So, I read the synopsis to Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, and I just had to see it. Set in modern-day Tokyo during Christmas, it’s the story of three homeless people on an incredible journey of kindness. I can’t wait until Hollywood screws this one up with its own remake.
Tokyo Godfather teams up an improbable homeless “family.” Gin is a former cyclist who needed money for his daughter’s medical bills. He fixed a race and was banned from the sport resulting in his daughter’s death and divorce from his wife. Hana is a trans-woman, shunned by the transphobic world of Tokyo, and shunned from her community for some unknown reason. Lastly, Miyuki is a runaway teen hiding from her father, who is a prominent police officer.
Not quite feeling the Christmas vibe, the trio’s lives change when they discover a baby lying in a pile of trash. Hana, unable to have children, decides to take the baby as her own. Gin and Miyuki think she’s crazy but convinces her to turn the baby into the police. The next morning Hana has second thoughts and instead decides to find the baby’s parents and confront them about why they abandoned the child.
“…the trio’s lives change when they discover a baby lying in a pile of trash.”
Thus begins an adventure to find the baby’s parents. The first clue comes with a key to a locker holding information about the child’s parents. Like any adventure, there are many obstacles in the way. Some are slapstick moments, but others are the very reasons each of the protagonists now lives on the streets.
My first thought of Toyko Godfathers was why is this anime and not live-action. I don’t know, but the animation is beautiful even though it is mostly the dark alleyways of Tokyo. There are no fantasy elements nor sci-fi superheroes—just ordinary people. I love the exaggerated expressions, particularly from wannabe trans-mother Hana. The streets and backgrounds are stunning and every person in the background has their own identity and unique look. In other words, no skimping on the quality of art in the slightest.
I liken this trio to the Marx Brothers. The joy in the film is watching the interaction between the three unlikely friends. It’s both comedic and heartfelt. Gin is the gruff father with a deeply hidden soft spot. Hana is the good-natured, flamboyant mother-type, who is sometimes blinded by the fact that she’s not the baby’s mother. Miyuki is the street-smart teen trying to balance her own needs with that of the trio’s while escaping her past, which is always just a few steps behind her.
I found it also interesting that this film leans right into its political incorrectness. Opening moments with Hana feature jokes about a woman with balls, and these little jabs are interspersed throughout the film. There’s the struggle between Gin and Miyuki, where he accidentally grabs her boob. And for anyone afraid to read their movies, the film is available with English subtitles and dubbing.
Tokyo Godfathers is a heart-warming story of an unlikely family of homeless people on a journey to do the right thing.
"…the joy in the film is watching the interaction between the three unlikely friends."