Tokyo Godfathers Review
Well hello there, I am back to review more anime movies. In my country, Inside Out will be released a week after its actual release date, and so I thought "why not review an Anime movie from one of my recent favorite directors, Satoshi Kon?" Now, let me first get the following out of the way: Satoshi Kon was a genius, he was such a great filmmaker, and I can only mourn the loss of an exceptional artist. In his honor, I have decided to review all of his films, in the order in which I saw them, starting with Tokyo Godfathers.
Tokyo Godfathers was the third feature film directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon. Released in the year 2003, it was animated by Studio Madhouse and co-written by Keiko Nobumoto. The story follows a trio of homeless people; Gin, a middle aged alcoholic, Mayuki, a teenage runaway, and finally Hana, a trans-woman who was a former drag queen. Set around Christmas Eve, the trio accidentally come across an abandoned infant girl and make it their mission to find the girl’s parents and return their child.
What’s surprising to me about this film is how dark the atmosphere of Tokyo is portrayed. Yet somehow it never feels unpleasant or uncomfortable, or even hopeless. The film actually contains some mature content, such as gang beat ups, suicidal mothers, crazy runaways, hell, and there is even a segment where an assassination takes place. Despite all these happenings, you may be surprised when I tell you that this movie is actually a comedy. It's not a comedy in the sense that it makes fun of the aforementioned situations, but rather how our main trio reacts to the situations that they are put in. This is where the genius of that is Satoshi Kon comes in. He can make a film with a dark subject matter and still turn it into a balls out comedy without ever insulting the subject matter, all of which he achieves within a short period of 90 minutes.
The characters are what make this film work. They all have their troubled pasts, and the movie takes its time to show you how they ended up where they are now. It also succeeds in depicting their vulnerable side without turning it into a sob fest, and by doing so with subtlety, they give you just enough reason to care about the characters and just enough to make them likeable. Gin is a character whose sarcastic remarks and cynicism of society make up for a lot of the comedic situations in the film. Miyuki, on the other hand, is a runaway who has a troubled past with her family, yet she also adds a lot of humanity to the film. What she brings to the table is her own temper, and it can be quite funny when she enters an argument with one of the trio. Saving the best for the last, my favorite of the three is Hana, a trans-woman who is so emotionally unstable at times, it’s hilarious. He is, however, also the heart of the film, as we get to know more about his ideals and his reasons for helping others, and so he becomes a character that you sympathize with and relate to the most. He doesn't complain about his situation once in the entire movie, but rather strives to help others to help himself. When you discover that particular aspect of his character, he becomes unforgettable.
The animation is spectacular, as is expected from Studio Madhouse, with much detail and emphasis placed on many of the of the character designs, as well as the city of Tokyo itself. The coloring is something I also loved, with much of the palate used to make Tokyo look more dull and less vibrant; something that really fit the movie’s tone, despite the fact that it is a comedy. This is probably some of the best animation any of Satoshi Kon’s films has to offer, although his final film, Paprika, will still take the top stop.
The film places a huge emphasis on the spirit of Christmas, making it a great holiday movie. The film also explores the theme of chance, as coincidences occur frequently, giving us all the more reason to consider it a movie which celebrates the spirit of Christmas. So yeah, not only is this a great movie, but it easily one of the best Christmas films I have ever seen.
With all that said, I do have one issue with Tokyo Godfathers, which is its rather abrupt ending. I'm not trying to spoil anything but I do wish that it gave the audience a more apt conclusion for its characters. It's not that the ending makes it feel incomplete or anything, as all of our characters' story arcs do reach a conclusion, but it just felt a little too sudden and should have given a more well-rounded finale to the entire story. Also, the film doesn't have an existing dubbed version yet, and so the subbed version with Japanese audio will have to do. The voice actors have done a phenomenal job, but I do generally prefer dubs. Having said that, this movie is truly a Kon masterpiece and it’s something he’s never quite done before, so I only can wish that he was still around to make more movies. What we, as audiences, have received from this man is great, and Tokyo Godfathers is no exception to that. It is, in my opinion, a timeless classic, and it should be checked out by those who are fans of film and animation.
I am going to give Tokyo Godfathers an ‘A’
Final Rating: A
You can expect a late review of 'Inside Out' soon....cannot wait