Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers ★★★★

Christmas Hunt 2019 | Film 9/31 | Task #16:
Watch a Christmas movie that references an aspect of the nativity story.

Minor spoilers.

As with all of Satoshi Kon's movies, intricately woven, beautifully written and utterly mad. The story is laced with classic Kon humour, irony and coincidence. Everything connects, all is related, nothing is by chance. Just as Hana declares Kiyoko's luck, that she's a "gift from God", the truly uncanny happenings suggest the workings and guidance of a higher power (or a damn good writer).

On the surface the animation might not seem like much, but in reality it's fantastic. All of the effort goes into making the characters as expressive as they need to be, which is beyond what you'll find in most anime. Initially Godfathers was intended as a live action film, but the unlikelihood of it snowing for a shoot in Tokyo brought it into the realms of animation. I wonder if that initial intention influenced how some of the scenes were animated, as there is a lot of visual comedy, slapstick etc. which you normally wouldn't expect to work within the confines of anime.

Honestly, Kon just fascinates me. Each of his works are so different, yet very much alike. He's a real master when it comes to storytelling, and he loves weaving in themes of psychology, irony, identity and perception of reality. Godfathers is by far his most down to earth story, and surely his most restrained when considering the sheer madness his other films spiral into, and yet the flavour is still here: the intense chase towards the end of the film, the angel offering a choice of magic or medical attention, Miyuki's surreal and violent flashback - it's all so recognisably him. All of his works are great, but I feel that this one is under-watched and under-appreciated, even amongst his fans. Spectacle is often what attracts people, which is probably why Paprika remains in the spotlight, and yet it doesn't hold a candle to the script for Tokyo Godfathers. It may not be his most thrilling, nor his most eye popping, but it's a damn good contender for his best written. It's a cracking Christmas drama with more heart, depth, layers and narrative intricacy than you're likely to find in a truck load of popular festive flicks.

I can admit it. I'm a fan, I'm drooling. It's hard not to mention each time Kon is brought up that the man was taken from us too soon, that there's never been and never will be another creative like him, that it causes me endless frustration that Dreaming Machine remains unfinished - but I can still recognise the faults here, I'm not blind. If I'm to fault Tokyo Godfathers, it's getting into the nitty picky though. I think the score is good, but I'm not big on some of the MIDI brass sounds. I also can't help but feel that Hirasawa (Paprika, Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent) might have brought a little something extra had he been the composer. Still, it's a good score and it doesn't detract from the film in any way, I just feel it could have been taken up a notch. I'm also not big on the "Weeping Blue Devil" story, though it's perfectly fine. A short little segment that neither takes from nor adds to the quality of the film, in my opinion.

But really, the bottom line? Watch it.

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