Stumbling on this one in my search, I decided to check it out so that maybe I could take a peak at what a Japanese anime film's take on a Christmas story might be like. After last year's Ghibli marathon, I've gained a bit of an interest in the culture's way of expressing themselves through film. What's so interesting to me, however, is that even for a Christmas film, this is a culture that is not afraid to get dark.
'Tokyo Godfathers' takes place around the Christmas - New Year holiday, and the season is used as much more of a backdrop than anything. I wouldn't fully consider this a "Christmas movie" in the traditional sense, so much as a story about homelessness and abandonment. That's not to say it's bad, it's actually a great story, But so help me, I just don't get "Christmas" from this one, despite covering themes about acts of kindness, humanity, and valuable lessons learned along the way.
We meet three very different homeless people, who have made themselves a sort of family. Gin (Tôru Emori) is your average, middle-aged homeless man with a bit of a drinking/anger problem; Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) is a former drag queen who dreams of one day being a mother; and Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) is a young runaway girl, having no place to turn to after wounding her father. We pretty much immediately click with this group, Gin being the glass half empty, Hana being the glass half full, and Miyuki is caught in the middle.
One day, while rummaging through some trash, they find an abandoned baby. Hana, with her motherly desires, wants to try to take care of the baby and have her dreams come true. But being the realist, Gin insists that they just drop it off at the police station and let them take care of the situation. They sleep on it, and then decide the thing to do is to find this child's real parents, and set out to do just that.
Along the way, they each end up revealing a lot about their pasts and how they became homeless, each of them a pretty sad story. That's more or less where the movie gets dark in its atmosphere (I mean, other than finding a baby among a heap of garbage), with this trio wanting whats best for this baby, and not to be in the same situation as them. And speaking of dark, it gets even darker when it gets to the climax, and you really end up feeling the utmost empathy for this poor baby through the whole movie. You want nothing more than for this kid to be safe.
So as far as recommending it, it's a tough one. As far as it falling into my traditional Christmas movie list, it really doesn't stand a chance. However, as a dark anime about tough but important themes that carries a mild sense of humor with it, it's actually great. Somehow this movie balances the dark and cold of the winter with a bunch heartwarming moments. Atmospherically, I'd almost compare it to 'A Christmas Carol', but certainly not by theme. If you're an anime fan who likes a good story, if you can find it, check it out. Just be forewarned, an English dub of the film is damn near impossible to find.
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