They’re the best Anime that 2003 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Wonderful Days, Oseam, Momoko, Kaeru no Uta ga Kikoeru yo., and more!
5: Wonderful Days
English: Sky Blue
MAL Score: 7.03
Set in 2142, Wonderful Days depicts a world that has been nearly destroyed by environmental pollution. Human life as we know it is almost extinct, and only a few were able to pull through the collapse of Earth’s ecosystem. In order to deal with the chaos, a city named Ecoban was created. The city uses the very pollution that caused the disaster as an energy source.
However, although the initial plan was successful to an extent, it didn’t just create a new source of energy, but also an elite group of people. This prestigious faction believes that they are above the system, and are not willing to accept survivors from outside the city unless they are put to work as laborers.
Among the people living in the wasteland outside Ecoban is a young man named Shua. He leads a very difficult life, but tries to make the most of it through the love that he feels for his childhood friend Jay. Unfortunately, Jay may be more interested in her security commander Cade than in Shua, and thus a love triangle is formed. Not only does Shua have to deal with the heartbreak, but he must also find a new way to survive in the crumbles left from the once-beautiful planet Earth.
Like both the Final Fantasy installments, which this is so reminiscent of, Wonderful Days takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a group of humans are fighting for a better tomorrow – their wonderful days. One can tell that the plot is not a major aspect of the movie; there is very little background on the present events and little or no clarification of what is what. But that’s not important.
The characters, too, are unexplored and their personalities have little significance. There is no motivation for their actions and random switches in beliefs. It’s like a mega chameleon fest, where none of them know what their true colours are. Poor character development. But then again they’re not important.
What drives this anime, and the reason why I give it an 8 after all it’s shortcomings, is the absolutely brilliant animation and sound. To really enjoy this, you need to watch a good quality version of the movie. The cell-shading/CG artwork was fantastic and played its part perfectly in describing the darkness of post apocalyptic earth. I never thought cinematography was important for anime, but by god was it well done. Some of the "shots" coupled with some excellent music brought out the emotion which the 1-D characters could not provide. It is like watching Monet paint. Maybe that’s a bit too much, but you get the idea.
If you’re planning on watching this, don’t go in expecting something extraordinary, it’s nothing brilliant. But it was certainly enjoyable, if not interesting to see what the Korean animation industry is capable of. It’s a very promising step…
The reviews were really positive, the plot seemed really interesting and the cover of the anime looked awesome.
It was also recommended with the Final fantasy advent children which I really like. I’m sorry to say that I really can’t find what’s similar with these two. And I think that the person who recomended Final fantasy advent children with this anime, needs to rewatch Final fantasy advent children.
Anyway, the characters were really flat and didn’t feel realistic at all. The art is decent, but not very good. Actually when I think of it, the only part in the movie that I enjoyed was when Jay and Shua were fighting, and that scene lasted for less than a minute.
Story: The story had potential, and had this been a series with at least 12 episodes I think it would have been really good. But as it stands we only have a movie and the 1.5 hours of playtime is not nearly enough to explore the desolated world we are introduced to in ‘Wonderful Days’. If you want to know the premise of the show, just read the Synopsis here on MAL, no need for me to go through it here. There really isn’t anything more to say about the plot. If you liked the premise you should have no problem watching the show and enjoying it for its other aspects, just don’t expect anything more than the premise..
Art: The art is probably the very best thing about this movie, and this is what makes those 1.5 hours of your life worth the watch. It’s especially the backgrounds that amazes me and I think only Makoto Shinkai has done better (of the animes I’ve seen this far). The backgrounds are dark and depressing in tone and they seem very realistic. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a sucker for flashy technology stuff, and this movie is no let down on that department. Flashy computers, elevators and whatnot, everything beautifully animated. Had to use my “drool-bucket” again. The thing that kept this movie from getting a 10 here is the characters. The thing with the characters is that they have a much brighter tone to them than the backgrounds, so they don’t really match up, if you know what I mean. Animations and all were fluid, so no problems there. This may be my personal taste though, and its nothing major anyway, but just thought I’d mention it.
