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Anime / Tokyo Godfathers

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Tokyo Godfathers is a 2003 Anime movie directed by Satoshi Kon; the film is heavily based on 1913 novel The Three Godfathers, which is about a trio of bandits who discover a foundling. This dramatic comedy is a stark departure from Kon's more mind-bending works, but it still contains his atmospheric touch, keen social commentary, and insight on the human condition.

Three homeless people — Gin (an alcoholic), Hana (a transgender woman) and Miyuki (a teenage runaway) — find an abandoned baby while digging through trash and spend Christmas Eve looking for its missing parents.

Contains a lot of Contrived Coincidences (miracles, really, but always within the realm of possibility), but that's kind of the point. In the meantime, viewers get a glimpse of a side of Tokyo that is rarely seen in anime.


See also 3 Godfathers, with which Tokyo Godfathers shares its source material.

Tokyo Godfathers contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • Miyuki's father doesn't care that she stabbed him in a fit of anger while her mother was praying. He just wants to find her and make sure that she's all right and has been searching for her frantically.
    • Sachiko kidnaps a baby from a maternity ward after losing her own baby, then abandons it while the real parents are frantically looking for their newborn.
  • Answer Cut: When Miyuki and Hana reunite, the former asks where Gin is. Hana says "He could be dead for all I care." Cut to Gin lying in a back alley about to do just that. A minute later Hana asks herself where Gin is and again we cut to Gin in the alley.
  • Arc Number: 1225 (which refers to December 25).
  • Arc Symbol: Angels. Miyuki is first seen in front of a billboard showing a model dressed like an angel, the neon sign in front of the club Hana used to sing at is the Tokyo Tower with angel wings and the lamp on top of the taxi that Hana hijacks to chase after Sachiko is an 'A' with wings. And at one point Hana declares the baby to be a "messenger of God", the traditional function of angels in the Bible, and in a dream Miyuki imagines that the baby has wings on her back. Also, Miyuki's cat is named "Angel".
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  • Baby Be Mine: Sachiko isn't the real mother; she had a miscarriage and kidnapped "Kiyoko" from the hospital.
  • Barefoot Suicide: Never ones to be impolite, Japanese women take off their shoes before they plunge to their deaths.
  • Beneath Notice: The assassin infiltrates the wedding party disguised as a maid.
  • Berserk Button:
    • You can call Hana "Shitty", but never call her an "old man".
    • Don't harm a cat in front of Miyuki.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Miyuki and the South American man from the wedding, and again when he takes her to his home and leaves her with his wife. The man speaks only Spanish to Miyuki, but she doesn't understand him. Later, when she is in the room with the wife, she attempts to speak Spanish with Miyuki, but switches over to English briefly, which Miyuki does understand. She is very supportive, even if it seems she doesn’t understand what a big mess Miyuki got herself into.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In the first scene, Gin and Hana are in a soup line and Hana asks for double portions because she's "eating for two," complete with her patting her stomach. The audience soon learns that the second helping was for Miyuki. 20 minutes later, however, the protagonists find baby Kiyoko and are boarding a train to take her home, only for the charity worker to pass by on an escalator. He is understandably surprised to see the clearly transgender Hana holding an infant, and the camera pans to him mentally exclaiming "He was eating for two" in a hilarious gag.
    • While he tells Miyuki and Hana how he became homeless, he mentions he was a professional bike racer. While it turned out Gin was actually the owner of a bike shop that has since gone out of business, he ends up using a bicycle for real in the climatic chase.
  • Bringing Running Shoes to a Car Chase: A variant. Gin on his bicycle is able to overtake Sachiko in her truck.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: The leader of the teen delinquents thinks he's one.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In Miyuki's flashback. It did not end well.
  • Car Chase: During the climax when Sachiko tries to escape with a truck.
  • Car Fu: During the Car Chase, Sachiko uses her truck to crush Gin on his bicycle against a wall.
  • Car Meets House: Sachiko driving her truck into a building.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: It's never stated what denomination the church is, but having a Midnight Mass almost definitely makes it Catholic.
  • Christmas Miracle
  • Climbing Climax: The climax has Sachiko fleeing onto a rooftop leading to a Rooftop Confrontation with Miyuki.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Far too many to list here without spoiling the whole movie. It never feels cheap, though; it happens so often — and often in such hilarious and unexpected ways — that by the time it gets to the truly absurd stuff, the viewer is liable to just roll with it.
    • Also somewhat justified; the characters speculate that the baby they are helping is under the protection of God — and if that actually is the case, then it would make sense that miraculous things would happen to assist them.
