Review: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

tokyo godfathers

Just what every baby needs, a wacky adventure through the streets of Tokyo!

Screenplay By: Satoshi Kon & Keiko Nobumoto
Directed By: Shôgo Furuya & Satoshi Kon

Repetition can kill the best of movies, and it can really damage a film that doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Luckily Tokyo Godfathers can boast some beautiful animation and some inspiring direction from Satoshi Kon. Outside of those two elements the film has nothing more than continuous repetition to offer. It was so hard for me to maintain a keen interest level with Tokyo Godfathers because the story kept offering me the same ideas again and again. I loved the fluid animation and perked up whenever Kon-san tried a directorial flourish. But the story, man, the story in Tokyo Godfathers is paper thin and could not hold up the film.

My opening paragraph is plenty harsh, but truth be told the more I think about Tokyo Godfathers the more I was pleased with what the film had to offer. The repetition did hurt the film, but the overall story was charming and innocent in and interesting way. Again, the problem with the narrative in Tokyo Godfathers is that it boils down every moment to- Gin, Miyuki, and Hana fight about something, they make up, they make a mistake, they fight some more, they decide yet again that they really need one another. Rather, rinse, and repeat, repeat, repeat those words and you have the entirety of Tokyo Godfathers’ narrative. It’s sad that the repetition bothered me so much because the base narrative has the elements to lead to a much better, and more interesting, film.

The animation in Tokyo Godfathers was superb, and if the film is going to hang its hat on any part of its production it should be the animation. I’ve always been impressed by Kon-san’s films in terms of their animation, and Tokyo Godfathers is no different. The animation in Tokyo Godfathers is fluid and well constructed. It relays the stories of its characters and manages at the same time to be energetic and pleasing to the eye. When coupled with the directorial choices of Kon-san you have all the reasons why Tokyo Godfathers is a pleasant film to watch. Kon-san doesn’t go crazy with his directorial choices in Tokyo Godfathers, but he makes sure that the film is uniquely his own. When Gin describes an important plot point through pantomime it’s obvious through the framing that you’re watching a Satoshi Kon film.

I was hoping for more out of Tokyo Godfathers, and that’s why I was so down on the film in the opening paragraphs of this review. Tokyo Godfathers isn’t a terrible film, it’s not a middling film, but it is a disappointing film. The anime fan in me loved the animation, and as an admirer of Kon-san’s work I found tidbits within the film to enjoy. Still, I would have liked to enjoy Tokyo Godfathers more than I actually did. Tokyo Godfathers is a pleasant film, but it is darn repetitious and not in the top tier of Kon-san’s filmography. But, I still enjoyed myself overall, so I guess more than anything Tokyo Godfathers is a mixed bag of a film.




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