“Tokyo Godfathers” Review: Socially Astute & Uplifting

Tokyo Godfathers [2003]- ★★★★1/2main-qimg-addc775327077c1483eb320cebc19f81-c

👶 A fun and heart-warming Christmas tale about homeless “misfits” that sheds light on many of Japan’s social problems, including alcoholism, poverty and discrimination. 

The co-director and scriptwriter of this little gem is no other than Satoshi Kon, the man who brought to the masses such great animated films as Perfect Blue (1997) and Paprika (2006). The story is about three homeless people who discover an abandoned baby-girl amidst the piles of garbage, and decide to embark on an adventure to deliver her back to her parents. The animation may portray harsh realities of living on the streets too realistically for anyone’s taste and may also “camouflage” some other hardships, but the animation is also fun, well-structured and beautifully-presented, with a touching finale. Moreover, it is so heart-warming, with memorable characters who learn their lessons, it is truly the New Year film to watch to lift everyone’s spirits.

Despite the animated nature of this film and the New Year/Christmas-filled references, this film actually deals with some serious themes, such as the reality of sleeping rough on the streets of Tokyo, and, as a result of that, being exposed to all sorts of dangers, from running the risk of being beaten up to dying of starvation and exposure. Our three homeless characters are also far from being some heroically-brilliant characters. Gin is a man who battles an alcohol addiction, and who can start a meaningless fight with Miyuki, a runaway teenager, on the spur of the moment. In turn, Miyuki is a troubled girl who left her home following an altercation with a family member, and, finally, Hana is a trans-woman who never knew her own parents, but who develops a motherly affection for the abandoned little girl. Despite all that, Tokyo Godfathers is filled with warmth for other human beings, as well as with the hope for the future. Irrespective of their traumatic pasts and their present life- threatening and desperate conditions, the three friends take the courage to do good for the little girl they found and who they also name Kiyoko. It is clear that Gin, Hana and Miyuki can all identify with the abandoned baby, and, therefore, through their good deed, they also attempt to redeem their own past wrongdoings.

Tokyo Godfathers, though, never feels too sentimental, and focuses more on the fast-paced action-filled adventure of trying to get hold of a baby and then pass her to her own mother. Trying to do so take the friends from kidnapping plots to mistaken identity scenarios, and, with “smart “dialogue and humour throughout, Tokyo Godfathers becomes a very enjoyable ride with an unbelievably tense finale.

Realism and fantasy may clash embarrassingly in Tokyo Godfathers, but the film could also be said to be so fascinating precisely because of that uncomfortable overlap between the humour and the disaster portrayed. Tokyo Godfathers is almost a tragi-comedy, and is both a moving “holiday season” animation and an elaborate, humorous and visually-stunning “adventure” film.

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. raistlin0903 says:

    I kid you not, I have seen this movie make an appearance on about 5 blogs in the past week. You would think the universe is trying to tell me something here lol 😂😂 Great post. As you know I really enjoy watching anime and I simply can’t believe that I haven’t seen this one yet 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks! I am sure you will like it.
      And I know 🙂 and I am not surprised, since this is the film to review and recommend on Christmas eve. However, I noticed that it figures very little on the Christmas-films-to-watch lists around wordpress, and it really cannot be recommended high enough 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Priyasha says:

    Amazing Review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Madame Vintage says:

    I am very glad to see you reviewed this as I have recently watched this delightful movie. It has a great way of portraying the spirit of being humble, kind and considerate mixed, in with the wit which was beautiful to see. The three charaters are so oddly charming.

    Your words of it being heartwarming is exactly that and it is a gem hiding in the festive season for the viewing. I hope in return you have had a pleasant Christmas Diana and have a wonderful New Year to come.

    Sincerely Sonea

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you, Sonea, and I would like to wish you a very Happy New Year, too!
      I think much like del Toro’s recent film, this animation also tries to break the stereotypes, and I Iove it all the more for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hypersonic55 says:

    Awesome review, reading your words reminded me of why I liked this film so much when I first saw it back in college. I have a friend who is a massive Satoshi Kon fan and he coerced me into watching them, my favourite of them would still be Paprika just for the sheer creativity and madness of it all. Anyway, I really should rewatch the film at some point, it’s been close to a decade since my last watch.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ospreyshire says:

    Yes! More recognition for the late Kon-sensei! This is a wonderful film and I’m glad you covered it. I recently watched it again and it was still great. It would certainly be fun to review it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Yes, despite very difficult subjects portrayed, the animation was still heart-warming with even a humorous side to it. I do not know how they managed to achieve this, but it worked.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ospreyshire says:

        Exactly! There was a good balance with the comedy and serous moments. Something like that is tough to achieve.

        Liked by 1 person

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