Tokyo Godfathers: A Merry Satoshi Kon Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m just so happy that everything lined up for me to be able to post about this movie this year. 2019 seems like a year in which I was able to plan and do things that I actually wanted to do instead of failing to do everything like 2018. At least blog wise. Real life isn’t something I want to talk about right now. But anyway Anno August happened unlike 2018, and now I have a Christmas anime post on Christmas day. I know this one is simpler to do and it’s only on one day, but sometimes finding time to rewatch a film like this is hard. Plus, the day itself needs to line itself up on my blogging schedule and Christmas is on Wednesday. You know, one of those days that I post on all the time. So yes, it all worked out and a Tokyo Godfather’s post is here for the right day. I’m sorry that I didn’t just jump into talking about this movie, but I felt like this was necessary because I need to think of new goals for 2020 now which is exciting. Now it’s time to talk about this film.

Just a warning, this film will spoil almost everything about this film. If you haven’t watched this film yet, just be warned.

Tokyo Godfathers is Satoshi Kon’s most unique film. It really hard to call a Satoshi Kon film unique because all four of them are different, but this film isn’t so much about how media connects us, but a tale centered on homeless people with a baby wandering around in the dirty streets to find the babies mother. In this case, people are connecting in person because poor people can’t have internet access. The film itself starts as a standard Christmas film would with a play in a church centered on the three wise men and fake baby Jesus. At least, that’s what we see so we know what the film is about to subvert and yet not at the same time. That’s when reality hits with this film’s wonderful humor. Our wise men aren’t rich kings with gifts, but a homeless drunk named Gin, a teenage girl that ran away from home named Miyuki, and a trans woman and former drag queen named Hana. They find a baby that was tossed away in the trash and the journey begins.

So yes, Tokyo Godfather’s set up is simple because it’s literally a go here and do that sort of film. A fetch quest if you will. It’s what happens in between the here and there which makes this great film what it is. With that said, if you like well timed, dark humor you are going to love this film. The adventures through the city streets are funny, explore the hidden depths of our characters beyond their surface, and conveniently happen out of nowhere to make sure that they happen. I remember a well crafted Every Frame a Painting youtube video, because all of them are, which mentions that our three homeless people are gods because they summon things out of their own will without them realizing it and I think that’s pretty right. That fact sets the tone for the entire movie.

I’m not going to dig into the humor too much because it’s easy to talk about a joke and just ruin for the audience, but I think that an example is necessary here for you to get the idea to see how this film works. For that, let’s look at Gin. I already mentioned how he was a drunk guy on the street, but like everyone else he has a story about why he’s homeless. Gin used to be marry and possibly the worst husband possible. Gin was the owner of a bicycle shop, but found himself drinking a lot, laundering money from people to put his family into further debt, and all sorts of bad. His massive reflection comes from people just appearing in front of him instead of through dialogue and exposition. Gin sees a person that he wishes dead because that’s a person who he thinks stole money from him and before Gin could hit the guy with a bottle, someone guns him down. The guy only lives because Gin didn’t think the guy was completely in the wrong and didn’t deserve death. A good morality tale.

There are so many funny moments like that coming from character interactions and even little pieces of dialogue that you need to pay attention in people’s false backstories and denial happen too. Someone clearly tell you that they aren’t an action hero because they don’t fit the physical requirements and guess what happens later on in the film? Also, a character can yell at two other characters and turn their back on them, then a car will hit the two in question without the other one knowing and no one gets hurts. It’s those kind of incredible sort of timing and jokes in this very rubbery and subversive, yet emotionally relative world which makes Tokyo Godfathers work as well as it does. It’s this ride that you never expected to see on Christmas day with characters you never thought would get any sort of attention in the way they usually are. All perfect with this movie’s cast of odd people from different parts of society.

So yes, I love the cast in this beautifully ugly world, because they are fantastic. I already talked about one of the “godfathers” Gin, so there are two others explore here. Miyuki is a teenage girl who stabbed her police father in a rage filled moment and she seems like she can never return. Her guilt is all over the film. Hana is the trans woman who was a singing former drag queen at a bar who attacked a customer who called her old and left for the street life. I don’t think the movie treats Hana as well as it could based on everything horrible that Gin says about her and calls her, but she is a great character in her own right and doesn’t let Gin’s words take her down. I also love the side characters with tons of personality behind them. The taxi driver who gets stuck in every awkward situations with our cast and will never get fair from homeless people is a pitiable person who I really love. He’s only an example of the fantastic side cast that gets some color in them. I hope they all get what they want in the end.

From an art perspective, Tokyo Godfathers is just beautiful. Sort of, kind of. I mean, they aren’t going to be exactly beautiful considering that our main cast are homeless people who look like homeless people with how many layers of clothes they wear and such. It’s snowing after all. Satoshi Kon likes drawing people from their country of origin and everyone looks Japanese in this film which is great. Same for the Latin American couple that makes an appearance too. That didn’t mean that there was some character animation on each person’s faces in some distortions and how some characters move is completely different from others. There isn’t a lot of action animation in the film until the end, but that’s fine because this movie doesn’t need a lot of it. The cast and humor carry this film. Still when the action is called for, it’s very fluid and exciting on a small scale that makes it work. That’s all it needs to be really.

I don’t even know why I have to write this paragraph because you all know how I feel about Tokyo Godfathers by now, but this follows my usual pattern of reviews. Tokyo Godfathers is an amazing family film to watch for Christmas. Maybe not for those who can’t or don’t want to read subtitles because a dub doesn’t exist yet, but it’s perfect otherwise. It’s thoughtful, it’s funny, it’s cartoony, and it has a lot of good messages behind it. I still think that Millennium Actress might be my favorite thing from Satoshi Kon, but he’s never made a bad film honestly. He always aims to make something different which is something every creator should try to do. With all that said, Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers more then earns a solid from me. Not like it would be possible to ever earn anything else.


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17 thoughts on “Tokyo Godfathers: A Merry Satoshi Kon Christmas

  1. Tokyo Godfathers is such an underrated and under-appreciated anime film so I was really happy to see you cover this amazing film! It is my all-time favourite Satoshi Kon film and did you know that next year it will be getting an official English dub?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I especially love that Satoshi decided to cover such a taboo of Japan which really values conformity and honor/pride. The topic of homelessness in Japan(or really anywhere) is pretty fringe, and yet it is portrayed so honestly(the good, the bad, and the ugly) in this film. Individuals who are outcast, troubled, traumatized, and down on their luck… but where there still exists these amazing moments, miracles, and human beings at their best, who are trying to persevere and help one another through the hardships that are inherent with existence.

    How everything is tied together, often imperceptibly, but on occasion, fate pulls back the curtain and shows us the inner workings of the universe and the causality of our lives and the actions we take.

    For revolving around such difficult topics and such a troubled cast with their fair share of problems, it is truly an optimistic movie and embodies all of the values that define the holiday spirit.

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Merry Christmas!
    Tokyo Godfathers has been on my “to watch” list for some time, and had been recommended to me years ago. Your post is a subtle reminder to me that I should get to watching this soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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