  • Coughing Up Blood: Hana throughout the movie. We never find out exactly what she has but as the doctor only informs us that being homeless and running mad all over town is not helping the condition, we can infer that it wouldn't be anything serious if she weren't.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: The trio meets one at the ruins of Sachiko's home.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The opening credits are worked into advertisement banners in the streets of Tokyo.
  • Cue the Falling Object: After Gin walks through the still standing door of Sachiko's destroyed house, the door topples after a few seconds.
  • Cue the Sun: At the end, Hana catches a glimpse of the sunrise in the climax as she descends with the baby, holding onto a banner that a gust of wind leaves them gently floating down to the ground
  • Despair Event Horizon: Crossing it is what sent each of the protagonists (sans the baby) to the streets. Part of the angst they possess is the knowledge that they could have coped with their respective tragedies and failures better with the film giving them chances to move on.
  • Deus ex Machina: The driving force of the movie, and proof that Tropes Are Not Bad.
    • In keeping with the theme of Christmas Miracle, a sudden gust keeps Hana and the baby from falling to their death at the end.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Averted when Hana is telling her foster mother how she lost her boyfriend, her foster mother asks under her breath if it was AIDS, but Hana says he slipped on the soap.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Miyuki stabs her father over her lost cat (which she assumes he either threw away or killed), but it’s pretty clear that was just the final straw and that there are plenty of other underlying issues there.
  • The Door Slams You: In pursue of Sachiko and the baby, Hana and Miyuki run into a door opened by an unwitting resident.
  • Doorstop Baby: There's no real doorstop with homeless people, but yeah, that's about it.
  • Do They Know It's Christmas Time?: The film opens with two of the main characters attending Mass and watching a Nativity scene, and there is a surprising number of allegories to the birth of Christ in itself — the most obvious being the Three Magi.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Averted; when a group of gossiping women is discussing the couple the main trio are searching for, it is brought up that "sometimes you'd see bruises". One of the women initially takes pity on the wife until it's brought up that the husband was the victim, at which she's even more horrified and surprised.
  • Due to the Dead: Gin closes the eyes of an even older homeless man who he had been comforting in his last moments. Only to freak out when it turned out the other man had just stopped talking for a few seconds.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Though the journey is fraught with hardship and brushes with death, ultimately everything turns out well for everyone. The baby is reunited with her parents, the main trio have all reunited and reconciled with their families and are named the baby's godparents, Sachiko has seen the error of her ways and regained the will to live, her husband has resolved to become a better man, a news broadcast in the background reveals that the violent hoodlums have been arrested, the loan shark who got shot is in stable condition at the hospital, and though they don't realize it, the audience sees that the gift Gin received from the dying bum was a winning jackpot lottery ticket.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: Hispanic in Japan.
  • Everybody Lives: Despite a number of close calls for a number of characters, the only character in the film who actually dies is the old bum, who passes peacefully from old age. Everyone else gets away unharmed: Gin survives a horrific beating from some hoodlums and injuries from a car chase, Hana survives her unspecified illness and - miraculously - falling off of a tall building, and Sachiko survives her multiple suicide attempts and regains the will to live. Even the loan shark who got shot in the chest three times is mentioned to have survived his injuries in a news broadcast.
  • Facial Markings: It's no coincidence that Kiyoko the baby has a mole on her forehead just like the Buddha.
  • Flat "What": Miyuki and Hana have this reaction when Gin tells them that Sachiko is not Kiyoko's real mother.
  • Follow That Car: Hana has the taxi driver follow Sachiko in her truck.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Hana brings up the possibility of adopting the baby herself, saying that maybe adopted parents can be just as good as birth parents. This winds up coming back into play much later when it turns out Sachiko ISN'T the mother of the baby.
    • Gin glumly justifies Hana's naming of the baby Kiyoko, saying it's a nice name. Miyuki asks if that was the name of his last girlfriend, but he never responds. It's because he named his daughter Kiyoko.
    • Not long after he tells Hana and Miyuki his story about how he became a bum, Gin unconsciously contradicts one part of his story when he sees the groom. This is only the first clue that Gin was just telling a tall tale.
  • Forgiveness: Miyuki's father has forgiven her for stabbing him so many months ago. He's frantically searching for her so that they can reconcile and so that she will be safe.
  • The Glomp: Hana's mother does this to her when they reunite.
  • Go into the Light: Parodied when Gin is collapsed in an alley and meets a drag queen dressed as an angel.
