Features and Columns · Movies

What Makes ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ Such a Modern Christmas Classic

“I always wanted to die drunk in a nice, old house. I’m halfway there.”
Toyko Godfathers
Columbia TriStar
By  · Published on December 22nd, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the Christmas vibes of Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers.

It’s Christmas Eve in Tokyo, and three unhoused people rummage through the trash in search of goodies. Gin (Toru Emori) is a middle-aged alcoholic, Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) a trans woman, and Miyuki (Aya Okamoto), a teenage runaway. While the three sift through the trash, they happen upon an abandoned baby. Armed with very few clues as to the baby’s identity, the eccentric misfits spend the holiday attempting to locate the kid’s home.

Tokyo Godfathers is far more observational, lighthearted, and straightforward than any of Satoshi Kon’s more surreal works. But this gentler touch makes for one of the most charming Christmas films ever made; an animated feature that blurs the line between the goofy coincidence of slapstick and spiritual miracles.

A festive meander through its titular city, Tokyo Godfathers is primarily about the unique warmth of found family and the life-saving importance of being embraced by folks who love you for who you are. It is uncharacteristically warm and welcoming amidst Kon’s filmography. And as the video essay below argues, the film is also an empathetic portrait of Christmas in Japan. Each of the main characters in Tokyo Godfathers has a complicated relationship with faith and consumerism (the opposed poles of the holiday). And as the film unpacks with glee, the mystery child’s discovery provides opportunities for each character to confront their conflicted feelings about the deeper meaning of the season.

Warning: Light spoilers.

Watch “Tokyo Godfather – Christmas/Religions/Japan”:

Who made this?

This video on the unique Christmas vibes of Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is by Accented Cinema, a Canadian-based YouTube video essay series with a focus on foreign cinema. You can subscribe to Accented Cinema for bi-weekly uploads here. You can follow them on Twitter here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.