The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Tokyo Godfathers

Title: Tokyo Godfathers
Genre: Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: Movie; 90 minutes.
Dates: 30 Aug 2003

Synopsis: In the Christmas filled streets of Tokyo, a group of homeless misfits, including a transvestite, a former bike shop owner, and a teenage runaway, find what appears to be an abandoned baby. In their quest to return the baby to its parents, an entire story unravels in which they will all learn new things about life and about themselves.

The Highlights
Plot development: Highlights Kon Satoshi‘s sheer story telling power.
Beethoven‘s “Symphony No. 9”: Symbolic, powerful, and used brilliantly.
God: Makes an appearance in the movie.
Characters: “Real” is the best way to describe them.
Visuals: Same as above.

Although not as abstruse as most of his other works, Tokyo Godfathers once again shows us Kon Satoshi‘s utter brilliance and his understanding of humanity. For the many who have complained about the unrealistically convenient progression of events, it should be pointed out that the story takes place during Christmas; miracles are expected. The way Kon uses these miracles and joins the entire story together, from the start to the very final second of the movie, does not sell short of genius.

The story carries several powerful themes, delivered ever so superbly. There are two, however, that predominantly resonate throughout the work. One of them is the dissonant structure of society, highlighted by the kindness and compassion of three homeless outcasts who go through countless difficulties to return a baby to its parents; and the injustice and disrespect with which they are treated by most around them. This is not to say that Kon unrealistically delivers three perfect angels as the homeless protagonists. They are all replete with problems of their own, which carries us into the second predominant theme of this movie: the power of will. All three protagonists have something to learn, and eventually it will lead to the realization that they are responsible for their lives and how they live them. As the doctor at one point says… “I can try to cure disease. Lifestyle is something you have to fix.”

In a masterpiece in which every area is covered quite well, the characters still manage to stand out as the genial factor of this work. Few anime can claim such realistic and powerful characters as this one offers. Through the minds and lives of three tragic figures, Kon essentially shows us… “humanity”. He emphasizes the light that unites us all despite our imperfections. The protagonists’ mistakes and sins, mixed together with their compassion and spirit, is truly a marvelous contrast and a highpoint in anime characterization.

In a work of Kon Satoshi, one usually expects an abundance of symbols. Tokyo Godfathers is no exception to this rule. The repetitive usage of Beethoven‘s “Symphony No. 9”, a piece which highlights hope and the brotherhood of all humanity, is quite significant. The time of year in which the story takes place is also crucial. After all, what time is more spiritual and mystical than Christmas? What better time for atoning for our mistakes and becoming new people than the start of a new year?

Tokyo Godfathers is essentially Kon‘s way of asking us to take a hard, honest look at humanity and ourselves. It is a movie which is not only thoroughly enjoyable and touching, but also holds an immense amount of moral value. It takes Kon a mere infant, hardly aware of its misfortunes, and three homeless outcasts, very much aware of theirs’, to emit a warm light of hope on any viewer who ventures into watching this masterpiece.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: MK

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