  • Good vs. Good: There is no true asshole in the film. Characters who seem like mean-spirited are either caring for someone special or are at their very worst a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
  • Gossipy Hens: A group of middle-aged women whom the three leads meet fit this trope; their gossip helps point our heroes toward the mother of the abandoned baby they'd found.
  • Happily Ever After: By the end of the movie, the baby is returned to her real parents, all three homeless characters have been reunited with their families, Sachiko and her husband have started over, and it turns out the trio have been carrying around a winning lottery ticket the whole time.
  • Heel Realization:
    • Sachiko's husband after Gin gives him "The Reason You Suck" Speech and he sees what has become of his wife thanks partially to him.
    • Sachiko herself also has one after a lot of effort from Miyuki.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Sachiko steals a truck and Gin goes into pursue with a stolen bicycle.
  • Hitman with a Heart: The Hispanic assassin set out to kill the Yakuza boss at the wedding takes Miyuki hostage, but then brings her to a kind Hispanic mother who breastfeeds Kiyoko and provides some comfort for Miyuki, and even when he's holding her hostage, he's clearly trying to be nice and reassuring toward her.
  • Hollywood Driving: The Yakuza boss who is driving the heroes to Kinshicho turns around in his car and talks to his passengers in the backseat while his car is getting dangerously close to a bus.
  • Ill Girl: Gin's biological daughter, who passed away after he failed to raise enough money to pay her medical bills. This is later revealed to be a big fat lie - not only is his daughter alive and kicking, but she works as a nurse.
  • I'll Kill You!: Gin angrily proclaims that he will kill the groom right before the hitman foils his plan.
  • In Mysterious Ways: The story takes a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane approach, with numerous "coincidences" that can be interpreted as divine guidance.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Pretty much Hana's default method of crying, especially when she is reunited with her foster mother. Also Miyuki and Sachiko. Seriously, nobody cries pretty in this movie.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Sachiko is stopped from committing suicide twice.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: When Miyuki calls Hana a "shitty old man", Hana says, "'Shitty' I can take, but 'old man' I won't!" and nearly assaults her. After Gin breaks them up, Miyuki corrects herself and calls her a ‘shitty... uh... hag.’ A flashback reveals that Hana once lashed out at a visitor at the bar she worked at who made the same mistake.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Three homeless folks find an abandoned baby and do all they can to care for the newborn Kiyoko, while finding her actual parents. By the end of the film they're made her honorary godparents, reunited with their families who forgive them, and have a winning lottery ticket.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Miyuki. She has a cat named Angel back at home and gets very angry when Gin suggests they eat some cats.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the end, the gang of teenagers that beat up Gin and the dead homeless man? A news report in the ending scene say they were arrested for the murder of the homeless man. Because he had just died when they beat his corpse so it looked like they beat him to death.
  • Living MacGuffin: The baby.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Hana and her "mother" (mentor), Gin and his daughter, and Miyuki and her father.
  • Magic Realism: The plot is driven by a series of incredibly fortunate coincidences, giving it a very "Christmas magic" vibe.
  • Masculine, Feminine, Androgyne Trio: Gin is a gruff, hairy, alcoholic man, Miyuki is a teenage girl, and Hana is a transgender woman with very feminine mannerism but masculine physique.
  • Match Cut: At the end, a shot from the baby in Hana's arms dissolved in a shot of the baby in the arms of its real mother.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Are the three being guided by some divine intervention? Are they just really lucky with all the Contrived Coincidences guiding the story? When the deranged woman sees the baby talk to her is it genuine, or just a hallucination on her end? It's all left a deal ambiguous and up for the viewer to decide.
  • Mission from God: Not exactly said, but with the underlying themes of Christianity, Hana's statements, and the Deus ex Machina that seems to be everywhere, God might have had something to do with it.
  • My Card: The Yakuza boss hands over his card to the heroes after they saved his life. They notice he is from Kinshicho and on the journey goes.
  • My Greatest Failure: For Gin, it's getting banned from bike racing due to cheating and thus not being able to pay his daughter's medical bills. Or so he says. In actual fact, it's running up a massive amount of gambling debt and getting loan sharks on his family's tail.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Despite being plastered and his antagonists being armed with crowbars, Gin manages in an off-screen moment to get back the photo they took.
  • Oh, Crap!: Miyuki has a huge one when she realizes that the man on the bullet train across from the one she's on is her father. She panics and crawls out the window to run away.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. The trio meets (or already know) multiple Kiyokos by the end of the movie.
  • Only One Name: The hobos, being ostracized by society, don't have much need for surnames. Only Miyuki's last name, Ishida, is revealed during her attempt at phoning her father.
