Tokyo Godfathers and Satoshi Kon

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations


“A post not on Wednesday or Sunday? Please tell me he’s not getting off schedule again.”

No, no, nothing like that. I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to let you all know that, for the next month or so, depending on how much I post, I’ll be putting some of my columns from my college newspaper on here as a bit of extra content. Normal Wednesday and Sunday posts will still be coming, just with these in addition. For this post, I reviewed my first ever work from Satoshi Kon, “Tokyo Godfathers,” and boy was it an experience. I’m hoping to start “Paranoia Agent” sometime soon, but for now, I hope you’ll enjoy my thoughts.

It feels weird saying that given, well, everything. However, today I am writing because I have a bit of a confession: I have never watched a Satoshi Kon film, until today. Any anime nerds reading this probably immediately threw up in their mouths and called me a fake fan. Those who are new to the world of anime are probably thinking “who’s he?”

Satoshi Kon was a Japanese writer and filmmaker, who directed some extremely influential animated movies and TV series, including “Perfect Blue,” “Paprika,” and “Paranoia Agents.” Sadly, he passed away in 2010 due to his pancreatic cancer becoming terminal within just a few months of being diagnosed. Kon has long since been celebrated as a legendary figure within the anime community.

It honestly makes me feel even worse, knowing I put off his work for so long, but, ironically, this legacy of greatness only made me more scared of approaching his work at all. However, that is no longer the case, as I have finally swallowed my fear and decided to watch his 2003 film “Tokyo Godfathers.” This is my first ever Satoshi Kon experience.

“Tokyo Godfathers” centers around a group of homeless people, a man, a trans woman, and a teenage girl. One day, while the three are walking back to their tent, they discover a baby lying in a pile of garbage. The group ultimately decides, after a lot of arguing, to find the baby’s original parents. However, they soon realize just how difficult the journey is going to be. 

Like, really difficult.

I had always heard people describe Kon’s work as “strange” and “cerebral,” but, honestly, “Tokyo Godfathers” feels pretty tame, at least compared to everything I know about his other works without having seen them. It honestly feels more strange in a sociocultural context than anything else.

I say this for a few reasons. One, more so than a general belief in God, the movie actively invokes the idea of a Christian god in relation to Kyouko, the baby they are trying to get home. This is supported by the fact that Gin and Hana, two of the movie’s main characters, are watching a nativity scene at the beginning, and always reference god in the same way from that point on. 


Two, the film includes a lot of acts that are supposed to be viewed by the audience as miracles. Not getting hit by a bus that crashed into a store they were just in, surviving a fall by hanging on two pieces of clothes and slowly drifting down, finding the baby’s mother as she was about to kill herself. Then, there is the image of the three wise men that Gin, Hana, and Miyuki invoke as well.

This is not to say that invoking Christianity by itself is necessarily weird, only that it strikes me as a particular choice for a director living in a country with a Christian population of only 1.5% as of 2018. Still, I think it works well for the story “Tokyo Godfathers” is trying to tell, one about hardship, perseverance, and the sad realities of day to day life. 

It feels weird to mention this now, but this is also supposed to be a comedy film. One might think that between all of the heavy topics brought up so far that the film was purely a drama or some sort of historical fiction, but no it actually manages to succeed in being quite hilarious in spite of, or maybe even due to, its subject matter.

Hana often does the heavy lifting on this front. Her extremely emotional state of being, combined with a great voice performance from Shakina Nayfack brings a lot of personality and funny moments in scenes that would otherwise feel just hollow and depressing. 

A great example comes from the beginning of the film when Hana tells a servant that, despite being biologically male, she wants to have a baby, and that doing so would be a miracle. The same service worker later sees Hana holding the missing baby, which makes her believe a Christmas miracle really did happen.

If I had to describe “Tokyo Godfathers” and my first experience with Satoshi Kon, it would be…underwhelmed. Granted, this is not because the film was bad, quite the opposite. The film was amazing, no questions asked. However, I think after everything I said in the beginning, I still let the hype get to me a bit. From today forward, I will continue on with this journey of watching Kon’s works, and hopefully, get to enjoy all the “strangeness” that has brought so many others joy.

How do you all feel about Satoshi Kon and “Tokyo Godfathers?” Let me know in the comments.

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10 thoughts on “Tokyo Godfathers and Satoshi Kon”

  1. One other thought. Even though the Christian population is fairly small it has crept into Japanese pop culture in a fairly large way. Since I haven’t seen the film, I can’t really comment on how they use Christianity, but I can say that it’s likely that it’s still fairly surface level and stuff most people could access.

    We likely aren’t going to be talking about Good Acts versus Divine Grace or transubstantiation or consubstantiation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Tokyo Godfathers! It’s hands down my favorite Christmas movie and I watch it every holiday season. But I wouldn’t say that it’s Satoshi Kon’s most normal movie, or rather, I don’t think his movies are that abnormal. Millennium Actress was another great movie from Kon and I would say that it’s comparable in “normalness” to Tokyo Godfathers. Honestly, most of Kon’s movies might seem a little odd when you watch them the first time, but if you re-watch them all the elements come together and they just seem like any interesting movie. The second time around they don’t feel odd at all.

    Liked by 2 people

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