Saturday, March 03, 2007

[DVD] Tokyo Godfathers (2003)


I've never been a really huge fan of Japanese animation, but Satoshi Kon's Paprika, shown here in last year's Animation Nation festival, is a different story, and opened up my eyes altogether. It was richly animated with plenty of striking details, an eclectic soundtrack, and a story which cuts at many levels. It's adult, not filled with cutesy pictures for the sake of luring kids in, but yet filled with a childlike appeal in its entire work. And I've taken the first step into watching more of his works.

Tokyo Godfathers retains much of the very sharp, detailed animation, and certainly some scenes looked photo quality. While Paprika was rooted with more science-fictional elements and dream sequences, Tokyo Godfathers has a relatively more down to earth premise, taking a hard look at the lives of the homeless in shiny Tokyo. Set in the Christmas period, it's full of dark elements in the holiday season, yet filled with plenty of hope and goodwill as we see the characters develop and the plot unfold.

The story centers around three homeless folks - Gin (Toru Emori) the middle aged drunk gambler bum, Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) the transvestite, and Miyuki (Aya Okamoto), the youngest of the lot, a girl who ran away from home. One day during their usual bickering, they discovered an abandoned female infant, whom they named Kiyoko, in a garbage dump. Reluctantly, they endeavoour to track down the infant's parents to return the baby, as well as to give them a stern reprimand for doing their dastardly deed over the season of goodwill. And thus their road trip in and around Tokyo begins.

What holds your attention, is the way our trio encounters mini episodes of adventure in their quest, ranging from meeting up with a real Godfather, to slowly unravelling their back stories, which I find both touching and believable, and more so for an animated picture. The craft in the narrative is superb, which you can enjoy at face value, or if you bother, to dig below the surface and discover such joys in its detailed story. It doesn't have to explain everything, and allows you to draw your own conclusions at certain points.

And I can't stress enough at the attention to details. Be it conversational dialogue, an object, a supporting character, or the backgrounds, you can't imagine at how they all blend together effortlessly to elicit such joy when you realize that you've uncovered something of some significance, or was put there just for laughs. With such care put into the movie, I can't help but to recommend this, and for myself to continue my own quest in tracking down and watching the rest of Satoshi Kon's animated movies.

Code 1 DVD contains minimal extras. There are plenty of preview trailers though, for movies such as Astro Boy, Cowboy Bebop The Movie, Cyborg 009, Memories, Metropolis, Returner, Steamboy, and even one for Tokyo Godfathers itself.

The only other extra is a 22 minute making of featurette, which included shots from its New York premiere, as well as interviews with Satoshi Kon, and the principle cast sharing their experience in lending their voices to an animated movie. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and Portuguese for the movie and the making of featurette, but the French subtitles are available for the movie only.

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