Christmas in Tokyo, Japan. Three homeless friends: a young girl, a transvestite, and a middle-aged bum. While foraging through some trash, they find an abandoned newborn. Hana, the transvestite with delusions of being a mother, convinces the others to keep it overnight. The next day, using a key found with the baby, they start tracking down the parents, with many adventures along the way.
Satoshi Kon’s films are true works of art and he continues his directorial success with Tokyo Godfathers. Like Perfect Blue and Millennium actress, Tokyo Godfather wows the watcher immediately with the attention to detail. The scenes are exquisitely painted – when it is snowing you can almost smell it and feel the stillness. And the characters expressions convey emotions expertly by subtlety or caricature as occasion demands. Leave behind your Hollywood ideas of what a movie or worse, a cartoon should be.
The film doesn’t focus on the commercial side of Christmas, takes the concepts of and adds a little twist to them
The lead characters in the film are all gorgeously ugly, in a way that even Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, etc.) had not yet dared to do. Even the child character, Miyuki, is chubby and not cute and beautiful in the way little girls ‘should’ be, by the unwritten laws of anime. Thus, Kon’s characters are believable and true to life; they are three anti-heroes, outcasts from society, each running away from their pasts. Especially charming is Hana (AKA ‘Uncle Bag’), the golden-hearted transvestite, who supplies much of the film’s comic relief but also some of its most touching moments.
The movie also managed to be dark in tone at some points and funny at others. It deals with certain dark situations by covering subjects not normally associated with Japan like poverty, death and suicide, and the price of making mistakes in a great way that it never demonizes the character making them. You will feel empathy towards them and feel where they are coming from which seems to lack today in Hollywood films.
Although it may not be exactly the Christmas movie that many of you are used to seeing, this is a damn good film that should be part of everyone’s Christmas playlist. This film is about Christmas miracles but rather than being cliché magical miracles, it’s brought about by everyday people who are going out of the way to help others.