Sound: The sound is pretty good, but I’ve heard better. The sound is better than average, but it was only enough to get it up to a 7. I can’t say much about the voice acting really since I watched it in Korean. It just felt very different from Japaneese, and I don’t think I can give a very good opinion about it so I’ll just leave it untouched. I’ll just say though that the voice acting wasn’t disturbing or anything like that, so I guess I can say it wasn’t bad at least.
 Characters: The characters were much like the story, unexplored. Again I think it’s because of time constraints. Even though the characters doesn’t have any real development you can understand why they are doing what they are doing and so on. This score would have been lower would it not have been for the side characters which I think have some good personalitys that fit the setting of the anime and are appropriate to where the characters live (Ecoban/outside).
 Enjoyment: I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and I think it was well-worth my time. It’s a shame that such a good storyline was destroyed by time constraints though. All in all this was a pleasant surprise to see what the Koreans can do. If you just need something new, relatively short and artistically awesome, then watch this, you won’t be disappointed.
MAL Score: 7.19
The animation is based on the fairy tale of the same name with the local sale over 100,000 copies by Jeong Chae-bong, a writer well known for his innocent and heart-stirring tales. It is a story about two orphans, Gil-son, a five-year-old boy, and his blind sister Gam-i who are brought up by a charitable monk at a secluded temple in Mt. Seorak. Gil-son, a mischievous boy, is the guide for this hour-long travel in search of innocence. Having a pure heart, he befriends all living things and communicates with clouds, birds and flowers. One snowy day, however…
I can’t understand why this anime has not a review yet. (Maybe because it is not a Japanese production). Anyway, this is one of the most impressive anime I’ve ever seen. The art and the characters are pretty good, the story is fantastic and full of sentimental feelings. I think after you see the movie you’ll have an idea about what Buddhism really is.
It tells the story of two orphans based on a legend in which a five-year-old boy sacrificed himself to open his blinded sister’s eyes. I don’t really want to spoil so I won’t tell anything more.
BTW, I have to say that this is one of my favorite anime movies. The end is really sad, but excellent too. I almost cry *.*.
The story follows the lines of a Korean fairy tale of the same name and depicts the lives of a brother and older sister, both of whom having no one to care for them and no home to go to. Their names are Gami and Gilson. After witnessing their home burn down in a fire years ago and therefore losing their mother due to it, they are left to fend for themselves. Not to mention that Gami became blind from the fire and Gilson not knowing that their mother is dead. From then on, they live off their lives having to beg others for food and taking shelter wherever they may find available. Gilson being the epitome of childish innocence and mischief,attempts to care for Gami and in doing so causes many issues for the both of them. The plot then takes off with them meeting a pair of Buddhist monks after witnessing one of Gilson’s mischievous scenarios. From there, the monks take them in as orphans and in turn, feed them and give them shelter. With Gilson being only a child and having difficulty coping with the monks’ religious lifestyle, he ends up causing much trouble for the Buddhist adherents. Gami, on the other hand, is grateful for having a place to stay, regardless of her blindness, though the only regrets she carries are not being able to see her little brother’s face once more as well as not bringing herself to tell him about their mother’s death. As time passes and both of these children’s lives continue in the monks’ care, Gilson becomes more and more irritated with their boring, new life and furthermore, saddened at the fact that he still has not heard of their mother’s whereabouts. But one day, Gilson is offered to travel with one of the monks to the mountains after being told that he would be able to learn to “open the eyes of his soul” to which he gladly agrees to, and in doing so, hopes to teach Gami to open her soul’s eyes once he returns…
Characters: The main characters that we are able to see here are of course, Gilson and Gami. Both of them being very simple yet very down to earth as characters, thus rendering them easy to relate to. The genuine emotions that we are able to see through them are what makes them such tender beings, and in seeing this only makes the viewer want to cry their hearts out to them. Gami is a sweet, loving girl who only cares for her brother’s well being despite her condition and wishes dearly to see his face again. She cries at the fact of knowing that her brother is in emotional pain and only yearns to be there for him, to care for him. Gilson is nothing more than your hyperactive, troublesome yet innocent little brother who bares a pure heart and wishes the best for him and his sister and to be able to be with their mother once again. Unlike most characters conveyed in anime and movies today, the drawn-out personas found here allows for something more for the viewers to appreciate.
