Tekkonkinkreet is a controversial anime movie with many different themes, characters and settings. Based on the manga 'Black and White' by Taiyo Matsumoto, the story follows the exploits of two orphaned delinquents as they fight other delinquents, Yakuza gangs and alien assassins to protect their home, Treasure Town, as well as dealing with their own emotional battles and conflicts. The entire movie is a masterpiece of animation, with visually unique designs, enthralling music and well-developed characters, which deserves far more credit than it receives. However in my opinion the most significant and fascinating aspect of this movie is through a character known only as the 'Minotaur'. A creature with no certain origins, no obvious motives and an enigmatic presence which none can really explain, the Minotaur helps take the story of Tekkonkinkreet to new levels of deep thought and personal discovery that may well have been unreachable otherwise. In this analysis, I'm going to be looking into several aspects of the Minotaur's character such as the part he plays throughout the movie, physical presentation, and how he can be interpreted. This is purely based on the movie's presentation of the Minotaur; although I have read the original manga online I do not know it well enough to draw a detailed analysis from it, so I am using what I can ascertain from the movie only. And please bare in mind that many of these points are my personal opinions; I am in no way trying to tell people that their thoughts on the movie or the character are wrong, I'm just giving my own view on different aspects of the Minotaur.
Part in the Movie
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Minotaur is that throughout most of the anime it is presented as a kind of bogeyman figure, a monster feared by all and seen by few. The easiest way to organise these presentations is by separating them into two categories; psychological and physical appearances.
Psychological appearance is the most important aspect of the Minotaur as it is primarily a psychological apparition. The first time this is demonstrated is when Black and White are at their home and Black is sat on top of a telephone poll looking at the river ahead. For a brief moment we see a dark horizon zooming towards us, covered in black and red tendrils while a faint, double-layered voice says 'free the darkness'. As the scene is interrupted by White's comments this is the first indication that the Minotaur is important to Black seeing as only he was able to see this. The second time this happens is when Dusk is telling Black about the assassins that ran them out of their town, coming out with the comment that only the Minotaur was stronger than them. Black immediately dismisses the idea as a story, clearly demonstrating his lack of belief in the Minotaur, which causes Dusk to say that he didn't believe in him either. However Dusk then goes on to say that when he looks at Black he thinks of the Minotaur, where we are given the image of the red-skinned Minotaur. This association with the Minotaur and Black continues when a group of kids on an arcade game are talking about both of them. One thinks Black is the new monster roaming Treasure Town while another says the Minotaur is still the stronger of the two and the third claims that Black is crazy enough to be the Minotaur. Ironically enough it is soon after this last statement that Black appears and knocks one of them out with his pole.
In terms of physical presentation there are less scenes to work with until the very end of the anime. The earliest scene we have of the Minotaur is during the opening credits just after White has asked Black if his facts are right. A brief image of the Minotaur's mask is faded first out then into darkness along with the insignia of the movie's production company. Obviously when watching the movie the first time around it is impossible to know that this is the Minotaur, unless of course you know the manga very well, and it wasn't until I began analysing the Minotaur that I realised that was him at the beginning. There is a very long gap before getting any more visuals of the Minotaur and the first one we receive is a very brief image of a figure jumping down from the top of the same clock tower Black and White used to defeat Dusk and Dawn at the start of the movie. The only reason we know it is the Minotaur at all is because White has just mentioned it to Sawada. A better visual is given after showing the audience around the 'Kiddie Kastle' amusement park, when once again we are taken to the clock tower to see a green skinned figure with a bull skull covering his face. However it is not until the alien assassins are trying to kill Black in the park that the Minotaur really comes into play, dropping down and landing between Black and the assassins, his stance both offensive to the aliens and defensive of Black. After telling Black not to be afraid and promising to show him the power of darkness he then proceeds to kill the aliens and blow up part of the park in less than two minutes. An important point to note with this scene is that when the Minotaur uses the line 'the power of darkness' the scene zooms in upon his face to show the exact same image as that which was seen at the very beginning of the anime. In terms of fighting, once again the Minotaur alternates between violently fast agility and graceful movements, catching a flying arrow in his hand before knocking one assassin out the way while using the arrow to blind the other before stabbing him. Then he manages to throw his pole, which has a sharpened end, into the other assassin which causes it's gun to go off and shoot one of the park's towers. One of the most surreal aspects of this fight is that certain points in it go into slow motion yet the whole scene still goes incredibly fast. Once the fight is done with the Minotaur approaches Black, who is beyond terrified and trying to escape. After pulling an arrow from Black's back the Minotaur then kneels down and pulls Black into an embrace, ending with the line 'I'm here with you Black'. This show of tenderness is not only unexpected but can seem quite incomprehensible at times.
