Directed by Satoshi Kon
The Christmas Story
As the film begins, a Christmas Eve church service/dinner is being held for a group of homeless in Tokyo. Among them are alcoholic Gin, drag queen Hana, and teenage girl Miyuki. The three find an abandoned baby girl in the trash. Naming her Kiyoko, the three set out on a journey to find her mother. Along the way, the group will separate and come together again as they resolve and quit and resolve again to find the mother. Yakuza, hitmen, and ruthless young men are among the dangerous characters they encounter, as each of three experience miracles of their own as they seek to reunite mother and child.
I’ve seen little of Satoshi Kon’s work, having been turned off long ago by Perfect Blue, which fell into the “appreciated but not liked” category for me. Ironically, the master director’s death impressed a sort of urgency upon me to watch his films. I started with this one, which surprised me not so much in its technical merit (which is considerable), but in how it stirred my heart.
The film is gritty and sometimes vulgar, which is why it’s ironic that it captures the “spirit of Christmas” more than practically any other Christmas anime film or episode I’ve seen, and as much or more than a generic Hallmark special (yes, Christmas Shoes, I’m thinking of you!). The main characters seek (unknowingly) redemption and forgiveness on Christmas, a holiday marking the birth of a Savior that would offer these gifts; they are caring for a baby they name Kiyoko (pure child) on Christmas Eve; and there’s even a sermon that begins the movie. And as for “miracles” (or coincidences), the ones in this film would feel a bit ridiculous anywhere else, but the setup, style, and themes in this movie allow them to fit right into place.
Christmas Spirit Score
If This Episode Was a Christmas Song, It Would Be…
“We Three Kings” – The three kings come bearing a gift greater than gold, frankincense, or myrrh – that of a child. Little do the wise men know that the gift they hold is a gift to them – the way in which they’ll find forgiveness and love.
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
When it gets below freezing, that’s a good time as any to stay inside and enjoy domestic bliss.
On the seventh day of Christmas, anime gave to me… three homeless heroes,
a widow knitting scarves
Rin’s charming grins,
Naru looking pretty,
knitting for a crush,
a Paper Sisters birthday,
and friends for a former emperor.