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Tokyo Godfathers
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 07/01/2004

Three homeless people find an abandoned baby girl while rummaging through heaps of trash on Chrismas eve. They decide to try and find the infant's mother, not knowing that their quest would subsequently lead them to face the very things that each of them had been trying to run away from.

Tokyo Godfathers is a film that breaks a lot of the traditional precepts that seem to govern anime, which seems to be what director Satoshi Kon constantly sets out to accomplish with his works (see also "Perfect Blue" and "Millennium Actress"). For starters, the protagonists are a far cry from the usual beautiful girls and handsome boys most anime fans are used to. They aren't even gun-slinging action heroes, nor are they the comical and wacky types usually associated with comedies. We have Hana, a tall and imposing ex-drag queen who could probably make RuPaul look like a supermodel; Gin, a brusque and scruffy drunkard who's the stereotypical vagrant; and Miyuki, an embittered teenage runaway whom Hana and Gin look after. This unlikely trio picks up an abandoned baby girl in the dump, and despite being amongst garbage, the baby is immaculate-looking -- which is a stark contrast to her rescuers' less-than-pristine appearances. The baby is subsequently named "Kiyoko" by Hana, and the three decide to look for Kiyoko's mother rather than surrender her to the police.

What ensues is a surreal journey for Hana, Gin, and Miyuki. They follow up on a single clue: a locker key left in the baby's bundle. The search takes them all over Tokyo, bringing about a string of ostensibly spontaneous events that turn out to be connected to finding the baby's mother and the trio's individual pasts. There couldn't have been a more perfect time frame for the film than Christmas, since one serendipitous coincidence after another occurs. Each character always manages to be exactly at the right place at the right time, which is unrealistic by any standard. But the way everything and everyone is portrayed is so disarming that whatever skepticism you may have is easily thrown out the window in favor of just basking in the waves of good feelings this film emanates.

The art and animation are flawless. Satoshi Kon's unpretentious character designs are prevalent, and this time everyone is even more real and de-glamorized compared to his previous films -- which is actually very fitting for Tokyo Godfathers' theme. The attention to detail is nothing short of incredible. Locales are based on existing Japanese landmarks, and scenes are drawn in multiple overlapping layers such that each layer can be moved at varying speeds. The result is a visual feast which maximizes the effects of colors, contrast, and extremely fluid animation. Beethoven's symphony no. 9 and a few other Christmas melodies make up the film's soundtrack, serving as the ideal finishing accents to an already exceptional film.

Watching Tokyo Godfathers was a pleasant and oddly riveting experience. You know that people can't possibly be as fortunate as Hana, Gin, Miyuki, and Kiyoko in their given situation, but this film just makes you want to suspend your disbelief and accept whatever comes as what should be. Truly an inspirational piece... highly recommended.

Tokyo Godfathers has no English dub track.

Tokyo Godfathers
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Review Title:
Tokyo Godfathers
90 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Comedy, Drama
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