Animation : Though the art and animation are somewhat dated and antiquated, being that of its time, it does do a fairly good job in displaying what it intends the most, the characters and atmosphere. The hues and colors shone in the different settings throughout are nicely distinguished and detailed without it being too exaggerated with its use of visuals. Whether being the warm red tones of the fall season or the colder colors of the winter, you can easily tell when certain seasons are due. The character designs are also befitting for its type of scenario and story, as they are appropriately illustrated to look Asian rather than being your generic bug-eyed type of design, making them seem all the more realistic. Overall I find the animation to be quite solid and well-done and I can’t complain much else.
Sound : The sound track for this movie was surprisingly well-orchestrated and pleasing to listen to; each piece was well accompanied to fit certain moods and scenes. Though there was really nothing that stood out as being the main specialty of it all as it was mainly used as background music and subdued accompaniment rather than being a prominent powerhouse of instruments and vocals. Speaking of which, the ost consists mainly of fine instrumental and orchestral pieces with very few vocal tracks to be heard. There is a lullaby tune sung by Gami’s character, to which I found to be soothing yet very sad and nearly brought me to tears. On an extra note, I also found it to be quite refreshing to listen to Korean dialogue for a change as I’m usually more accustomed to listen to Japanese and sometimes English voice-acting. The children’s voices were not that of the usual squeaky and pitchy voice-acting that I’m used to hearing of the Japanese but rather it sounded more like, well… children’s voices. All in all, very consistent dialogue and good soundtrack.
Enjoyment : I won’t go in depth here since this category is usually subjective to most people. I will say that I did find myself enjoying this movie more often than not as I did get emotional in many of the scenes. The characters were easy to attach yourself to and the affections brought out by them so vivd. I admit that I did get choked up at certain points where the characters’ actions impacted me the most. Nevertheless, for those of you who do watch this, prepare yourselves to be greatly moved by this touching story.
In all honesty, I really did not expect much before I began watching this film, but now, the feels and emotions are all too real to deny. The austerity, the warmth, the tenderness of it all, makes up for what I believe to be a very delightful watch. It boggles me to know that this film is unknown to the rest of the anime community out there as it is something that should be more appreciated. For those of you looking for a film that consists of raw emotion while also conveying childish innocence, such as that of Grave of the Fireflies, I deeply recommend that you watch this, you just may find yourself enjoying this more than you would expect.
*Edit (Tis my first review, and even I know it’s shit…)
Art: I thought the art was very beautiful, especially the scenery. A lot of detail and care was put into the art. The colors are bright and vibrant. The characters are simple but nice. I thought the animation of the lips was done very well.
Sound: I’m not a big sound person and the music of this anime was very subtle. Again, it reflected a Buddhist nature very well. The music did what background music should do, and it did it very well. It added to the scenes’ emotions without distracting. I thought the ending credit song was rather beautiful.
Character: I fell in love with the characters which were, as the rest of the film, very subtle and simple. Yet, they were very easy to sympathize with and become attached to.
Enjoyment and Overall: I very much enjoyed this film. I can’t really properly express the amount of joy it brought to my day. It made me appreciate life a bit more than usual, made me take more tn. I’ll say it again, it’s a very Buddhist film. And I enjoyed and appreciated that.
3: Momoko, Kaeru no Uta ga Kikoeru yo.
