case, it's based on the manga created back in 1994
by Taiyo Matsumoto, the man also responsible for Ping Pong.
"I've been enamored since I first read it, about 10 years ago;
it really speaks to me in so many ways," Arias said of the manga.
Arias is also an internationalist when it comes to his favorite
animation movies. He not only digs Otomo's Akira and Miyazaki's Kaze no Tani no Naushika (Nausicaa of
the Valley of the Wind), but also waxes lyrical about Walt Disney's Dumbo and the French-Czech animation classic
La Planete Sauvage (The Fantastic Planet), directed by Rene Laloux.
He says he would like his own film to be perceived on a multitude
of levels, each one as vital as the other, yet returns to the relationship between Kuro and Shiro as the tale's central focus.
"But I'd like people to make their own judgment about its themes,"
he mused. "I think it appeals on a universal level, but I really don't think I've ever seen any other movie quite like it
- animated or not."
(Dec. 23, 2006)
plaid interview (2006)