Tokyo Godfathers

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Tokyo Godfathers
Tokyo Godfathers (Movie Poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySatoshi Kon
Screenplay by
Story bySatoshi Kon
Produced by
CinematographyKatsutoshi Sugai
Edited by
Music by
Distributed bySony Pictures Entertainment Japan
Release dates
Running time
92 minutes
Budget$2.4 million[1]
Box office$847,106[2]

Tokyo Godfathers (東京ゴッドファーザーズ, Tōkyō Goddofāzāzu) is a 2003 Japanese animated tragicomedy adventure film written and directed by Satoshi Kon. The film is the third film that Kon directed, and the second film that he both wrote and directed. Unlike the previous two, Tokyo Godfathers stars live-action actors such as Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, and Aya Okamoto as the lead voice actors.

Kon was inspired by the 1948 American film 3 Godfathers to make the film.[3] Unusually for a Satoshi Kon film, Tokyo Godfathers contains no fantasy elements nor does it explore themes of the lines between fiction and reality, instead being grounded more in realism.[4][5] However, as is typical of Kon's work, the film includes devices that are not straightforward, and Kon himself called it a twisted sentimental story.[6]

Tokyo Godfathers was released in Japan on November 8, 2003, and in North America on January 16, 2004.[7][8] It won the Excellence Award at the 2003 Japan Media Arts Festival[9] and Best Animation Film at the 58th Mainichi Film Awards.[10][11]


One Christmas Eve after watching a children's performance of the nativity scene, three homeless people – a middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, a transgender woman named Hana, and a dependent teenage runaway girl named Miyuki – discover an abandoned newborn while searching through the garbage for presents. Deposited with the unnamed baby is a note asking the unknown finder to take good care of her and a key, leading to a bag containing clues to the parents' identity. The trio sets out to find the baby's parents. The baby is named Kiyoko (清子) by Hana, based on the Japanese translation of "Silent Night" literally meaning "pure child", as she is found on Christmas Eve. Outside a cemetery, the group encounters a high-ranking yakuza boss trapped under his car. The man happens to know the owner of the club where Kiyoko's mother used to work; his daughter is going to be marrying the club's owner that day. At the wedding reception, the groom tells them that the baby's mother is a former bar girl named Sachiko. He gives them Sachiko's address, but the party is interrupted when a maid, revealed to be a Latino hitman in disguise, attempts to shoot the bride's father. The hitman kidnaps Miyuki and baby Kiyoko while holding them hostage at gunpoint and takes them back to his home. There, Miyuki befriends the hitman's wife who happens to have a child of her own and they begin bonding (despite their language barrier). While looking through old photo albums, Miyuki tearfully confesses to fleeing her home after stabbing her over-controlling father Ishida when her beloved cat Angel went missing (believing that he had gotten rid of it).

Hana searches for Miyuki and Kiyoko while Gin takes care of an elderly homeless man who is dying in the street. After giving Gin a little red bag, the old man peacefully passes away. Some teenagers show up and beat up Gin and the dead old man's corpse. Meanwhile, Hana finds the girls and they go off to find a place to stay. They go to Angel Tower, a club where Hana had worked at before quitting her job for assaulting a rude and intoxicated customer years ago. Gin, who was rescued by another member of the club, is also there. While there, it's learned that Hana had become homeless when her lover Ken had died from injuring himself after slipping on a bar of soap in the bathroom. The trio set out to find Sachiko's house, but they discover that it has been torn down. They are informed of the unhappy relationship between Sachiko and her husband, who is a gambling alcoholic. The group rests at a store until they are told to leave by the clerk. Hana collapses, and is taken by Gin and Miyuki to the hospital. Once at the hospital, Gin finds his estranged daughter, who is also named Kiyoko, working as a nurse. Hana berates Gin in front of his daughter and storms out of the hospital, with Miyuki following behind with baby Kiyoko in hand. Hana and Miyuki find Sachiko about to jump off a bridge. Sachiko insists that her husband got rid of the baby without her knowledge, and that they return the baby to her.

