What seems like a simple movie about a trio of homeless people trying to return a baby to its mother is actually a very complex piece of work with layers of meaning.
Story: The story is characteristically Satoshi Kon, in that it hops, skips, and jumps through unrelated elements. I find that his style of storytelling adds the realism of chaos and points out the humor of coincidence in the unorganized nature of the plot. However, the random events also serve to unravel the facades that our characters have built up, and we come to discover their pasts, as well as see them wrestle with their ghosts in the face of ongoing events. This show is heavy on character development, but also utilizes action sequences to move the plot along.
If you know anything about Japan, you know that being homeless or even just jobless is a huge mark of shame and that Japanese society treats their homeless much much differently than even we do in the US. What's really great about the story and the tangents it takes is that it explores the day-to-day living of the Japanese homeless. In doing so, we get deeper and deeper into the meat of this societal issue, which serves to question the audience's assumptions about the honor and values of homeless people vis-a-vis "normal people." After all, who is worse, the homeless trio or the woman who stole the baby? I think they did a fabulous job raising tough questions like these.
Animation: As usual, there is little left to be desired in terms of art. The backgrounds are deliciously urban, and the color palatte really emphasizes the real nature of the movie's themes.
Sound: Spot on.
Characters: With excellent characterization and complexity, each character is explored and developed, as well as animated with his/her own quirks. The balance of characters is humorous, but their interactions also force them to explore their own emotions more fully. My favorite was definitely Hana-chan, with her spouting of poetry and love of books.
All in all, an excellent piece of work, and well worth the time of anyone who likes a movie with an uplifting ending.