Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers is the third film by Satoshi Kon, who made the films Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue. What is eminently clear is that Kon makes interesting movies, different from much of what is out there. It seems like a strange choice for Kon, after all, it is a loose remake of John Ford's 1948 3 Godfathers, transferred to the streets of Tokyo. This is a strange story of a highly dysfunctional 'family' unit that discovers a newborn baby girl on Christmas, and decides to find her parents and return her. The prevailing idea in America is that animation is for children, and no matter what comes out on film or video, the general public will not waver from this idea. Sadly, not many people will see Tokyo Godfathers because of this, but this is definitely not for small children. Kon demonstrates that he can take mature, humorous situations and animate them such that many people can enjoy them. Films like this and The Triplets of Belleville show that animation can do things that traditional films cannot, and that they can be made for all sorts of audiences.

The three homeless people that discover the girl, whom they call Kiyoko, are probably the last people who are fit to be parents. Gin (voiced by Toru Emori, Inochi, Hi Wa Mata Noboru) is a gruff old man, guilty about actions he did in the past that hurt his family. Hana (voiced by Yoshiaki Umegaki, A Class to Remember 4: Fifteen, SF: Episode One) is a gay cross-dresser, and feels that Kiyoki is a gift from God. He wants to be a mother, but physically, this is impossible. The last member of this motley crew is Miyuki (Aya Okamoto, Azumi, Ogyaa), a runaway teenager. Initially, Gin and Miyuki have no desire to care for Kiyoko, and want to take her to the nearest police station. Hana objects, and convinces them to wait until morning. Obviously, they warm up to Kiyoko.

Upon closer inspection, Tokyo Godfathers is a pretty standard story. Each of the three homeless people has a huge unresolved issue in their past; one that is primarily responsible for their current position. Kon and co-writer Keiko Nobumoto (Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Macross Plus) use the Kiyoko character as a catalyst to affect some sort of change in the lives of Gin, Hana, and Miyuki, hopefully for the better. As portrayed in the beginning, these are not the nicest of people. They hate each other superficially, enough to cuss and slap at each other, although they have a deeper understanding that they rely on each other to survive. Kon and Nobumoto use Kiyoko and an almost supernatural amount of coincidence to move the story forward.

There is a decent amount of humor in the film, although it tends to be a little risque. However, this is perfectly in line with the characters. Part of the humor derives from the fact that three foul, crude people are demonstrating such care and affection for this baby, something that would seem like the last thing they would do. The animation is gorgeous, focusing a little more on the grungy qualities of Tokyo than other films have before. Essentially, this would work just as well as a live action film (well, it was originally live action), except some of the exaggerated expressions inherent in anime would not be possible. In the end, it is a little too cheesy for its own good, but still fun to watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles, Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, violent images, language, and some sexual material.

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