Director: Satoshi Kon
Writers: Satoshi Jon and Keiko Nobumoto
Starring: Tōru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegami, Aya Okamoto, Satomi Koorogi, Shouzou Lizuka
Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is delightful and fun tragicomedy that is the perfect alternative for normal Christmas classics. It’s a film about family, that is charmingly funny and at times heart-wrenchingly sad.
When three homeless people discover a child in the trash on Christmas Eve, they take it on themselves to find the child’s parents to find out why they abandoned their daughter. Along with the child there is a key that’s been left behind, that leads the trio to clues about who the parents might be.
You wouldn’t expect a film about homeless people and abandoned children at Christmas to be that fun to watch, but somehow Satoshi Kon really pulls it off. There’s a manic approach to it that gives it the same energy as something like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, where it never really lets up. It’s wacky and whimsical moments lined up one after the other, with one of the tensest chase sequences in anime history towards the end. There’s always something going on, and whenever you think you know what’s coming, something happens that changes the plot’s direction. The last half an hour is filled with frantic chases and twists, and you’re constantly on the edge of your seat waiting for whatever could happen next.
There are so many twists and turns, and they always come out of left field. To mention any of them would be too much of a spoiler, but the premise alone should be enough to get that point across. At the heart of the story are the three main characters. On the surface they aren’t that likable, Gin (Tōru Emori) is an alcoholic, Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) stabbed her father and ran away from home, and Hana (Yoshiaki Umegami) is a self-absorbed woman who wants a child so much she doesn’t want to take it to the police in the first place. Other the course of the film they really grow on you, and you are completely rooting for them by the final act.
The film is also about family, a timely theme with the Christmas setting. There’s a sense of choosing your own family, that the film portrays really well. The three homeless people feel like a really close family, but they aren’t related. Miyuki completely regrets what she did but can’t go back home out of fear that her dad would have her arrested. Gin’s family died, which leads him to heavy drinking and Hana doesn’t believe her mother would approve of her if she saw her now. The child they find has also been abandoned. There’s a desperation for acceptance that the characters find within each other and a message that you can choose your family. The characters have to deal with their own family history at different points throughout the story in a series of strange coincidences and it does get emotional at points.
Tokyo Godfathers is a perfect mix of tragic drama and comedy. It’s funny, dark, and just something special.
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