English: My Sister Momoko
MAL Score: 7.49
Momoko, who attends a special school, is both mentally and physically disabled. Every morning she becomes peevish because she can’t go to the ordinary school with her twin brother Riki. Her family soothes Momoko by singing her favorite song “The Song of Frogs.”
One day, Momoko shouts encouragement to Riki who’s playing dodgeball at an open classroom day and Riki’s team wins the game. Ryuji, whose team lost the game, is not impressed and demands that Riki stop bringing his ‘idiot sister’ to school. Riki totally loses control and hits Ryuji with all his might.
The following year, an experiment in integrated education is implemented and Momoko begins to attend Riki’s school. Unfortunately, her physical condition takes a turn for the worse and she’s sent to a hospital. Riki and all her classmates want to cheer her up and they set a goal of winning a relay race so that they would be able to tell Momoko the good news. Meanwhile, the fastest sprinter, Ryuichi, insists that he won’t be taking part in the race.
(Source: Eleven Arts)
The concept itself is quite dramatic; twins that were born early resulting in one of them getting the short end of the stick. The story is character-centered, revolving around what is important in life and how they react to differences. From little walks to the park to hospital visits to talking with friends to throwing tantrums, the ideas of life and effort are always present and affecting everyone, even the audience. Everyone has personal problems, be that her brother who loves his sister but sometimes feels ignored and burdened, or her brother’s classmate who has family problems and stoops to bullying. The essence is how they come to terms with themselves and accept their surroundings with an open heart. Even though Momoko is the center of everything, it is the people around her that we see how they change mostly through her.
Although the movie is just their everyday life, there are some events that could be said that are a bit forced or rushed to just add to the drama, but overall I did not feel that they were trying too hard. Actually, it felt as though it wanted to just present us the obvious problems one might have in such a story for the viewer to see what everyone thinks. Nonetheless, the pacing is not really bad when thinking of the big picture, however step by step there could be some gaps.
For such a movie, character development is a given even if sometimes it is a bit abrupt, but that is mostly forgiven as those cracks are filled with what is going on around them. They overcome immature thoughts, realize more about themselves and try to be a better person. The only one not getting any development is Momoko, our main heroine, who stays a hardworking, positive girl. Instead, she gets more character background. The problems she has to deal with every day give more details about her complicated life throughout the movie, which only makes her more endearing.
The art and animation look a bit older than what someone would expect from a 2003 movie maybe, but the colors are bright, the characters are cutely drawn and it fits the atmosphere of it. It is altogether generic, but there was nothing that stands out as positive or negative. The characters were distinctive and they did a good job portraying Momoko’s physical disability, as well. I could say the same pretty much about the sound. Nothing stood out, but everything fit together; the voice actors, the background music, etc.
Overall, I really liked the movie, mainly because I am a sucker for children’s sad stories. Though, who could resist an adorable little girl who is full of life and tries her hardest in a world that does not completely understand her? It brings light to a reality that is easily forgotten when people are not part of it and it is a nice reminder for everyone to be more accepting and see that things we take for granted, others are putting so much effort in attaining them.
The story’s about the Kuramoto twins, Riki and Momoko. Riki is your typical average boy who’s energetic, not very good in school grades wise, and as healthy as he can be. Momoko is another story. I didn’t quite hear or understand what she has (I found it RAW, with no subs), but she apparently is born with a lot of handicaps, one of which makes her head constantly fall to one side, as you can see. She’s thin to the point of looking like a stick figure, has to wear one of those oxygen things up her nose (what the heck are those called again?), and she has to go to a school for the handicapped. Plus, she’s shorter than Riki by a foot. Momoko hates the fact that Riki can go to a normal school and she can’t, but she calms down when she hears her favorite song about frogs. She watches Riki play dodge ball against another class’s team and cheers him on, which makes Riki win! But one of the boys on the opposite team, Ryuji, insults Riki by saying mean things about Momoko, which sets Riki off. But what happens when Momoko gets to go to Riki’s school as part of an experiment in integrated education? Will she be able to survive, or will some school bullies gain the upper hand in the school social hiearchy? And how will adults handle this new move?