Just to add to the complexity of this creature, there are parts of the movie that cannot be separated into psychological and physical appearances because it is simply not clear which is which. It all comes down to the interlinking triangle of Black, White and the Minotaur. As mentioned earlier, just before the Minotaur fight scene White mentions the Minotaur to Sawada and draws many pictures of him while starting to become quite frenzied and frantic about it. Also when the Minotaur embraces black the screen zooms out to show the two of them in White's eyes, like he can see what is happening. We get this impression throughout the climactic scene of the movie where the Minotaur creates an alternate universe for him and Black, very much reflective of the dark horizon Black saw earlier, and tries to get him to accept the darkness. Throughout all of this the Minotaur is constantly twisting and altering form, unable to stay still and in one piece as he tries to demonstrate to Black why he should accept the darkness. Along with a range of disturbing images, not only of the twisted landscape but also of the horrifyingly evil acts of violence and criminality, the Minotaur at one point changes to show the face beneath the mask, which turns out to be the face of Black himself. As White continues to view all of these events taking place he tries to fight back, to reach Black and pull him away from all of this, sometimes managing to break through the Minotaur's illusions to show his own, once of a beautiful landscape and also as a dove. Eventually Black resists the pull of darkness and chooses White, causing the Minotaur to claim that he will always be inside of Black and can be accessed via the scar upon his hand. After that there is no further mention of the Minotaur, only a brief insinuation by Black when he stands looking at his scar before happily jumping into the sea next to his and White's new home.
When people hear the term Minotaur, the first image that comes to mind is the legendary creature of Greek mythology with the body of a man and the head of a bull. And in one brief moment this image is demonstrated in the movie, when Dusk says that he thinks of the Minotaur when he sees Black and an image of a red skinned, humanoid shape with a bull head appears. However when the Minotaur's appearance is revealed later on in the movie, the image we have is far more intimidating than that. The first thing to be mentioned is that the bulls head is still a part of the image, except it is the skull of a bull worn as a mask to hide the face, only showing shoulder-length red hair and red eyes from beneath. The other thing to mention is that the body is not just humanoid, it is completely human, and the proportions suggest that the Minotaur is about Black's age. In fact it is only the eyes and the skin, which suggests anything supernatural about this creature at all; as previously mentioned the eyes are red and are the only facial feature seen through the mask. The Minotaur's skin is a slightly dark green, contradicting the earlier image of a red-skinned Minotaur.
It is not only how it appears physically that accentuates the dark atmosphere around this character, but also the way he moves and acts in his situations, both of which create a fluid mixture of grace and power. The movements are at one point slow, elegant and controlled but then quickly become violent, although still retaining that sense of control, all in a very similar fashion to the stereotypical image of Dracula, combining smooth movements with dark motives and actions. There is also the alternate ways in which he reacts to certain characters, how with the alien assassins and White he is very harsh and clearly opposed to but when interacting with Black, there is gentle persuasion in his actions that can actually be seen as quite tender, especially when he embraces Black after killing the assassins.
These aspects are also reflected in the Minotaur's voice. For the purpose of this analysis I have watched the movie in all three of the languages available on the DVD; Japanese, English and German. All the languages have the same vocal techniques applied when speaking the Minotaur's lines, most notably the hissing, whispery overlay to the voice, which at once frightens and soothes the listener with a complex and fixating delivery of dialogue. In terms of tone the voice is rather calm and controlled, almost monotone in a way but still with those tiny inklings of emotion, which is limited to anger towards others and gentleness towards Black.
