Japanese Title: Tokyo Godfathers
Related: Paprika (same director)
Perfect Blue (same director)
Millennium Actress (same director)
Watched in: Japanese
Length: 1 hr. 32 min. movie
- A heart-warming Christmas story.
- The protagonists are a fun trio.
- A good amount of humour balances the heavy drama moments.
- Too many of the narrative events and twists are convenient coincidences.
- Lacks Satoshi Kon’s signature psychological style.
Tokyo Godfathers is the third of director Satoshi Kon’s anime films, a film unlike the rest of his portfolio. It is a touching Christmas story centred on a homeless trio – an alcoholic, a runaway, and a transvestite – who find a baby abandoned in a rubbish tip. With a key found by the infant as their clue, they set off through Tokyo to find her parents.
On the journey, the trio must confront their pasts, the lives they abandoned and ran away from. Baby Kiyoko acts as a catalyst to bring the trio back to reality. They are an unlikely group, always at each other’s throats, bickering and insulting one another; however, rather than hostility, you get a sense of family from them. They support each other as if they are all they have in the world while they sift through people’s trash to survive. The alcoholic lost his daughter to illness, followed by his wife who couldn’t take it any more after he was barred from professional cycling for fraud. This abandoned baby girl reminds him of his own. How can someone abandon a baby when others lose theirs to illness? The transvestite too has an emotional connection to the baby. He is the most attached of the trio, as the baby makes him feel like a mother.
While Tokyo Godfathers has a unique premise and tells an interesting overall story, it does suffer from one big problem – coincidence. Many of the events or twists occur due to coincidence. When in trouble, they coincidentally stumble into an acquaintance that can aid them. When the trail runs cold, they coincidentally find a precise clue that points them in the right direction. And so on. It wouldn’t be a problem if there were a couple of small coincidences – after all, life has coincidences – but here, every turning point is coupled with coincidence. There is a huge web of connections by the end in Tokyo, a city of 13 million, mind you. To be fair, some of them are hilarious such as the half dozen people named Kiyoko (the baby’s name). Tokyo Godfathers does a great job of balancing humour with drama. The banter among the trio is great.
Another point of note: if you are a fan of Satoshi Kon, Tokyo Godfathers may disappoint you, as it is nothing like his other work. It lacks the psychology and mind-bending found in his anime. Of course, if that doesn’t bother you, then it won’t matter.
Tokyo Godfathers is a good film with its unique setup and a mix of humour and drama that ultimately handicaps itself through convenience and coincidence. The dynamic between the homeless trio and their personal trials are worth the price of admission alone.
Art – High
Though not as creative as Paprika or as unsettling as Perfect Blue, the art still boasts high detail and solid character design. Only the ending credits crawl gets weird when the Tokyo skyline dances. Comes out of nowhere, actually…
Sound – High
The voice work for the protagonists is great. I appreciate the inclusion of actual Spanish for the Spanish characters.
Story – Medium
A unique story of a homeless trio trying to return an abandoned baby to its parents. Unfortunately crippled by overuse of coincidence to drive the narrative from point to point.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: A good Christmas film I can recommend to most. Avoid if you don’t like an overuse of coincidences to push the plot forward conveniently.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)