Tokyo Godfathers (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 03, 2005
Release Date: Monday, September 13, 2004
What They Say
Meet the ultimate dysfunctional family!
From acclaimed director Satoshi Kon and Japan's leading animation studio Mad House comes this visually and emotionally stunning tale of adventure, love and redemption. In Tokyo, three homeless people's lives are changed forever when they discover a baby girl in a garbage dump on Christmas Eve. As the New Year fast approaches, these three forgotten members of society band together to solve the mystery of the abandoned child and the fate of her parents. Along the way, encounters with seemingly unrelated events and people force them to confront their own haunted pasts, as they learn to face the future together.
It's three for three as acclaimed director Satoshi Kon serves up another sublime anime feature.
I listened to the Japanese 5.1 track for my main review. It's a very good track and the sound effects and music come across very well, producing some great directionality. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback, and was fully immersed throughout the film, which is great as it has an excellent score. My biggest gripe is the lack of an English dub, but that is rapidly becoming a trend with CTHE releases (and big film distributors generally tend to not do dubs for foreign films). We do also get a Japanese DTS track, but as I'm not fully DTS enabled I will have to refrain from thoughts on that.
CTHE provide yet another gorgeous transfer in anamorphic widescreen. The film quality comes across really well, as there's a natural grainy feel in places, just as you'd expect. There are occasional nicks and scratches present from the source, but other than that it's excellent. I noticed no artifacting whatsoever during regular playback, and once again I felt like I was in the cinema watching the film as this DVD was playing. The subtitles are in a white font with a black border, but are quite large and easy to read.
The front cover is a nice looking piece of artwork with baby Kiyoko on a chair surrounded by toys and garbage. It looks quite striking but really portrays the family theme itself. The film's logo is shown at the top of the cover. The back cover contains a brief summary of the film over a bit of artwork featuring Miyuki. There're four screenshots here too. The bottom half of the back cover is taken up by the movie's credits and the technical specs of the disc.
The main menu is completely static, with an image of Hana, Gin and Miyuki looking towards the camera in shock after finding the baby. The menu selections appear at the bottom of the screen, but no music plays over the menus at all. Each of the sub-menus also contain a shot from the movie, and all are static and silent. The images fit, but in general the menus are nothing to get excited about.
Despite press releases, store listings, website listings and BBFC ratings to suggest the contrary, the only extras present are trailers for the other CTHE anime properties, including Tokyo Godfathers itself. It's very disappointing, as we don't even get the Animax making of featurette that is standard on most CTHE movies and the US release of this film.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tokyo Godfathers is perhaps not the sort of film you'd expect from Satoshi Kon. After Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress, two fine anime features, you'd be forgiven for thinking this film is a little straightforward. And more so than his past films, it is. But despite the more straightforward storytelling, with an absolutely superbly written script and sense of style, as well as some fine animation that you'd expect for this sort of film, Tokyo Godfathers is a masterpiece in its own right.
After watching each of Kon's previous anime features, the story and events stayed with me for a while after my first viewing, while I was left to contemplate what had happened, and I think the same will be true of this film. At it's core, Tokyo Godfathers is a hugely uplifting film that goes a considerable way to show that things can turn out right in the end, and that often fate, or divine intervention, will be on your side.
The movie opens with a group of three homeless people finding an abandoned baby. They all have different personalities and quirks, but they're friends by virtue of their situation. With the arrival of the baby, they are split on what exactly to do with it. Hana, the cross-dressing man who desperately wants to be a woman, wants nothing more than to keep the baby and raise her as his own, since he'll never be able to have a baby himself. Gin, the old man who lost his own wife and daughter, is adamant that they should take the child to the police. As for Miyuki, the young girl who left her home, she thinks it should go back but is more willing to follow what is decided.
Hana wants the baby to have one happy memory, as he knows what it's like to feel unloved, and its Christmas Eve. So after holding on to the child for a night, the three set off to find the baby's parents and uncover the mystery of its abandonment. But the journey leads to so much more than just finding the parents, as the events that transpire as they search force each of them to face their pasts and the reasons why they are living how they live, and the events have a profound impact on each of them in their own way.
The fantastic thing about Tokyo Godfathers is that the journey that the three characters go through really changes them and the way they look at their lives. The events are random and there are several coincidences and chance meetings, but each one serves a specific purpose to flesh out the character's past or to show why things are the way they are. The story really builds upon itself bit by bit, as events unfold and it keeps things interesting as we find out the true story behind each of the characters and then get to see how they will probably go forward in the future. It's a story-telling technique that could be very tiresome if overused, but Satoshi Kon manages to pull it off perfectly every time, making it a really gripping tale.
The three characters are really well thought out, too, each being completely different and having a totally different story. Seeing Gin's story as he tells it initially is really quite sad and makes you feel sorry for him, but after following his journey for much of the film that leads up to a chance encounter in the hospital, it makes you think about his actions, and simultaneously managed to make me feel he was totally wrong and yet feel very sorry for what he put himself through. Hana's story is also very sad, and more through the actions of the other characters and his reactions to them, as well as his interactions with baby Kiyoko, we really get to see how he feels and his own tragedy in a way. As for Miyuki, well her reactions to certain events and often her child-like attitude are expected, but her own story holds a bit of tragedy itself, and there's one point when she phoned her father but couldn't speak that really made me feel quite sad, but thankfully things have a way of working out, and that's what this film shows.
Despite the sad histories of the characters, as I mentioned, the story itself is actually very uplifting, as we see the three characters really pull together around the child and work out their own lives, while events that transpire actually lead to some happiness. There are also some interesting religious overtones, as the movie opens on Christmas Eve and ends at New Year, and there are a few little nuggets that refer to the child as a an Angel from God and the like. It's not heavy and doesn't bash you over the head, but there's definitely a bit of a religious theme in there, moreso than you usually see in anime.
Tokyo Godfathers also has a really strong family theme throughout, naturally with the arrival of the baby, but also because of the relationships between the characters. They argue all the time, but there's very much a mother/father/child role with Hana, Gin and Miyuki that is prevalent throughout, as they also band together when needed and work together like a family would. It really helps give the film a nice heart-warming feel.
Tokyo Godfathers is another gem from Satoshi Kon. It's a straightforward story told with coincidences and chance encounters rife throughout, but it works so well in the context of the film and in fleshing out the characters present that it doesn't make any difference to the enjoyment of the movie. It's a heart-warming tale, tragic at times, but at its core it is wholly uplifting and completely fulfilling. Tokyo Godfathers is an anime masterpiece, and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone, as it's difficult to imagine anyone not getting some enjoyment from this film.
Japanese Language (5.1 & DTS),Spanish Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Arabic Subtitles, Croatian Subtitles, Czech, Subtitles, Danish Subtitles, Dutch Subtitles, Finnish Subtitles, Greek Subtitles, Hebrew Subtitles, Hindi Subtitles, Hungarian Subtitles, Icelandic Subtitles, Norwegian Subtitles, Polish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Slovene Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Swedish Subtitles,Turkish Subtitles
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: D
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Running time: 88
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tokyo Godfathers