“Being able to speak freely… is the lifeblood of love.”
If I could pick a single quote from Tokyo Godfathers – a 2003 Japanese anime set during the Christmas season – that best sums up its plot and central themes, it would be the one above. It helped to instantly shoot this film up to rank as one of my favourite Christmas movies when I watched it at a screening a few days ago.
One must understand that while this film shares the same heart as many seasonal favourites – displaying love, friendship and family – it is not one that feels it must pander to PC culture in order to portray its message. As a result it’s likely to offend anyone who prefers to spend Christmas pretending the world is lovely and inoffensive, who perhaps is happiest surrounded by people who agree with them and tell them how right they are about everything. One of the main characters is a man who identifies as a woman; who is casually and persistently called ‘faggot’ by a close friend, the second of the three characters around whom this film revolves.
They are homeless, and we’re first introduced to them at a carol service, which they’re attending merely to get the hot food on offer after the sermon. Soon afterwards they encounter an abandoned child, and the plot following on from this involves the three misfits attempting to care for the baby while finding its way home.
Each of the three – Hana, Gin and runaway girl Miyuki – have had family troubles that led to their current predicaments; over the course of the story these are revealed partly via flashbacks, alongside a series of coincidences (yes, merely pleasant coincidences) through which they are eventually offered redemption.
Strewn throughout the narrative is this sense of how important it is to communicate freely with those closest to us; and how feeling unable to do that can lead to an eventual breakdown in the relationship. This includes, of course, being able to speak freely with each other even when the end result is offence. The message resonated with me personally, and one can’t accuse it of lacking the heart I mentioned before; the idea of a strong family unit is absolutely at the centre of this movie, though it is portrayed in an unconventional manner. These three homeless characters, along with the baby they are forced into caring for, are, in their own way, a dysfunctional yet strangely lovable family.
The animation is also beautiful, with a snow-filled environment helping the film fit right in with the Christmas season. I won’t claim this is a movie for everyone – but for those who find themselves growing tired and cynical of the same sentimental, inoffensive films showing during this time of year, you may find it beyond refreshing. Otherwise, it deserves consideration among the absolute best Christmas movies to have been released in recent years.
10 / 10