Tokyo Godfathers

An abandoned infant profoundly changes the lives of three Tokyo street people, who've formed a makeshift family to combat their loneliness. Alcoholic, middle-aged Gin (voice of Toru Emuri) tells the others that the deaths of his wife and child drove him to drink, though the truth is somewhat less dramatic. Big-hearted Miss Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki), a one-time...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

An abandoned infant profoundly changes the lives of three Tokyo street people, who've formed a makeshift family to combat their loneliness. Alcoholic, middle-aged Gin (voice of Toru Emuri) tells the others that the deaths of his wife and child drove him to drink, though the truth is somewhat less dramatic. Big-hearted Miss Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki), a one-time professional drag performer of indeterminate age, lost the will to live after her boyfriend died in a freak accident. And sullen teenager Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) ran away from home six months earlier after a violent argument with her father. A small miracle brightens their lonely Christmas: While rummaging through some trash, they find an adorable baby girl wrapped in a blanket. Gin and Miyuki want to take the foundling to the nearest police station, but Hana begs them to let the infant, whom she dubs "Kiyoko," stay with them, at least overnight. By the next day, she's persuaded them to help her search for the baby's mother. Guided by clues they find in a bus locker whose key was wrapped in Kiyoko's blanket, the "godfathers" crisscross Tokyo's snowy streets and diverse social strata. Alone and together they witness a gangland hit, take refuge with a motherly Latina, spend a night surrounded by feral cats, help a dying homeless man, get beaten up by juvenile gangbangers, are rescued by drag queens and see undeniable signs that Kiyoko is indeed a special child. In Kiyoko's cooing presence, potentially ghastly accidents are averted, shattered relationships mended and restless spirits soothed. Inspired by John Ford's Western fable 3 GODFATHERS (1948), Satoshi Kon's animated feature has just enough astringent touches to keep it from sliding into sloppy sentimentality. Though less seamlessly realized then his previous features, PERFECT BLUE (1997) and MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (2003), it features phenomenally beautiful background animation and complex characterizations, and offers glimpses of a poverty-stricken Tokyo underclass that's rarely featured — let alone portrayed sympathetically — in mainstream Japanese films.

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