Gin finds Sachiko's husband, who confirms a TV report Gin saw earlier that Kiyoko was actually stolen by Sachiko from the hospital. They chase after Sachiko and Kiyoko. After an intense car chase, Miyuki chases Sachiko to the top of a building. Sachiko reveals she became pregnant in hopes it would bring her closer to her husband. When her baby was stillborn, she decided to kidnap Kiyoko from the hospital's nursery, thinking, in her grief, the baby was hers. As Sachiko is about to jump off the building intending to commit suicide with Kiyoko in her hands, her husband comes out of his apartment, located just across the street, and begs her to start over with him. Sachiko jumps off nevertheless, but Miyuki manages to catch her before she falls, but then Sachiko accidentally drops Kiyoko. Hana jumps off the building after Kiyoko, catches the baby, and lands safely due to a miraculous gust of wind. Hana, Miyuki, and Gin are taken to the hospital. Miyuki hands Gin his cigarettes and drops the old man's small red bag on the floor, revealing a winning lottery ticket. Kiyoko's real parents want to ask the trio to become her godparents. When a police inspector introduces them to the trio, the inspector is revealed to be Miyuki's father.


Tokyo Godfathers cast
Character Japanese English
Animax/ Red Angel Media[12] GKIDS/ NYAV Post (2019)[13][14]
Gin Tooru Emori Darren Pleavin Jon Avner
Hana Yoshiaki Umegaki Russel Wait Shakina Nayfack
Miyuki Aya Okamoto Candice Moore Victoria Grace
Kiyoko Satomi Koorogi Kari Wahlgren
Oota Shouzou Iizuka Jamieson Price
Mother Seizou Katou Kate Bornstein
Yasuo Hiroya Ishimaru Kirk Thornton
Homeless Man Ryuuji Saikachi David Manis
Ishida Yuusaku Yara Crispin Freeman
Sachiko Kyouko Terase Larissa Gallagher
Gin's daughter Kiyoko Mamiko Noto Erica Schroeder
Oota's daughter Kiyoko Satomi Kourogi
Doctor Akio Ootsuka Jamieson Price
Arao Rikiya Koyama Michael Sinterniklaas
Kurumizawa Inuko Inuyama Philece Sampler
Yamanouchi Kanako Yahara Philece Sampler
Cat Lady Rie Shibata Erica Schroeder
Taxi Driver Kouichi Yamadera Marc Thompson

Additional voices[edit]

Japanese: Akiko Kawase, Akiko Takeguchi, Atsuko Yuya, Bin Horikawa, Chiyako Shibahara, Eriko Kawasaki, Hidenari Umezu, Kazuaki Itou, Masao Harada, Mitsuru Ogata, Nobuyuki Furuta, Toshitaka Shimizu, Tsuguo Mogami, Yoshinori Sonobe, Yuuto Kazama

English (GKIDS)[14]: Crispin Freeman, David Manis, Erica Schroeder, Jaden Waldman, Jamieson Price, Jordan Cole, Kirk Thornton, Lexie Foley, Gloria Garayua, Marc Thomspon, Michael Sinterniklaas, Orlando Rios, Philece Sampler


During the production of Millennium Actress, a producer from Madhouse asked Kon if he had any plans for his next film. After completing the film, Kon took two months to write and submit a brief proposal, which was immediately accepted by Madhouse.[15]

The original story and screenplay were written by director Satoshi Kon, and co-written by Keiko Nobumoto, known as the screenwriter of the TV drama series Hakusen Nagashi and the TV anime Cowboy Bebop, and the creator of the TV anime Wolf's Rain.[6] Kon had previously asked Nobumoto to write the script for Perfect Blue, but she was turned down at that time, citing her busy schedule.[16] The animation director was Kenichi Konishi, who had worked on My Neighbors the Yamadas while at Studio Ghibli, and the Studio director was Shogo Furuya.[6]

While the previous two works focused on the progression of the story, this work prioritized the theatricality of the characters and their presence above all else in both the scenario and storyboarding.[6] Although the story and theatrics are quite comical in appearance, the film was created not to return to the old-fashioned manga interpretation, but to aim for a manga interpretation that lies ahead after going through real-oriented animation.[6]

The film was produced in digital technology, and all of Kon's subsequent works are digital animation.[17]


The motif of the film is "coincidence" and "family," and the rough plot is about "three main characters who are not related by blood but live together as if they were a real family, and through a miraculous coincidence triggered by a baby, each of them recovers the connection with their original family that they have lost.[4]

