Hello there. This is review number forty and as promised (a movie every number divisible by 10) I am doing a movie review. This is the review I was supposed to do before my laptop crashed and broke the hard drive. It’s Tokyo Godfathers. It’s a 2003 movie directed by Satoshi Kon.
He was truly a genius and I love all his work. I planning to review all the movies he directed and I already reviewed his first work, Perfect Blue. Satoshi Kon already passed away but he left behind a movie unfinished. It’s gone to the grapevine and I just hope they stay true to what Satoshi Kon envisioned it to be. He was a man full of passion. If you have the time, try reading his very last blog post (HERE) before he died. It is very sad… but very touching.
In the meantime, here’s my review of Tokyo Godfathers. Let’s read on.
Three homeless people find an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve while searching through the trash. Feeling sorry for the innocent creature, they decided to find the parents and along the way discover the importance of the lives they have nearly abandoned.
Taking the Pants Off
This is the third movie Satoshi Kon has directed. The first two were Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue. He is known for blending fantasy, a dream like set up, with the real world. He creates a rather realistic dream that makes the movie experience unique and amazing. I am a huge fan of his work because it was unconventional but perfectly crafted. The stories of the movies he made are intriguing and intellectually deep that you can easily appreciate. Sadly, this talented director has passed away. He left behind a legacy in anime that I hope other directors can continue.
What I especially love about Satoshi Kon’s work is that they are heavy on plot. It’s nicely thought out and they are paced creatively well. They also tell a story about everyday life. He tells stories about a pop idol experiencing psychosis and split personality, an actress relieving her glamorous past through scenes of her movie and even three homeless people finding a baby in the trash. They aren’t as farfetched and fantastical like say, Studio Ghibli. I always admire the way he takes art from life itself. He tells of all the bitterness, the happiness and the fantasy the world has to offer.
Anyways, let’s take a look at Tokyo Godfathers. Unlike his first two films where dream crosses over reality, this one is a bit different. Take for example Perfect Blue, the pop idol became an actress and suddenly sees her pop idol persona dancing on the roof. Satoshi Kon took a different approach and created a more straight forward story. There are no pop idols dancing on the roofs here. There are no dreams here but rather, a heartwarming tale about having a family and being together.
Tokyo Godfathers open with the three homeless people going to trash to find a book. Instead, they found a baby. Isn’t that a pretty cruel narrative? Seeing babies in trash cans? I personally experience the same but my tale is more horrific. I live in a third world country, you see, and I didn’t have a laptop when I was young. I barely have money for school. Wait, I’m going off topic now. Let’s just say I can relate to a lot of the things in this movie. Anyways, the three homeless guys thought of how cruel it was to leave a baby in the trash at Christmas Eve so they took her in. In this little shanty, they argued if they should keep the baby or hand it over to the police. The three homeless people all had a pretty horrid past that they choose to abandon. They are the bottom of the barrel that has no right to complain because they are worthless trash themselves. Being with this baby, this innocent baby, who didn’t do anything wrong but was thrown in the trash was a soft spot on all three. It’s as if the baby was an empty canvas that was being dirtied with mud and these homeless people just couldn’t stand it.
We have Gin, the alcoholic, who wanted to take the baby to the police. Hana, a transvestite, that insists on raising the baby. Lastly we have Miyuki, who ran away from her home six months ago, caught in between. First thing we notice about the three is that they are very close. They aren’t related but circumstances made them close and you can clearly see they support each other. They also have amazing chemistry. It’s kind of like the three stooges but more casual and familiar. The three of them fought but ultimately, with the hopes of reuniting the baby with her family, they decided to go around Tokyo looking for her parents.
Throughout their journey, the find clues pointing them to the baby’s parent and they also tell a bit of their past. The first thing that is truly common on all the three’s past is that it sucks. It tells of the harsh reality the world seems to enjoy dumping on people. The trials of having your loved one die on you, living on the street combing through trash just to get by and the disapproval stare of society on you is enough to get people to wallow in a corner and sulk. But just as the theme of “life sucks” resounds in the anime, they manner in which you pick yourself up and start over is also rampant. The heroes of this movie has hit rock bottom but you never really see it as they have come to cope with the problem and decide to live on. Life goes on, right?
