Tokyo Godfathers is a 2003 film directed by Satoshi Kon and produced by Madhouse Studios. Set in the slums of Tokyo, it tells the story of three homeless people: Gin, Hana, and Miyuki, and the adventure that follows when they discover an abandoned baby among the trash. Gin is an older man that lost his family due to a string of bad luck and now drinks his life away whenever he can get his hands on some alcohol. Hana is a homosexual man that believes that God made a mistake when he was born and wishes to be nothing but a mother. Miyuki is a runaway teenager trying to escape from the conflicts at home with her father.
When they discover the baby while rummaging through the trash looking for Christmas presents for each other, Hana decides to take in the baby despite Gin’s insistence on bringing it to the police. A day later, Hana comes to her senses and the three of them set out to find the baby’s mother and convince her to take it back so that it doesn’t have to live through being passed around foster homes as Hana was when she was a child. This sets in motion an incredible journey of chance and miracles. Small acts of kindness can go a long way and that’s certainly portrayed in Tokyo Godfathers. Saving a man’s life led the trio closer to resolving Gin’s past and granting a dying man’s last wish brought them closer to the baby’s mother.
In the midst of Christmas when many people can think of nothing but food and presents, Gin, Hana, and Miyuki show that giving to others even when you have nothing yourself can be more rewarding than receiving. The three of them thought of nothing but reuniting a baby with its mother. It might’ve led them on wild car chases and gotten them involved in criminal gangs, but it helped them come to terms with their own problems and bring happiness to those around them. Tokyo Godfathers shows one of the worst sides of humanity in the form of abandonment, violence, and betrayal, but then turns around and shows humanity’s goodness in the form of love, devotion, and forgiveness.
While Tokyo Godfathers plays along the same lines as most classic Christmas stories, of spreading joy and hope to those that need it most, it still manages to draw you in with its sense of adventure and unconventional characters. The setting in the slums of a major metropolis also adds a unique feel to the film that you won’t find in other Christmas stories. Satoshi Kon kept the film running at a brisk pace so that there was never a dull moment. The film is only an hour and a half, but I could’ve sworn it was much longer given everything that happens in it.
In terms of animation, the style does not have the cute or hot characters that regular anime fans are used to. Instead, the character designs are closer to western animation with smaller eyes and more distinguishable facial features. As for the quality, Madhouse Studios did a superb job getting all of the proportions and colours right. Dark shadows and textures were used heavily in order to set the mood, and it worked.
If you’ve gotten tired of seeing A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer for the 100th time and you enjoy the occasional anime, then give Tokyo Godfathers a go. It’ll get you in the Christmas mood and offer something unique from the traditional lineup of Christmas movies.