The film does not adopt an overt "mixing of fiction and reality" motif, but a careful look reveals that the relationship between "fiction and reality" is conscious in this film as well.[6][18] What Kon was conscious of in his direction was "meaningful coincidence," in other words, to create a chain of miraculous events to move the story forward.[3] Kon writes in the press sheet, "This film is an attempt to restore in a healthy way the 'miracles and coincidences' that have been pushed into the other world by the weapons of scientific logic," and just as that sentence says, "meaningful coincidences" and "impossible events" happen one after another in the film.[18] In other words, the idea of this film is that the "fiction" of "miracles and coincidences" can be found in the seemingly real life of the homeless in Tokyo. The director's aim is to portray a series of events that could never happen in reality with a sense of reality and persuasiveness that makes it seem possible.[18]

Kon said: "Homeless people, as the term implies, "have no home," but in this film, it is not just "people who have lost their homes," but also "people who have lost their families," and in that sense, this film is a story about recovering lost relationships with families."[4][19] The reason why Kon chose homeless people as the main characters is because he was interested in the existence of homeless people even before he came up with the idea of the film project.[20] One of the triggers for Kon to come up with this work was the idea that they are born even in times of affluence, and at the same time, they are supported because the world is affluent, so they may be said to be kept alive by the city.[20] The other idea was the idea of animism in the city, that even the buildings and alleys of the city may have a soul, and that the main characters step into the other world that overlaps the city.[20] Based on a story in which 3 homeless people living like pseudo-families pick up a baby and try to return it to her parents, Kon imagined a story in which the three people enter a "different world" where strange coincidences occur in succession, and they recover their relationship with their families and society through their adventures, and another protagonist named "Tokyo" is watching over them.[20] In fact, "landscapes that look like faces," in which the outdoor units of air conditioners and windows are used as eyes and mouths, are embedded in various cuts, which could be said to be the figures of the gods of the city staring at the main characters.[21] These "faces" are not visible from the perspective of the characters, and only the audience can notice them.[21] Kon has also created a fiction here. The film's background is a trick of overlapping two layers of information: "the city scenery = reality for the characters" and "the scenery with faces that only the audience can see = a kind of fiction", even though it is the same single picture.[21]

The setting of the three main characters, who are not blood related, had the condition that they look like a family.[20] It was not so much an exaggeration as a suggestion of a "new image of the family in the future," but simply a suggestion that Kon's idea of a family with this kind of relationship might be acceptable. Kon's idea was to suggest that it is necessary to find a way for each person to have their own family, rather than a standardized model of what a new family should look like.[19] Kon said that he did not intend to portray homeless people as representatives of weakness and unhappiness, or as a hindrance to society, and that the three are symbols of everyone's weaknesses and regrets rather than real homeless people.[20] He also said they are unhappy not because they are homeless, but because their lives have lost their former glow, and that happiness lies in the process of recovery, which is the story of this work itself.[20]


This movie was released in North America by Sony Pictures on December 29, 2003 in an unsuccessful attempt to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.[22] The movie was released on sub-only DVD on April 13, 2004,[23] and they planned to use DTS for the DVD, but was ultimately scrapped.[24] Announced on December 19, 2019, international animation licensor, GKIDS, in partnership with the original US distributor Destination Films, released the movie on March 9, 2020 with a brand new 4K restoration and a new English dub.[25]


The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 91% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 74 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The critics consensus states, "Beautiful and substantive, Tokyo Godfathers adds a moving – and somewhat unconventional – entry to the animated Christmas canon."[26] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[27] Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "harrowing and heartwarming."[28]

Movie critic George Peluranee notes that "Tokyo Godfathers is a film that shows the small yet significant ties that each of us have with supposed strangers, and tells well the story of miracles, family, love, and forgiveness."[citation needed]

