2008-02-04 09:27:33 ET|
I'm pretty ambivalent toward anime. I love the Hayao Miyazaki movies, and I spent most of the 90s playing Japanese RPGs, which are anime in spirit. On the other hand, I find a lot of it inaccessible or trite (or both), and the 10-year-old kids who swarm my store looking for Naruto merch bug the hell out of me. Anime flicks need to prove themselves with me.
So here I discuss "Tokyo Godfathers." Years ago a friend gave me a breathless recommendation, adding that she hates anime, but loved this movie. Life, video games, and comic books got in the way, and it's only four years later that I actually sat down and watched it. I'm sorry it took me this long.
"Tokyo Godfathers", apparently an homage/retelling of John Ford's "3 Godfathers", tells the story of three homeless people (an alcoholic, a teenage runaway, and a down-on-his-luck drag queen) who find a baby in a dumpster on Christmas Eve in Tokyo. They set out to reunite said baby with its parents, and encounter even more of the dark side of urban life than they'd already experienced.
The animation in this movie is gorgeous. I know anime is usually known for its production values, but this film is just great to look at. Even at its darkest, it is able to draw some comic relief from subtle facial expressions and minor details. And make no mistake, this movie is dark. Homelessness, drug addiction, violence, suicide, insanity, and Dickensian urban squalor are all on display here. I'm used to seeing Yakuza or eerily stylish street punks in Japanese film, but I've never seen gritty real-life awfulness like this before.
And yet there is a beautiful heart to this story. As a Christian, I could easily draw a message from the characters. An early scene involves a preacher at an outdoor Christmas pageant giving a sermon about how Jesus came to love the unloved and provide a place for those who had none. After this scene, every character is motivated by a need for love. The most horrible acts committed are done out of desperation for love, and every good deed is an act of charity. Yes, I'll admit there were some character interactions that were so touching they had me tearing up.
So "Tokyo Godfathers" gets my highest recommendation, even and especially if you don't like anime. Satoshi Kon is going on my list of favorite directors.