Tokyo Godfathers – Satoshi Kon & Shôgo Furuya – 2003


Tokyo Godfathers CoverOriginal title: Tokyo Godfathers
Rating: 4.0 Stars
Year: 2003
Director: Satoshi Kon, Shôgo Furuya
Duration: 88 min.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Tokyo Godfathers

To those expecting a story about the Japanese mafia, or maybe some typically Japanese anime flick, sorry, none of that today. It’s (almost) nearly Christmas, so it’s time to look at an unconventional Christmas film. But it’s anime? Yes it is, but where most anime has your typical pretty animated characters, odd Japanese culture and whatnot, this is not your typical anime film. Kind of like how Grave of the Fireflies also wasn’t. Tokyo Godfathers is a very European-like anime film. The lead roles are for a bunch of ugly homeless people. Even the young girl lead is a little plump and shy. Definitely a-typical for anime. The other two lead roles are for a middle aged homeless man and a transvestite.

Gin, Miyuki and Hana, three homeless people living on the streets of Tokyo, find a baby left behind in the trash. Hana, the transvestite, feels like her wish came true and she can finally be a mother. Gin and Miyuki are less enthusiastic. Growing up on the streets is no way for a baby to live. But because they cannot imagine any parents could ever leave a baby in the trash, they decide to find the baby’s parents instead of bringing her to the police. With the baby also came a key, so that will be the first clue to finding her parents.

What follows is a batshit crazy journey through different parts of Tokyo, ranging from a high society dinner to a park where homeless people live in their tents. There is loads of action, near death, death, a shooting and definitely a lot of Christmas magic. Aside from the main plot of returning the baby to its parents, many subplots emerge. We learn about the three main characters, why they are homeless and what keeps them that way.

The animation is great. It is hard to imagine three ugly homeless bums as the heroes of a story, but it doesn’t take very long before you absolutely love all three. Hana provides a lot of the humour when she is fighting with Gen over all sorts of things, but they also move you to tears when things get very intimate and personal. All in all, Tokyo Godfathers provides a crazy Christmassy ride through a big city covered in snow. The animation is quite good, the characters are great and the humour is always there to lighten the mood when needed. The only downside perhaps is that there is a lot of luck/coincidence involved to keep the plot going. Maybe a little too much, especially when combined with the no-way events that always seem to occur during Christmas.

Tokyo Godfathers

Little fun fact. Director Satoshi Kon always put references to his previous films in his current one. If you pay close attention to the screencap above, you can see film posters for Memories (1995), for which he wrote a segment, and Perfect Blue (1997) on the left of Hana. On her right is the film poster for Millennium Actress (2001).

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