Anime Film Review: Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers is an anime film directed by Satoshi Kon. The film was released in Japanese theaters on December 29, 2003, and it received an Excellence Prize at the 2003 Japan Media Arts Festival. Sony Pictures Entertainment holds the U.S. distribution rights to Tokyo Godfathers.

Tokyo Godfathers
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
Written by: Keiko Nobumoto and Satoshi Kon
Starring: Tōru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, and Aya Okamoto
Run Time: 92 minutes
Rated: PG-13

The main characters of Tokyo Godfathers are three homeless people: a middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, former drag queen Hana, and a runaway girl named Miyuki. The film opens on Christmas Eve, with the three rummaging through the garbage. As they look, they hear a cry of a baby. The three discover a newborn baby girl, with a note asking someone to take good care of her, as well as a bag containing clues to the parents’ identities. Hana names the girl Kiyoko, which means “pure child.”

As the three go on a journey to find the baby’s parents, they rescue a high-ranking yakuza man who is trapped under a car. It turns out the man knows the owner of the club that Kiyoko’s mother used to visit; the club owner is marrying the yakuza man’s daughter. The yakuza man takes the three and the baby to the wedding, where they learn the baby’s mother is named Sachiko, and are provided an address.

The party is interrupted by a Hispanic man who was disguised as a maid; he turns out to be a hit man. After trying to shoot the yazuka man, the hit man takes Miyuki and Kiyoko hostage. The film continues the adventures of the three and what they must go through to try to return Kiyoko where she belongs.

Like Kon’s other works, nothing is as it seems on the surface. As the three characters go on their journey to reunite Kiyoko with her family, secrets about each one is revealed.  The animation in the film also helps to punctuate the story being told the film. Kon and his co-writers are able to effectively tell a heartwarming story involving an unlikely set of protagonists, as well as to get the audience to care about these characters.

In some respects, this could be seen as a Christmas anime film, since the film is set at Christmas. When I watch this film, I get a kick out of hearing a traditional Christmas song being sung in Japanese early on in the film. I’m so used to hearing the song in English that hearing it in Japanese is quite an experience.

The DVD release of Tokyo Godfathers is packaged with an illustration by Satoshi Kon. The copy of the DVD that I have came with an illustration of Miyuki.

The DVD itself contains a making of documentary and previews. The documentary runs for 22 minutes, and it has Japanese language with English subtitles. The documentary provides background on the film, as well as on the main three voice actors; the three voice actors are also interviewed. The documentary also includes interviews with Satoshi Kon and some of the members of the production staff. It was a rather well-done documentary, and the interviews with Satoshi Kon reinforced how much the anime industry lost with his passing in 2010.

Tokyo Godfathers is a great anime film to watch at Christmas time. However, with the violence and brief bits of nudity, it’s not an all-ages film.  On the DVD box, it says that the film is rated PG-13.

Tokyo Godfathers is a very well-made film, and should be in the anime home video library of anyone who appreciates the work of Satoshi Kon.

I wrote this review after watching a copy of Tokyo Godfathers that I received as a gift from my husband.

Additional reviews of Satoshi Kon films:

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