Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
The co-director and scriptwriter of this little gem of an animation is no other than Satoshi Kon, the man who brought to the masses such great animated films as “Perfect Blue” (1997) and “Paprika” (2006), and the story is about three homeless people who discover an abandoned baby-girl amidst the piles of garbage, and decide to embark on an adventure to deliver her back to her parents. The animation may portray harsh realities of living on the streets too realistically for anyone’s taste and may camouflage some other hardships, but the animation is also so fun, well-structured and beautifully-presented, with a touching finale. Moreover, it is so heart-warming, with memorable characters who learn their lessons, it is truly the New Year movie to watch to lift everyone’s spirits.
Despite the animated nature of this film and the New Year/Christmas-filled references, this film actually deals with some serious themes, such as the reality of sleeping rough on the streets of Tokyo, and, as a result of that, being exposed to all sorts of dangers, from running the risk of being beaten up to dying of starvation and exposure. Our three homeless characters are also far from being some heroically-brilliant characters. Gin is a man who battles an alcohol addiction, and who can start a meaningless fight with Miyuki, a runaway teenager, on the spur of the moment. In turn, Miyuki is a troubled girl who left her home following an altercation with a family member, and, finally, Hana is a trans-woman who never knew her own parents, but who develops a motherly affection for the little girl the trio finds abandoned. Despite all that, “Tokyo Godfathers” is filled with warmth for other human beings and with the hope for the future. Irrespective of their traumatic pasts and their present threatening and desperate conditions, the three friends take the courage to do good for the little girl they found and who they also name Kiyoko. It is clear that Gin, Hana and Miyuki can all identify with the abandoned baby, and, therefore, through their good deed, they also attempt to redeem their own past wrongdoings.
“Tokyo Godfathers”, though, never feels too sentimental, and focuses more on the fast-paced action-filled adventure of trying to get hold of a baby and then pass her to her own mother. Trying to do so take the friends from kidnapping plots to mistaken identity scenarios, and, with the smart dialogue and humour throughout, “Tokyo Godfathers” becomes also a very enjoyable ride with an unbelievably tense finale.
Realism and fantasy clash embarrassingly in “Tokyo Godfathers”, because although the film refers to realistically irksome issues, including alcohol, drugs and modern slavery references, the story also contains plenty of miraculous coincidences which are just too incredulous for anyone’s beliefs. However, the film could also be said to be more fascinating precisely because of that uncomfortable clash. “Tokyo Godfathers” is not just a moving holiday season animation, it is also an elaborate and visually-stunning adventure movie which has plenty of laugh-out-loud sequences and Japanese cultural intricacies to keep anyone entertained. 8/10