Their adventure around Tokyo is certainly entertaining. From seeing someone stuck under a car to chasing a crazy person, it was a fun watch. There was no boring moment in the anime because the pacing was just so precise. One moment your discovering details of one of the characters past then you’re suddenly laughing you ass off at the trouble they get into and then you’ll be shedding a tear at the sad moments afterwards.
The anime has a theme of “life sucks” at the beginning but it also has a nicer theme. One the later parts of the movie, there is a heartwarming theme of “family”. It tells of no matter how low you go at some points in your life, no matter how many bad deeds you committed and no matter how grim your situation is, you can always make sure that your family is there to welcome you with open arms and comforting words like “welcome home”. It’s the thing we learn after all the secrets are told and all the back stories are uncovered. It’s a sweet theme and a very touching one at that.
The most important theme in the anime though is something very Satoshi Kon-like. It’s a very playful yet real theme. The anime is all about “coincidences”. There is a lot of it in the anime from the person they save having connections to the parents they are looking for to a random stranger they meet in a taxi helping them catch a crazy person. Some of them are very funny and some of them tie in to the story. It tells of the small ties we have from even a stranger that proves important to our lives. It’s kinda like that series starring Keifer Sutherland about his kid. “Touch”, I think? The theme of coincidence in the movie though is more laidback and playful.
The story neatly falls to predictable pattern at first. They search for the parents, they become closer together as the movie progress and then they meet the parents. You know, like in Ice Age. Sadly, and impressively, the anime has some brilliant twists in the end of the anime that truly comes from nowhere. Leave it to Satoshi Kon to have us drop our guard till the last moments before he goes in for the kill. It’s a wonderful twist and something that makes the anime stand out. Stand out in a very good way.
The anime is heavy on drama but it balances it with some comedy. Some of them are a little dark too. There was one scene where the characters argue as they step out of this convenience store and then an ambulance came crashing to the front doors. They all stand shocked and the driver slowly climbs out. He slowly said “Please….call an ambulance.”
The anime is outstanding and I’m not saying that because I’m a Satoshi Kon fan. It’s not your ordinary Christmas movie for the family but it does share some common theme of togetherness and forgiveness. You won’t regret picking up this masterpiece. I call it a masterpiece and I’ll mess you up if you disagree. *shakes fist*
Sight and Sound
The anime has this old school appeal. It looks hand drawn but it’s actually digitally made. The movie shares the same rustic appeal of Perfect Blue. It has some blurry background but very detailed on some of its clearer parts. It has a painting finish to it but you will know its digital because it has the same color scheme as the characters. Old school animation has brighter colors for the characters to make them stand out.
In Perfect Blue, people criticized it for being an anime that can be easily adapted in a live action film. Tokyo Godfathers is essentially the same. There are no scenes a good cast of real people can’t duplicate. The characters also look like real people in a sense that they don’t look like the usual delusionary proportioned anime characters. It is a bit hard on the eyes but the character design is perfect for giving the characters a range of expression. It’s easily seen in Hana who is a bit eccentric. She would stare at you then smile and you can see every facial muscle move.
The voice acting was amazing. I would like to point it out because it feels familiar. It feels like your normal group of friends talking. The portrayal was very believable. It isn’t like your standard anime with an annoying girl and a kuudere. Not that you’d expect some here anyways.
There is no opening song but the background music is astounding. It moves along with the mood of the movie and definitely makes the anime more enjoyable. Its closing song is “Ode to Joy” by Moonriders. It’s done in Japanese lyrics though but it’s still fun to listen to it.
8/10 “A touching theme of family with an amazing cast and an outstanding story.”
It’s an outstanding viewing experience. It’s just so beautifully made and I assure you, you’ll be glued to your seats as you watch this movie. I highly recommend it.