Tokyo Godfathers Movie Review
Alcoholic Gin (Toru Emori), his drag queen friend Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki), and young Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) are digging through the trash on a snowy Christmas Eve when they find an abandoned baby adorable beyond description. Hana immediately falls in love and claims that he's always wanted to be a mother. Gin is more skeptical. How can three bums take care of a needy baby? Miyuki just wants to help any way she can.
A note tucked in the baby's blanket gives them only the vaguest of clues about its identity. The three get it into their heads that what they really need to do is to find the baby's parents and if not return it then at least find out what could have led them to abandon it in such a cold-hearted way.
Their nighttime travels take the trio all over town, and along the way, the truths about their troubled pasts start to come out. They stop by the drag club where Hana used to work and where old pictures of him on the wall indicate just how far he's fallen. They try visiting a psychic, and at one point they even end up leaving the baby with a family of Latin American immigrants. How jarring and interesting it is to hear Spanish dialogue in the middle of this very Japanese experience.
Things get ugly, too. In one tough-to-watch scene, Gin is viciously beaten and left for dead by a group of drunken teens. It's not the kind of thing cartoon fans are used to seeing in episodes of Pokemon and AstroBoy, but it certainly demonstrates how the anime form can be used to tell any kind of story. Anything goes in Japanese animation, while here in America, we tend to get lots of anthropomorphized animals and endless variations on Shrek.
Director Satoshi Kon and his animation team have created a weird and wonderful Tokyo. Though the animation is less elegant than other recent efforts out of Japan -- the well-known works of Hayao Miyazaki, are done in an entirely different style -- the city backdrops are astonishingly beautiful, and they pulsate with an intensity that clearly conveys just how stressful urban life is for both the homeless and the well-off. As Tokyo Godfathers barrels along to its happily tearful conclusion, you realize this is a movie about Tokyo as much as it's a movie about three friends and a baby.
Baby: It's what's for dinner.