Anyone who follows my content knows I watch a lot of Christmas movies. This can make it difficult to find a good Blind Spot pick for December. However, I have long wanted to see the anime classic Tokyo Godfathers, so it became an easy pick for this month’s selection. Tokyo Godfathers is directed by master animator Satoshi Kon based on the novel by Peter B Kyne entitled Three Godfathers.
There are a lot of reasons why this film works, but I think at the heart is an emotional resonance we connect with. I’d wager to say the 3 main characters Gin, Hana and Miyuki are living wildly different lives than most of us; however, their responses to pain, joy, fear etc come from a truthful place we can all relate with.
The story begins when our homeless trio finds a baby thrown into the trash on Christmas Eve. Ex-drag queen Hana is particularly excited to help the baby who they name Kiyoko. I loved Hana’s energy, which is always tinged with a bit of melancholy. She reminds me a little bit of Agrado in Pedro Almodóvar’s film All About My Mother. They both are transgender and homeless, yet full of life and energy.
Tough talking Gin helps ground the group and young teen Miyuki is a more of a nurturing presence. They are an unlikely group but one who’s story I was always invested in. The 3 friends set out to find Kiyoko’s parents and face all kinds of resistance along the way. Sometimes the shenanigans are a little too much but for the most part I was very engaged.
Aside from the day it is set on, Tokyo Godfathers might not seem like much of a Christmas movie. There are no presents, Christmas trees, Santa etc. However, it absolutely gets to the core of Christmas. Each of our 3 characters is sacrificing to help Kiyoko who would have certainly died in the trash without them. Is this not the heart of what pure Christianity aka Christmas teaches?
There’s also a sense of wish fulfillment with this journey. Hana gets to live a day as a mother. Gin gets to be the hero he isn’t to his own children. Miyuki gets to be a part of a loving family unit. These are people who aren’t valued by society but to this baby they are invaluable. It reminded me a lot of both Parasite and last year’s Shoplifters in many ways.
Tokyo Godfathers, however, is not a morose film. It actually can be quite hopeful and even funny. Like I said, especially Hana is a bright light in a difficult world. I loved the way Satoshi animated her big smile and exuberant responses to everything. It made me smile.
I loved all of the animation. Satoshi does such a good job of developing a sense of place with rich colors of brown, red and green. At one point a character is at her breaking point and there is such a piercing quality to her eyes that anyone who has had a mental health crisis will understand. It’s quite devastating (especially when compared with Hana’s bright energy).
I did struggle a little bit in Tokyo Godfathers to keep up with the subtitles but that is probably my own flaw more than the movie. There are some pretty fast-paced scenes of dialogue! But if you are looking for something different to watch at Christmas or just a unique animated film any time of the year I recommend it for anyone middle school and up. I really enjoyed it (rated pg13)!
In August I got to review Satoshi Kon’s other masterpiece Millennium Actress over at rotoscopers.com. Check the review out here