Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers is an anime movie
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Three tramps-alcoholic Gin, transvestite Hana, and teen runaway Miyuki-find an abandoned baby while searching through the trash on Christmas Eve. They decide to return it to its mother, only to plunge into a whirl of scandal, kidnapping, and attempted murder, all on the one day when Tokyo is supposed to be quiet.

Like Satoshi Kon's earlier Perfect Blue, TG initially seems like a strange choice for animation. With so many real world locations, why not film it with real people? But nobody in the metropolitan government was going to approve a live-action film depicting a shanty town in the shadow of Tokyo's distinctive twin tower metropolitan government offices, nor were many of today's TV idols likely to sign up for a tale of grunge and poverty, however happy the ending. The clincher would have been the snow. It is popularly believed that it only falls in Tokyo once every ten years-the presence of snow being the first of this movie's many Christmas miracles, and far cheaper to achieve with animation.

Satoshi Kon's choice of subject matter is an act of faith in itself-framing the relentless hope and happiness of a Christmas comedy in the stark, realist tones of his other work. The baby's arrival sends the tramps scurrying to buy water instead of booze at their local convenience store, much to the shop assistant's surprise. Hana jokes in the soup line that he is "eating for two," only to shock the charity worker the following day when he does indeed turn up with a babe in arms. In its comedy and sentimentality, TG is the closest thing we'll see to an anime pantomime, an end-of-year revel that turns everything on its head-even down to the Japanese voice actors, who are often cast against type, and with some amusing cameos. The opening sequence cunningly inserts production credits into the storefronts and graffiti surrounding the action; the ending is a souped up version of Beethoven's Ode to Joy-to the Japanese, the ultimate Christmas song.

TG also finds divine inspiration and beauty in everyday events, such as a wounded tramp seeing an angel, who turns out to be a bar girl in fancy dress. It may have three wise men (one and a half of whom are actually female), but its nativity story is not limited to Christian lore. A cemetery becomes a treasure trove as the tramps search for votive offerings of sake, and the film's stand-in for Santa Claus, white beard and all, can only perform his task properly if he dies doing it. The movie alludes to Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, which similarly features old men bickering over a foundling child in a storm, but at its heart is a search for kindness and warmth in materialist Japan.

TG shows a side of Tokyo that tourists rarely see, a side that many anime fans will find less believable than the heroic ninja, giant monsters, and transforming robots produced by audience chasers whose talent only extends to riffs on the latest fashion. It is also, like Akira, a love letter to the city. Kon renders its back alleys, shabby corners, and blue-collar areas with the same devotion that Otomo gave to the neon overload of its glittering uptown districts. Kon's leading characters are mostly confused and hapless but with an inner core of humanity that redeems their weakness. Ultimately, all are attempting to reunite themselves with "families" they have abandoned, believing their crimes to be unpardonable, whereas all their loved ones want for Christmas is for them to walk back in through the door. The story is compassionate but unsentimental-a work of honest emotion on the level of My Neighbor Totoro or Frank Capra's Christmas masterpiece It's A Wonderful Life-and we can't, sadly, say that about very many anime. LV

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Takaaki Yamashita Key Animator Key Animator, Animation Director, and Director on various animated films and OVA
Shinji Hashimoto Key Animator Key Animator on X, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Milennium Actress, and other films and series.
Shinji Otsuka Key Animator
Miwa Sasaki Key Animator Key Animator for Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and other series.
Shougo Furuya Key Animator Key Animator on various animated films, including Ninja Scroll and Pom Poko
Takeshi Honda Key Animator
Tetsuya Kumagai Key Animator
Satoshi Kon Character Artist/Designer Famous Anime Director Notable for his Realistic Character Designs and Psychological Storytelling
Akiko Asaki Key Animator
Hideki Hamasu Key Animator Key Animator for various films, television series and OVAs, including Paprika, Blue Sub 6, and Ghost in the Shell.
Hiroko Kazui Key Animator
Hisashi Mori Key Animator Key animation on Afro Samurai, Tokyo Godfathers, and other anime projects
Kazutaka Ozaki Key Animator
Megumi Kagawa Key Animator
Michiyo Suzuki Key Animator Key Animator on several major films and OVAs, including Paprika, AD Police Files, Milennium Actress and The Cat Returns
Norio Matsumoto Key Animator Key Animation on multiple series, including Bacanno! Gunsmith Cats, Gurren Lagann, and Naruto
Kazunobu Hoshi Key Animator Key Animation on Tokyo Godfathers, Cowboy Bebop, and other projects.
Shigeru Fujita Key Animator
Keiko Nobumoto Writer A Japanese screenplay writer best known as the creator of Wolf's Rain.
Keiichi Suzuki Music
Kenichi Konishi Animation Director
Masashi Ando Animation Director
Toshiyuki Inoue Animation Director
Masao Takiyama Executive Producer Producer for Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, and Key the Metal Idol
Taro Maki Executive Producer Planner and producer on numerous anime and films, including Tenchi Muyo and Tokyo Godfathers

Original US Poster Art

General Information Edit
Name: Tokyo Godfathers
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2003
Name: 東京ゴッドファーザーズ
Release Date: Nov. 8, 2003
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 92 (mins)
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