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#27 [May. 29th, 2010|05:49 pm]

100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)

#27 TEKKON KINKREET: BLACK & WHITE – Taiyō Matsumoto

“This entire city is like their backyard.”

Black and White are two savage, orphaned street brats living in an abandoned car in the slums of Treasure Town. It may sound like a bonus level from a Mario game, but Treasure Town is a genuine concrete jungle, a crime-ridden exemplar of urban decay where nobody even cares that the streets are overrun by wild animals. Black and White are essentially two more of these animals; they’re even nicknamed the Stray Cats. The older Black is worldly and clever where the younger white is naïve to the point of ignorance. At 11 he still relies on Black to tie his shoelaces and has only just learned to count to 10 (he spends a lot of the comic showing off this fact). Black seems much smarter by comparison, but he’s not a genius – his elaborate plan to deal with their counterparts from the next city over encroaching on their turf is to lure them up to a clock tower, wait till it strikes five and then hit them with a stick until they give in.

Though it’s only loosely touched on in the comic and it comes from the mouth of a homeless alcoholic, who is the closest thing Black and White have to family, the two Stray Cats are the living embodiments of Treasure Town. For reasons of its own the city has chosen them to be its representatives and given them vague powers, such as the ability to fly, or at least leapfrog around the skyline and pose strikingly on narrow ledges and poles.

As well as being its representatives, Black and White are Treasure Town’s defenders. The threat they defend it from comes in the shape of Serpent, a mysterious foreigner who is behind a plan to clean up the city, getting rid of its gangs and strip club and moving in a theme park called Kiddie Kastle. It may seem like an improvement, but Serpent’s methods are beyond suspect. He brings the city’s exiled yakuza back as his agents to deal with the lesser gangs and plans to clean up the streets by sending killers after the urchins. The Disneyland he wants to create only has the veneer of innocence, while the gap-toothed, violent and filthy White, who carries a roll of toilet paper on his belt to wipe his constantly leaking nose, has its actuality. To ram the point home, White is obsessed with trying to make an apple tree grow in the thin soil of his back-alley Eden and the angle-faced Serpent looks downright reptilian.

While the kids make a stand to protect their home’s squalor like they’re protecting a sandpit from someone trying to shuffle them off to play somewhere more hygienic, they also have to deal with each other. Black and White are balanced opposites whose separation, when it inevitably comes, turns out to be more of a threat to Treasure Town’s essential character than redevelopment. Black and White, experience and innocence, are as necessary to each other and to the life of the city as Yin and Yang.