Welcome to the Rotoscopers’ Twelve Days of Christmas! Every day until Christmas Eve, we’ll be taking a look at a holiday-themed piece of animation. Check back each day for a new review!
What happens when an abandoned baby, a teenage runaway, a flamboyant transvestite, and an old, curmudgeonly homeless man meet up? Well, a Christmas miracle of a movie is born, of course!
I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that a vast majority of our readers have not seen Tokyo Godfathers. It’s definitely not a mainstream anime title, it’s probably late director Satoshi Kon’s least known work, and there is no English dub for it. It pains me to say that this movie defines under-appreciation and under seen, especially because this movie so perfectly encapsulates what the Christmas spirit is all about. Yes, you heard me, this is definitely a Christmas movie, but not like one you have ever seen before.
First, a little history to set up the story. For those who don’t know, Christmas is not really a ‘holiday’ in Japan. If December 25th falls on a weekday, the average Japanese person will still have to go to work. In fact, school only lets out on Christmas Eve, with many teachers still having to work the next day! This is mostly because the vast majority of Japanese people are NOT Christians. Rather, the majority of Japanese people practice Buddhist and Shinto beliefs, and the birth of Jesus Christ is most definitely not present in either of those religions. So, in Japan, Christmas as we know it is certainly more of a marketing tool than a religious celebration. That’s why this movie took me by surprise as it continuously hit all the right aspects of what, in my opinion, makes a fantastic Christmas movie.
It’s late on Christmas Eve when our three main characters, Gin, the old homeless man, Hana, the transvestite, and Miyuki, the teenage runaway, find an abandoned baby in the trash. While there is definitely some dispute in the group, they all eventually agree that it is their Christmas mission to find the parents of this baby, dubbed Kiyoko by the group, and ask them why they would abandon their child like they did. So, the group sets out searching all over Tokyo for clues about where Kiyoko came from, but little did they know that they would find out a lot more about themselves than they ever thought possible.
As with most ‘journey’ stories, the actual story is a little incidental. The plot takes the group all over Tokyo and gets them into trouble quite often, but it can feel a little too silly at times, ala many, many anime. The real draw of this movie is the fantastic character development. Not only do you learn why each of the three main characters ended up in the position they are currently in, you also become attached to their plight and their motives.
Each of the characters has their own reason as to why they decide to help out Kiyoko. One of the characters feels like this is the opportunity to make up for the mistakes they made that destroyed their family, while another uses this chance to live out their dream of having a child, as they can never bear one on their own (take a wild guess as to which character this is). Whatever their motivation may have been when their journey started, it definitely changes from selfish to selfless by the end.
This is definitely one of the most different Christmas movies out there. Tokyo Godfathers has nothing to do with Santa, Jesus, presents, miracles, songs, or anything else that usually fills the run times of other, more generic Christmas fare. All Tokyo Godfathers has is its heart and believe me when I say it’s a big one. These characters are homeless and have almost nothing to their name, but they spend a lot of time, energy, and the little money they have to get Kiyoko back to her rightful family. And really, isn’t that what Christmas is truly about? Giving yourself and giving love to another person without expecting anything back. In my opinion, that is the true meaning of Christmas and Tokyo Godfathers portrays that beautifully.
If you turned up your nose when you read that this movie stars a transvestite, then you are right to assume this movie is not for you. Tokyo Godfathers is anything but a typical holiday movie, but that’s what makes it stand out so wonderfully. Yes, it’s weird and it’s quirky, but it has a huge heart and is guaranteed to give you the warm, Christmas fuzzies only the best holiday movies can do.
Because really, this movie isn’t about the homeless. It’s about home, no matter what shape your home may take.
Have you seen Tokyo Godfathers? If not, do you want to see it? Tell us your opinions on the movie in the comments below!
Edited by: Kelly Conley