For many people who watch this movie the greatest source of question for the Minotaur is what he actually is. Through watching the film multiple times and reading people's interpretations online, I have discovered four plausible possibilities for exactly who and what the Minotaur is; Black's inner darkness, a supernatural creature, the darkness of all people in treasure town or the devil.
One interpretation, which I have been told is the intended explanation by the artist of the original manga, is that the Minotaur is a physical representation of Black's inner darkness. This makes sense, as throughout the film several instances occur that not only link the two together but also show Black indulging in acts of violence so intense and sadistic that they can only be associated with the Minotaur. This also fits into Black's fit of madness towards the end of the movie; it suggests connotations of schizophrenia with the Minotaur being Black's alter ego. This idea would also account for why the Minotaur took Black's face during the climatic end sequence. However the only problem, which many people besides myself have found, is that because during the scene where the Minotaur defeats the assassins we see no other points of view besides Black's. There is a brief scene of Snake and Kimura watching the destruction of the park but no sign of Black or the Minotaur so it is impossible to tell whether they could only see Black do this or if they indeed saw the Minotaur. Therefore we cannot rule out the possibility that the Minotaur only exists inside Black. Despite this setback the interpretation is still quite solid.
Another interpretation that seems to be the most logical one the first time you watch the movie is that the Minotaur is in fact a separate entity; a supernatural and corporeal creature who guards treasure town and comes when something is messing it up. This answers the burgeoning problem of who exactly killed the alien assassins inside the amusement park, seeing as we could see from Snake's monitor that they did really die and Black was about to be killed by them when the Minotaur first appeared. This would also explain why the people of Treasure Town know about the Minotaur like it is an old myth, something that wouldn't have been possible if it was merely a part of Black. Also with being a supernatural creature, it would have the power to create the alternative world of darkness that Black is shown. Unfortunately this doesn't explain why the Minotaur took on Black's appearance, although it may just have been a mask used to persuade Black to join his side it still doesn't quite make sense.
As mentioned before, the Minotaur appears to be much older than Black and White, which suggests that it has been a part of Treasure Town for a long time, linking into the third interpretation of the Minotaur representing the darkness in all of Treasure Town's inhabitants. This is a rather new interpretation to me and personally it doesn't feel entirely right seeing as the Minotaur seems to focus itself around Black. However it is true that leading up to the Minotaur's physical appearance there is a large range of catastrophic and dark events occurring all across the town which could attribute to this final event, and with Treasure Town being a district that seems to thrive on sin I can see why people would accept this as a viable interpretation.
The final interpretation is completely new to me and though I can see why people would come to this conclusion I personally do not feel it holds much as a valid explanation for the Minotaur. Seeing as the antagonist character Snake claims to be working for God and the Minotaur ends up destroying what Snake has worked so hard to achieve, some people believe the Minotaur is a representation of the Devil himself. Now this does not work for me in the slightest; not only is Snake doing more to harm Treasure Town than the Minotaur ever could but if he were the devil then why is he focusing only on Black? People know about the Minotaur but it's Black who feels his presence and it's only to save Black and take back Treasure Town that the Minotaur attacks 'Kiddie Kastle' anyway. The idea of an opposing force to Snake is interesting and unique but I cannot accept it as a viable interpretation.
Overall the Minotaur is a complex creation with no defined standing point or origin. Not only do his motives and actions vary throughout the movie but also the interpretations for him can go into territory that the film itself never seems to touch. I have outlined many points throughout this analysis but for me personally the thing that makes the Minotaur so interesting is the fact that we cannot tell whether he is really real. Some parts suggest he is the result of Black's schizophrenia while others present a very real and very powerful creature, it is literally impossible to define exactly what he is. That is why I love this character so much and think it contributes greatly to the film. In fact the only real flaw I found with the movie was that they did not feature the Minotaur as much as they could have, meaning he did not have as great a build up. However what has been done with him is incredible, it couldn't have been done without him. There is no doubt that I would recommend this film to anyone who loves anime or just films in general, the animation and plot creates a perfect film experience by themselves, but if I had to sum-up why Tekkonkinkreet is so good in one word then that word would definitely be 'Minotaur'.