  • Parental Abandonment: Not just the baby that they find, but Gin's abandonment of his own family.
  • Queer People Are Funny: "I am a mistake made by God!" Ultimately subverted, though, as although Hana is the subject of a lot of jokes, she's also treated as a character as complex and meaningful as the others.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The Hispanic characters speak in very real Spanish, but since Miyuki can't understand what they say, there are no subtitles.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Consequently, Hana delivers this message to Gin at the scene where he just found his nurse daughter.
    Hana: That's who your father is! He's a gambler that couldn't deal a deck of cards, an ugly drunk, and his feet stink! He killed off his wife and daughter in a fake sob story just to buy sympathy. [...] You have no right to tell me about debt. On the other hand, you are an authority on digging through garbage. You wrote the book on getting into debt, but you did make a baby, though raising them isn't exactly your forte. Ha! The instant things got hard you dumped your debts and daughter onto your wife and ran away because you know you can't do anything right! That's the closest thing to racing you've ever done!
    • Gin later gives one to Sachiko's husband, which doubles as one to himself due to the similarities between the characters.
  • Recycled In SPACE: Most likely not intentional, but the movie can feel a lot like The Blues Brothers IN TOKYO.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Discussed and Invoked. Hana compares the relationship between her and Gin to a story about them. The reason it's discussed is that Hana is explaining to Miyuki why she yelled at Gin in front of his daughter.
  • Robbing the Dead: The trio regularly raid food offerings left by graves to keep themselves fed. After they take in Kiyoko they also find a formula for her this way.
  • Running Gag: Hana's tendency to create haiku poems on the spot at key points of the story.
    • Miyuki finding underwear whenever the gang have to go through somebody's belongings
  • Saved by the Platform Below: When it looks like Hana and the baby are falling to their death, the next scene reveals that Hana managed to hold on to a banner. Not for long though.
  • Shout-Out: Akio Ohtsuka gets a brief cameo as a doctor.
    • Much of the plot is taken straight from the John Wayne classic 3 Godfathers.
    • You can see posters of Satoshi Kon's previous works on the window of the convenience store.
    • When Gin hits Miyuki over the head she says "Not even my own father hit me!"
    • Hana's costume in her flashback at the club appears to be based on Lee Pace's protrayal of real-life transgender woman Calpernia Addams in the film Soldier's Girl.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very idealistic and uplifting without going corny at any point in the film.
  • Spit Take: Gin does one when seeing the groom at the wedding who is no other than the man he owed a large sum of money to.
  • Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: The entirety of the Hispanic characters' dialogue is delivered in Surprisingly Good Spanish. The boy's lines might sound a bit like translated Japanese at times, but in all it's far better Spanish than it has any reason to be.
    • It helps that the actors are, most likely, naturally born Spanish speakers, of course.
  • Thanks for the Mammary: Early in the movie, Gin and Miyuki are arguing and wrestling with each other, and at one point, Gin grabs Miyuki's breast. Unsurprisingly, she slugs him for it.
  • Time Passes Montage: The montage of the trio spending hours at a diner while the world around them moves in fast motion.
  • Tokyo Tower: Seen dancing, along with other Tokyo buildings, at the start of the closing credits.
  • The Tramp: All of them.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: An early scene shows the homeless of Tokyo gathering around some of these.
  • Trauma Swing: The trio finds Sachiko with the baby in a park sitting on a seesaw.
  • Truth in Television: Some of the events in the movie were based on real-life incidents that occurred in Japan around the time the film was made. The scene in which Gin is beaten up by a group of teenagers was based on a similar incident involving a hobo being beaten up by teenagers. Miyuki's troubled backstory was based on an incident in which a teenage girl stabbed her father after getting into an argument with him about which TV channel they wanted to watch.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A background event, nobody seemed to have reacted over the couple getting hit by that car.
    • At first Hana and Miyuki seem to blithely pass by Sachiko, who's about to throw herself off a bridge, only for them to visibly double take and rush to try and stop her.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: The main protagonists are a trio of homeless people, and despite the negative stereotype associated with homelessness, they come off as relatively decent people with sympathetic reasons for their homelessness, and one of them is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. The closest thing the film has to an antagonist is a grieving, suicidal woman who kidnapped a baby out of hysteria after learning she had miscarried, and even she comes around to see the error of her ways.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Inverted, as Hana deliberately plays the villain to draw two characters together.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Hana and Miyuki are homeless due to believing this. When she lost her lover, Hana was still too ashamed to face her foster parent for attacking a heckler at her drag bar. Miyuki left believing her father would arrest her for stabbing him.


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