Tokyo Godfathers is a 2003 Japanese anime comedy/drama film, loosely based on the novel The Three Godfathers by Peter B. Kyne, that was directed by Satoshi Kon and co-written by Kon and Keiko Nobumoto; who's best known as the creator of Wolf's Rain and the head scriptwriter for the classic anime series Cowboy Bebop. Beginning on Christmas Eve, the film follows three homeless people: Gin, an alcoholic father who's become estranged from his family, Hana, a transgender woman who became homeless after losing both her husband and her job and Miyuki, a teenage girl who ran away from home after an altercation with her father. The three have formed a sort of makeshift family and at the start of the film, while searching a trash pile for Christmas gifts for each other, they find an infant girl alive in said trash pile. After some debate, they set out to return her to her mother and, along the way, find a surprise in a cemetery, attend a very unusual wedding, confront a kidnapper, have a close call with an ambulance and end up in an indoor car chase, all before Hana takes part in the obligatory Christmas miracle; it is a Christmas movie after all. Although, I should point out that, despite being an animated, Christmas movie, Tokyo Godfathers isn't exactly family-friendly. The dialogue contains some homophobic slurs, there's some partial nudity, in the form of breastfeeding scenes, and one very violent scene in which Gin is attacked. However, the film contains its share of lighter spots as well. There's plenty of cuteness thanks to the infant girl, who Hana names Kiyoko, a lot of very funny scenes, some really touching family moments and, of course, a happy ending.
Tokyo Godfathers does a remarkable job of striking a balance between completely disparate elements. It's a proper Christmas film that, for the most part, is very comedic, but the story centers on an abandoned infant and it offers a fairly realistic and gritty look at both the homeless trio who find Kiyoko and the circumstances under which she was abandoned. The film also doesn't pull any punches when it shows how Gin, Hana and Miyuki ended up on the streets or when Gin is beaten nearly to death by a group of adolescent thugs or when it shows what happens when Kiyoko is returned to the woman who abandoned her even when it describes the events that led up to her being abandoned, but it still finds a way to lighten these moments or, at least, the moments immediately following them. Tokyo Godfathers is also remarkable in that its protagonists are people who are typically marginalized, both in fiction and in reality and, while all three of them are very likable, the film doesn't take the easy way out and portray them as innocent victims of circumstance. Their individual backstories make it very clear that they are all ultimately responsible for their situations, but it still offers hope that they will each have their own happy ending. Of course, the most notable of the film's protagonists is Hana. I don't know of another film that makes a homeless, transgender woman one of its protagonists, let alone its driving force and ultimately its heroine and I strongly suspect that there isn't one. Tokyo Godfathers is funny, fast-paced, very moving and, unlike most other Christmas films, quite unpredictable. I fell in love with the film the first time I saw it a few years ago and I've watched it every Christmas Eve since then. I really can't recommend it highly enough for this holiday season and every one after. I'll be taking the next two weeks off, but I'll be back on January 10th 2017 with more recommendations. Happy Holidays.
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