Tokyo Godfathers

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VivisQueen's avatar
Apr 7, 2009

Story

Satoshi Kon wants everyone to perform a double-take. I am convinced this is his primary aim. His trademark spacey, frenetic style more than suggests a misspent youth of paranoid comedowns and an adulthood geared towards making the rest of the world experience the same. Whatever the truth, he’s clearly a master craftsman who knows how to weave highly original tales brimming with sophisticated weirdness. Unfortunately, amidst all that striving for conceptual elegance, the characters often get lost. Watching Millennium Actress, for example, I thought Chiyoko’s historical relevance abstractedly fascinating but never quite cared about Chiyoko herself, and in Perfect Blue, Mima’s psychosis was more gripping to follow than she as a person.

Not so with Tokyo Godfathers. Here, Kon distils everything that’s essentially refreshing about his style and then injects it into a heart-warming, character-driven Christmas movie that will leave viewers thrilled and enthralled.

At face value, Tokyo Godfathers sounds frighteningly similar to hackneyed Hollywood productions like 80s hit Three Men and a Baby. The idea of a cynic, a brat, and a homosexual dreamer adventuring through Tokyo’s underbelly, unravelling their personal neuroses, all the while trying to do the right thing by an abandoned tot seems potentially rife with corniness. In fact, with the numerous coincidences and quirky twists required to give the plot any coherence, there’s a real danger of it also sliding into farce.

Luckily, the direction is masterful. Satoshi Kon oozes humour in the same way a supernova can be said to ooze light. Moreover, he turns out to have a dazzling knack for teasing out originality in his characters as much as he does his narratives. Armed thus, Tokyo Godfathers performs with aplomb, delivering a gripping quest involving gangsters, transvestites, thugs, and Latin American immigrants that brims at every turn with surprises. The pace, needless to say, is giddy and off-beat, but always fresh, as if Kon were making half of it up as he went. At the same time, all the elements come together smoothly, not least because of the thematic glue permeating the work – a poignant theme of lost families – which is at once universal and yet rarely explored in anime.

The result is that Tokyo Godfathers plays out with the uplifting familiarity of a nativity scene whilst delivering an innovative, contemporary style and startling themes.


Animation

The budget here is generous and tastefully applied. Although Tokyo Godfathers offers fairly ugly but simple character designs that stand firmly in the realm of realism, practically everything else is an exercise in art. The three homeless guys are more caricatured than might be found in Kon’s other movies, but the detail in movement and particularly facial expressions are astounding. Crafted with commendable attention to their individuality (even the way Miyuki sniffs becomes a fascinatingly ugly detail), the characters move, speak, and express with theatrical preciseness.

In regards to the environment, the setting is a buzzing Tokyo with rich layers and textures, a condensed microcosm of all the things that make a cosmopolitan city. Often, the scenery feels like the next best thing to a photograph, all the while exuding a larger-than-life ambience tailored to the big screen.


Sound

In contrast, the soundtrack is unobtrusive; little of the jazzy riffs stand out as particularly striking, however, it remains robustly vibrant enough to support the light-hearted and dramatic tones of the narrative.


Characters

The cast as a whole is brilliantly human; they’re always funny in their tragedy and touching in their peculiarity. The main cast comprises three homeless individuals trying to find a child’s mother, but in the process rediscovering their own self-worth and the worth of the families they left behind. Simple enough on paper, but their development is challenging, witty, and scripted with remarkable creativity. While the cross-dressing Hana easily steals the show with his flamboyance (his rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ warbled in camp Engrish is priceless!), the most involving background actually belongs to Gin, who struggles with the guilt of having abandoned his wife and baby daughter.

The individuals they meet along the way, though colourful and continually intriguing, do not attain the same level of depth. They mainly exist as fortuitous helpers or fleeting antagonists, and serve the plot rather than help drive it.


Overall

Most of the time, Kon’s works remind me of a surrealist painting that’s very entertaining, but remains teasingly just out of the range of full comprehension (‘Alright, Kon, I’ll give you a nine out of ten, but just explain that melting face to me again…?’). Maybe Kon had a mental lapse – heck, maybe he ran out of drugs that week – but in being his only sentimental work to date, Tokyo Godfathers also proves to be his best. A must for anime lovers and a don’t-live-without-it for fans of Satoshi Kon.

8.5/10 story
9/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
noname0302's avatar
Jan 19, 2016

Strap in! You have quite a ride ahead of you!

Tokyo godfathers is a real masterpiece. I was originally reluctant to watch it because I didn’t like Paranoia agent at all (that’s an understatement), but they are not similar at all. While paranoia agent is repetitive uneventful and overall dull, Tokyo godfathers is so fast pace that instead of boredom, your problem will be to just process all the information you get.

Story: it’s basically a dark comedy with psychological factors. Imagine the anime version of a Guy Ritchie movie. Some might get annoyed by the ridiculous amount of coincidence in this anime, but that’s the point. Lets just consider that a christmas miracle. The story is very well written. 10/10

Animation: it’s so ugly its actually good. It’s somewhat abstract, satirical and it fits everything perfectly. Typical style of the creator. Not on par with some of the best, but I could really imagine this anime with different graphics.  8/10

Music: didn’t find it too memorable. Somewhat cliché for certain situations, for example the time they play Beethoven. 7/10

Characters: When we have a transvestite, a lowlife and a hysterical kid in puberty and we all grow to love them, the creators are doing something very well. Even the secondary/episodic characters are interesting. Sometimes the overacting can be a bit annoying, but I’ll let that one slip. 9.5/10

Overall: an absolute must-see. 9/10

10/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
9.5/10 characters
9/10 overall
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snivets's avatar
Dec 27, 2012

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.

9/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
9.5/10 overall
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galacticdude7's avatar
May 19, 2010

-Story-

Tokyo Godfathers has a very touching story as the main characters go out of their way in an attempt to reunite an abandoned baby to its mother. Throughout the film, we get to learn about the past of all of the main characters, and what happened to them that caused them to be homeless. There are several very touching moments in the movie and there where also some parts that made me laugh. This tale is littered with touching moments and miraculous occurances. The story was very good. Some parts of it where slightly predictable and there where a few cliches, but other than that it was a very good story.

-Animation-

The animation of Tokyo Godfathers is very clean and highly stylized. It has good art in to that helps tell the story in a proper light.

-Characters-

I just love the characters in Tokyo Godfathers. Each one of them has a unique past and we find out their stories on how they once where and how they got to where they are now. Their background stories checks to make sure that the characters where not bland or one dimensional with only one overridding trait. The stories of each character make you like them and see that they are normal people with problems that people do face. They are well executed and provide an excellent source for a good story.

-Overall-

Tokyo Godfathers is a very touching piece and deserves to be watched by people of all backgrounds.

7.5/10 story
8/10 animation
?/10 sound
8/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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chanachan's avatar
Oct 5, 2016

This was amazing...

Such a great movie, with INCREDIBLE characters.
Every minute of this film counts, it is remarkably well made

Heart warming, fun, comedy, action, love, you have it all !!

It reminds me of "Zazie dans le métro" a book wich i have always loved.

It is a real adventure, and from the first minute to the last you are hung up on it,
I felt like i was part of the ride

The ending can seem for some a bit rushed BUT i think it was a really good way to end it.
It keeps up with the authenticity and the fast pace of the story, soo... i have no complaints over here

I dont know what to say apart from : GO WATCH IT NOWWW

10/10 story
9/10 animation
6/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
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