The Seventh Day of Christmas Anime: Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers
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.

Homeless godfathers and modern wisemen

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

4 Santa Kero’s out of 4

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

Tomorrow’s Forecast

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.


11 thoughts on “The Seventh Day of Christmas Anime: Tokyo Godfathers

  1. Tokyo Godfathers is definitely my favorite Christmas anime, as well as one of the overall greatest anime I’ve seen so far. It may be exceptionally well animated, but a lot of the time it isn’t ‘pretty’, constantly reminding you that the three homeless characters (especially the older two) have had hard lives. But despite this, and the character flaws that led them to homelessness in the first place, by the end of the film I’d warmed to them a lot more than I’d usually do for any characters given just 90 minutes of development.

    Fully agree that it captures the Christmas spirit greater than most other films, animated or otherwise. 🙂

    1. It’s certainly the most well-made of all the series and movies I’m mentioned in my series and quite possibly the one that best demonstrates the importance of love and caring on Christmas. And like I mentioned, it’s one of few that directly mentions Jesus’ birth (in the opening sermon scene) and indirectly alludes to it throughout.

      A wonderful, amazing movie – and one I’m sorry to say I only recently watched.

  2. Tokyo Godfathers is an amazing Christmas anime- I’m so thrilled you posted on it! Life isn’t pretty or easy, and to see people who’ve struggled with that dealing with the meaning of Christmas is truly amazing.

    1. Our culture (and the church particularly) talks a lot about consumerism, and it’s true, Christmas has become a commercial holiday first, family second, religious third. But even if we try to focus on not having a consumer mentality (almost impossible), we still end up focusing on self. It’s strange that an anime, then, can help us adjust our views and think about the many people, here and abroad, that struggle with “real” problems. And the hope is that we take those steps and do something about those problems by helping others.

  3. I am a fan of Satoshi Kon and Perfect Blue is what led me to look for more of his work. It is a very heartwarming story and showed that Satoshi Kon could do more than just wild, psychological trips. He dived fully into the human soul and focused on the preciousness of life. I think I’m going to go watch it again just in time for Christmas.

    Christmas has definitely become a commercial holiday which I try not to let bother me. Thankfully, I grew up experiencing Christmas not only as a time for receiving gifts but as a time to enjoy my family, my church family, and spiritual cleansing. So I have really never had the consumer mentality when it comes to Christmas…its not my birthday after all.

    1. It’s definitely a heart-warming film, but in a way that is all Satoshi Kon.

      And that’s great to hear – I know it’s hard for me to focus on the “meaning for the season,” especially as I get older and purchase more and more for kids and family.

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