Satoshi Kon was one of anime’s greatest directors and visionaries, which is all the more impressive considering he died so young at 46 in 2010. His works have inspired many over the years, including Hollywood’s Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky. I will attempt to rank Kon’s four films, each of which could arguably be placed at number one. I hope to do one entry per blog post; I have a lot to say about each film.
3. Tokyo Godfathers
Kon’s third film, a Christmas story about three homeless people trying to find an abandoned baby’s mother, is his most pleasantly satisfying. Tokyo Godfathers is Kon’s only film that does not explicitly blur dreams with reality, making it the black sheep of his filmography.
Its greatest strength is the film perfect balance between humor and seriousness. The unlikely homeless grouping of a gay man craving for motherhood, a regretful man who has given up on the world, a troubled teen who ran away from home, and an infant make for some unorthodoxed situations. This premise sounds like a sitcom, albeit a dark one. The humor is never played at the characters’ expense, but instead, the jokes and situations explore their fears, insecurities, and hopes (or lack thereof). Our laughter lightens their pain.
This is Kon’s most character-driven film. Importantly, each character is homeless not because of disaster or poor luck, but due to personal mistakes. By making the protagonists societal rejects, Kon weaves a new type of Christmas story that challenges us to see outcasts with more than just a pacing glance. In one scene, the heroes ride a crowded subway, leaving the other passengers to hold their noses to block the filth, i.e. both their stench and physical presence. The main characters look around awkwardly, clearly uncomfortable and sorry about how they are making the crowd feel. Moments like these show how everyday people might react to such individuals, and why such divides exist.
Tokyo Godfathers is a tale of redemption, regret, and forgiveness. Easily Kon’s most accessible film, this masterpiece is both a unique Christmas film and a meditative work about unconventional bonds and families.