You know that feeling when you’re sifting through new anime to watch, and you continue to come across synopses that go something like “Oh, no! Blahblah Blahblah is an average guy, but then Sparklebutt Cutiepatootie invites him to her club and then shenanigans happen”? I have that feeling all the time, and it makes me question why I still watch anime. Imagine my surprise when, out of desperation, I go through some of Satoshi Kon’s library and see a film by him with a synopsis that reads “A transwoman, belligerent hobo, and runaway teen find an abandoned baby in the trash on Christmas, and then shenanigans happen!” What the fuck?! How come anime isn’t this absurd anymore?! It’s so great! Needless to say, I watched it immediately.
It was good, not “so great!”
More than anything, I liked the heart at the center of all the drama… which conveniently slips in and out of view as the film pushes itself along. Despite the stupidity of the realism present, the at-times skimmy animation, and forced happily-ever-after scenarios, I can feel Kon’s love of filmmaking present here. I like the focus on “trash,” the worth of a life thrown away by society. The parallelisms between characters and their situations, despite their situations being so different, all have a common thread that makes their interactions so heartwarming, their banter so sweet. All anyone really wants is to be loved and accepted, even those who don’t look the part.
I’ll say, too, the animation, while choppy in bits, was wonderfully expressive and humorous. Realistic? Only occasionally. The moodiness of characters, their emotions so present, their outbursts so theatrical; it all makes the film more fun than it really is. Lighthearted takes on serious developments that involve kidnapping and murder, it’s not something that hits the viewer’s head at full strength every chance it gets. At times, it doesn’t even try at all! What’s present is an occasionally moving piece of art that goes for entertainment along with some vague message. Corny messages, but impactful nonetheless. Tokyo Godfathers represents the rare positive execution of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!.
I would wholly recommend this for Christmas. Because it takes place around Christmas? Partly—more because it evokes the spirit of Christmas through supporting and loving everyone, not just those within society that are in plain view. Now, this isn’t a vote of confidence that we should all be helping out any hobo on the street for the sake of it, but it’s nice that anime makes this a focal point to build upon, rather than absolutely nothing; sadly, the norm. Yet, as cold cynicism takes over, don’t expect a masterpiece from this recommendation. Tokyo Godfathers is a feel-good piece that occasionally oversteps its bounds in terms of sappiness. It is also a tremendous triumph of distinctive personality and charm, courtesy of a phenomenal director and writer.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.