It is Christmas Eve in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, and three homeless residents of the city are making do with what they have. When Hana decides that he wants to give Miyuki a gift, Gin accompanies them grudgingly. While searching through the garbage for the perfect present, they find an unexpectedly valuable item… a baby girl. The three decide to find the baby’s parents and embark on an unexpected adventure that takes them through the city and their memories.
summary by Madoka
Highs: Shows a different side of Tokyo; strong characters
Lows: Animation changes are jolting
Tokyo Godfathers will show you a Tokyo that you’ve never seen before. With a world of cardboard homes, drag queens and massive piles of garbage, even seasoned anime veterans will be astonished to see the harsh reality of the city in this film. The animation quality may vary, but the story and the characters never lose their way in the streets of Tokyo.
Even the city of Tokyo becomes a character in this story: alive, sometimes friendly and always unpredictable. The sight of the Tokyo Tower, beautifully animated like the other buildings of the city, may be the only familiar landmark to the audience. This is Tokyo at its dirtiest, with overflowing poverty and waste, but never completely succumbing to despair. While the unlikely heroes navigate the streets, they find their memories and lost pasts as they make their journey. As in most of Kon Satoshi‘s films, flashbacks meld with reality to capture experiences and develop them into genuinely human characters.
The movie’s few unrealistic moments unfortunately occur at important turning points of the story, caused by a sudden change in the character animation as the flurry of words and emotion distorts the face of the speaker. The difference in animation is noticeable enough to shake most viewers out of the established reality for a few moments until the flow is reestablished. Unlike Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, this movie follows a clear plot, so at least it is not difficult to be re-immersed into the story. Some plot points also stretch the limits of coincidence and plausibility, but as hope and divine intervention are important themes of the story, nothing is too fantastic to be believed.
With Christian themes and symbols, uncommon protagonists and drama peppered with just the right amount of comedy, Tokyo Godfathers is a unique and enchanting film. Kon continues to prove his amazing skill as a writer and director, and I look forward to more from him.
Highs: Wonderful script; direction; seiyuu cast; quality animation
Lows: Questionable ending
Looks like third time’s a charm for Kon Satoshi. His latest directorial work is an unexpected breath of fresh air into the anime and cinema worlds.
Kon pulls double duty here as director and scriptwriter (triple if you count character designer) to present a surprisingly human story with equally human characters. There are lightning-fast line deliveries and well-placed moments of energy, thoughtful monologues and poignant actions, humor, drama… I could go on and on. The direction and writing are probably best carried by the voice cast. The actors put so much life into their characters that I felt as if these were real people on the screen; they pull you into their world, as with most of Kon’s works.
Of course, the animation wasn’t very different from works like Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue, but there is a good sense of refinement in the cels and CG that somehow pushes the art level higher than one would expect. Yet, amidst all this, there has to be something wrong with the film. The only thing I could find was the ending, and even that’s debatable. Some viewers might find it to abrupt, and others might find it just perfect the way it is. It all depends on your point of view by the end.
This is one of those rare anime that can be appreciated on any scale. I suggest all to watch it with a group of people. Kon’s story here is definitely one to share.
Highs: Frenetic race through Japan’s city of lights; gruff, irascible characters are somehow likable
Lows: Too much divine intervention; overly exaggerated facial features
Director Kon Satoshi‘s modus operandi is to put fringe characters in unlikely situations. No other anime exists around three of Tokyo’s finest homeless and makes them so interesting to watch. But this movie is weighed down by too much energy and too many plot conveniences.
Don’t take that statement the wrong way; Tokyo Godfathers is still a very good film and a fine addition to Kon Satoshi’s impressive resumé. The art is tops, melding slick computer animation with more traditionally-drawn characters. This movie was successfully able to capture the feel and look of Tokyo (from the bright lights to the sleazy underground). The story is as unique as they come and loaded with plot twists around every corner to spice up events. This is an anime that moves so fast, you might be pressing the pause button to reach for an energy bar.
But as well-assembled as this movie is, I could not get around several poor directorial choices, such as the unwarranted deus ex machina syndrome, otherwise known as the Hand of God. Too often the story was shuttled along not because of a clever script but because of all-too-convenient plot devices. I understand this anime is primarily a comedy, but in a city of tens of millions of people, the same dozen characters bumping into each other again and again stretched the artistic license to unbearable proportions. The only one time this worked in the movie’s favor was the hilariously unfortunate taxi driver playing the unwilling pawn in the Tokyo Godfathers’ escapades. But the expressive characters did too much running and not enough reflecting. Sure, we learn about their pasts and why they became homeless, but at the end I knew nothing more about them as people. All we know is that Hana, Gin and Miyuki are cold, hungry and cranky. Aside from their roles as the homeless, just who are they exactly?
Nevertheless, I felt like I benefited from this weird and wild anime. Tokyo Godfathers ironically satisfies my appetite for entertainment, even while its characters go hungry.