Susan Napier points out that Tokyo Godfathers is part of a trend in anime and manga as depicting families in an increasingly dark fashion, showcasing the problems with traditional families, and attempts by people to construct a "pseudo-family" out of an increasingly fragmented and isolating modern Japanese society.[29] It is put forth that despite the seeming criticisms of traditional families throughout the film, it ends with a more conservative feeling as everyone returns to their traditional/original families. Despite its seemingly traditional ending, the film offers a more radical version of family. Throughout the story these three homeless vagabonds unknowingly form a "pseudo-family" to protect themselves from the outside world and to overcome their personal demons.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interview Satoshi Kon" (in French). Catsuka. October 18, 2006. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  2. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers (2004) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "『東京ゴッドファーザーズ』と『グレムリン』はあのクリスマスの名作映画に繋がっている". BANGER!!! (in Japanese). ジュピターエンタテインメント株式会社. 2019-12-23. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  4. ^ a b c "Interview 02 2002年12月 イタリアから、主に「千年女優」に関するインタビュー". KON'S TONE (in Japanese). 今敏. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  5. ^ 数土直志 (2020-08-24). "『千年女優』の今 敏監督作品が世界で「千年生き続ける」理由――没後10年に捧ぐ (3/7)". ITmedia ビジネスオンライン (in Japanese). アイティメディア株式会社. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Interview 14 2002年3月 国内の雑誌から「千年女優」に関するインタビュー". KON'S TONE (in Japanese). 今敏. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  7. ^ 数土直志 (2020-08-24). "『千年女優』の今 敏監督作品が世界で「千年生き続ける」理由――没後10年に捧ぐ (4/7)". ITmedia ビジネスオンライン (in Japanese). アイティメディア株式会社. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  8. ^ 数土直志 (2020-08-24). "『千年女優』の今 敏監督作品が世界で「千年生き続ける」理由――没後10年に捧ぐ (5/7)". ITmedia ビジネスオンライン (in Japanese). アイティメディア株式会社. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  9. ^ "Excellence Award - TOKYO GOD FATHERS | Award | Animation Division | 2003 [7th] | Japan Media Arts Festival Archive".
  10. ^ Kon, Satoshi (2015). The Art of Satoshi Kon. Tribute from Darren Aronofsky (First ed.). Milwaukie, OR. p. 142. ISBN 978-1-61655-741-6. OCLC 896980881.
  11. ^ "毎日映画コンクール 第58回(2003年)". 毎日新聞 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  12. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  13. ^ Sherman, Jennifer (February 13, 2020). "GKIDS Announces New English Dub Cast for Satoshi Kon's Tokyo Godfathers Film". Anime News Network. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Grace, Victoria (March 12, 2020). "Go team!😊 #TokyoGodfathers @GKIDSfilms @nyav_post @stephaniesheh @MSinter @Shakeenz @jonavner". Twitter. Retrieved May 31, 2020.
  15. ^ "Interview 10 2001年11月アメリカからと2002年4月イタリアからの二つのインタビューの合成 (未発表)". KON'S TONE (in Japanese). 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  16. ^ タニグチリウイチ (2020-05-10). "アニメだから表現できた現実と虚構のミックス――没後10年を迎える今敏監督作品を観よう". IGN Japan (in Japanese). 産経デジタル. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  17. ^ "本田雄インタビュー 「千年女優」と今 敏 監督の思い出を語る (後編)". アニメ!アニメ! (in Japanese). 株式会社イード. 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  18. ^ a b c 藤津亮太 (2020-12-18). "「虚構と現実」の狭間で…"没後10年"今敏監督はアニメで何を描き続けていたのか? (1/5)". 文春オンライン (in Japanese). 文芸春秋. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  19. ^ a b "Interview 11 2004年 アメリカから、主に日本のアニメーションについてのインタビュー". KON'S TONE (in Japanese). 今敏. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g "Interview 08 2004年7月 台湾から「東京ゴッドファーザーズ」に関するインタビュー". KON'S TONE (in Japanese). 今敏. 2007-03-16. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  21. ^ a b c 藤津亮太 (2020-09-04). "今敏作品における「虚構と現実」の関係性とは? 「千年女優」ほか劇場作から探る【藤津亮太のアニメの門V 第62回】". アニメ!アニメ! (in Japanese). 株式会社イード. Retrieved 2021-10-08.
  22. ^ Macdonald, Christopher (October 30, 2003). "Tokyo Godfathers theatrical release". Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  23. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers on DVD April 13th". February 23, 2004. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  24. ^ Macdonald, Christopher (February 3, 2004). "Tokyo Godfathers DVD Release". Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  25. ^ @GKIDSfilms (December 19, 2019). "GKIDS is proud to announce the acquisition of the North American theatrical & home video rights to TOKYO GODFATHERS from Satoshi Kon" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  27. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  28. ^ "Tokyo Godfathers". Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  29. ^ a b Napier, Susan (2008). "From Spiritual Fathers to Tokyo Godfathers". In Akiko Hashimoto; John W. Traphagan (eds.). Imagined Families, Lived Families. New York: SUNY Press. pp. 33–49. ISBN 978-0-7914-7578-2.

External links[edit]