Tokyo Godfathers is a movie that follows three homeless individuals that find a baby in the trash around Christmas time and try to find the child’s parents. When I first heard the plot if the movie, I wasn’t really excited to watch it, but it’s a lot better than the basic plot sounds. The movie delves into ideas of shame, forgiveness, acceptance and belonging.
One interesting thing about this anime is the way Satoshi Kon used Christian elements. Kon really seemed to have a better understanding than most anime creators about Christianity. Instead of using random crosses as decoration here and there or a vampire fighting priest, he actually uses a sermon to set up the storyline that the characters hear while attending a dinner/sermon for the homeless.
“Jesus was born to offer those alone a place in which to be alive.”
And there were not many more alone in Japan than the three main characters. One is an alcoholic man running from debts, Gin, another is a transsexual, Hana, and the third a teenage runaway, Miyuki. Through the adventure of finding the baby’s parents, whom they name Kiyoko meaning ‘pure child,’ they each are forced to confront the reason they wound up on the streets.
They all have a different reason for leaving home, but the reasons are connected by feelings of shame and hopelessness. Each has done something they are ashamed of and are sure their actions mean they can never be accepted back home. I was particularly moved by the scenes with Miyuki, as she sits sobbing after confessing what she did to her father before running away saying that she can never return because of it and her breakdown after trying to call her parents and not being able to speak. Despite telling Gin and Hana she can return home whenever she feels like it, after her confession she says what she truly believes.
“I can never go back.”
What’s interesting is when each of the characters are lead into situations where they encounter their family, they learn that they were not only forgiven for what they did, but desired back at home. Gin’s daughter tells him that during their encounter.
“I always wanted to see you. When I was little, Mom and I searched for you. We even checked unidentified corpses.”
The story of the prodigal son is retold and retold throughout this movie. The characters return to their home expecting to find judgment and anger and are presently surprised to find forgiveness, desire and genuine concern much like the prodigal son.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Luke 15: 20-24
It’s a great reminder to “come as you are” to Christ in humility and faith and he will always accept you no matter your past. I tend to do the hiding thing after I sin, running away instead of confronting and apologizing and finding it hard to believe I could be accepted after yet another failure. This was a good reminder that not only can I come back, God wants me to come back.