For this month’s Anime Round Table, we watched Tekkonkinkreet, the tale of two orphan brothers, Kuro and Shiro, who are living on the streets of the dream-like Treasure Town whilst fighting against the Yakuza, possible aliens, and ultimately the inner workings of their own minds. Kuro, whose name literally translates to “Black”, is the older brother of Shiro (“White”) and Shiro’s sole protector. Beyond looking out for his brother, Kuro is the self-proclaimed protector of the town and for that he garners a lot of respect. Unfortunately, Kuro is not in any sense a paragon of virtue against the seedy underbelly of Treasure Town, but is instead quite unstable and bitter, lending himself to rage and violence easily. Shiro, as his name suggests, is the direct opposite to Kuro, with his sense of wonder and innocence that is almost too pure for the otherwise downtrodden town they watch over. Shiro is very naive, to the point that it’s hard to tell if he could ever be a functioning member of society without the aid of his brother.
As such dynamically opposing main characters, the brothers in and of themselves lend nicely to a set of suggestions which when combined can help illustrate the wide variety of wonderful beer that are currently available and offer further insight to some of the themes of the film. Most notably, I was amazed by the film’s use of black and white that provides solid characterization to the two brothers. From this, I immediately thought of two contrasting beer styles that really fit this motif: the Black Ale and the Witbier.
The Black Ale, which can also be referred to as a Cascadian Dark Ale, is a style that bucks the common notion that dark beers should be focused on sweetness and maltiness. Of course these flavors should be present in all beers, but the Black Ale style is much for hop-forward and bitter. It is a sort of IPA for dark beers. To contrast this, Black Ales typically use a malt character that lends itself more as a complement to the hops then a competing flavor. I think the briefest way to describe a Black Ale’s character is baker’s chocolate which is much more bitter than it is sweet. I believe this pairs nicely with Kuro’s character in that his outward appearance and actions can be seen a bitter and dark, but he is at least sweet to his brother.
The Black Ale that I believe pairs well with Tekkonkinkreet is Lead Feather by Half Acre Beer Company in Chicago. Half Acre is a spectacular brewery and was the first local brewery to introduce canned craft beer to the area. Lead Feather is their newest beer in their can lineup and was only added to that lineup at the beginning of March. This beer is the quintessential definition of a Black Ale and a perfect representation for the style. It also gets bonus points for having a black bird on the label, similar to the crows that were constantly seen around Kuro in the film.
The second beer style I suggest for the film is the Witbier. The style translates from German to mean literally “white beer”. The style is notable for its lightness in color, its sometimes haziness, and use of spices and other flavorings, rather than just relying on the hops and malt to do the work. Much like Shiro in Tekkonkinkreet, this style is usually bright and crisp, especially when contrasted with the bitterness of the Black Ale. Additionally, this beer is usually associated with being a spring/summer beer, and generally cheerful times, which is the core of Shiro’s characterization.
The Witbier I would suggest to try in conjunction with the film is Gran Missionario from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. 5 Rabbit, located in Bedford Park, Illinois, is a brewery I always suggest to inquisitive people when they ask for some of my favorite local breweries. Their focus is on boldly flavorful beers that may not be considered “traditional” in the sense that they may use spices and fruits that are not always associated with the style. However, beneath the non-traditional-ness, the beers are always solid interpretations on the style. Gran Missionario is a great example of this.Their inspiration for the beer is based the crops grown at various missions in pre-United States California. Additionally, the featured ingredients change each year to provide both a sense of familiarity and yet one of difference. This year’s batch, also released this March, uses grape must and figs. Previous iterations have used pear and almonds. As in the film, Gran Missionario gives one the sense of warm weather and perhaps a beautiful California beach, similar to Shiro’s continuous visions.
So which will you choose? The dark and brooding Black Ale or the light and fruity Witbier? Perhaps you are intrigued by both. As Tekkonkinkreet showed, there is always a little bit of darkness in light and a little bit of light in the dark.