Unlike Happy Birthday, Momoko was made in 2003 and, unsurprisingly enough, has better animation compared to the former, though it still has its small hiccups. I think some of those hiccups were intentional since the movie’s about disabled kids and all, so I can let it slide. Speaking of disabled kids, yes, this is the SECOND movie I found that shows ACTUAL DISABLED KIDS!!! YAY!!! Thank God, another movie that proves that nobody’s physically or mentally perfect! Seriously, the more new anime that come out, the more and more I notice that it seems Japan has some sort of complex against showing people with little deficiencies here and there, like being fat or having braces or acne or all that jazz! Seriously! What the heck? Also, the music isn’t really memorable, like Happy Birthday’s. Some nice little tunes here and there, and they fit the show, but they’re not exactly mind blowing. I don’t really mind, though I do think the frog song is a bit weird. THANKFULLY this show has MUCH BETTER sound quality than Happy Birthday, so I’ll give it credit for that too.
Oh God, the characters again! Seriously, also like Happy Birthday, the characters are what make this movie awesome. Riki’s your perfectly realistic and average 5th grade schoolboy. He likes sports, doesn’t do well in school, and can be a bit of a brat sometimes, but don’t all boys act that way? Plus he has a hard time dealing with Momoko’s disability and even thinks at one point that his parents prefer Momoko over him. Don’t we all have similar feelings like his? Don’t we all feel a little bit jealous at one point in our lives? It’s really not all that uncommon. Momoko is just awesome just for being herself. She’s disabled, yet she still wants to live and be a normal girl despite her setbacks (though I have to admit I did find her little waterworks moments rather annoying, but that’s just because I’m kinda sensitive to little kids crying. The noise hurts my ears). She can talk and walk and just be a little girl. Seriously, don’t you just want to hug her? But then again, she’s OH SO UNGODLY thin, she might break! You also have to give the creators credit for making Ryuji into a respectable character as well. He’s not big and fat and bulky like your typical school bully. He’s actually quite thin and civilized-looking, and while he does start off rather mean at first, his development throughout the movie is just pure cinematic gold. The other characters are great too, even the side characters (like Riki and Momoko’s parents, classmates, and Ryuji’s father).
Also like Happy Birthday, Momoko focuses on the treatment of others who are different, tolerance, friendship, living, and healing. Unlike Happy Birthday, this isn’t a story about child abuse (Oh God, if this was what Momoko would be about if something like that actually happened, then I’d cry buckets!). But they do share the same morals and messages. Life is short and painful, but it’s important to keep living, even when the odds are stacked against you. I seriously wish movies like this were made more in this day and age! We’re so sick and tired of all the moe crap that’s being thrown at us like garbage!!! And yes, I cried at the ending.
If I had to choose between this and Happy Birthday, for me, Happy Birthday seems to win. Oh no, I’m not saying Momoko’s inferior to it. Momoko is awesome for being what it is, but Happy Birthday had a slightly greater impact on me. But Momoko is still a wonderful, adorable, and gut wrenchingly sad movie that I wouldn’t mind showing to anyone I knew! Now if only someone would sub or license these already!!!
When I was a child, there was a young man in my primary class at church who had cerebral palsy. I never sat next to him, I never talked to him or his family, but he was always there at the end of the front row in his wheelchair, smiling and attempting to sing along. I remember the day the teachers announced proudly he had gone on his first date (as he was sixteen at the time), and he tried to tell us through his smile how it went. But I at the time didn’t appreciate what his presence meant to us, as I alongside a few other children didn’t have too many nice thoughts about him. He was the only other person I knew with a disability until I was ten when my brother at the age of three suffered a brain injury, and then a couple of years later, my other younger brother (just before the youngest was born) was diagnosed with autism.
Society is not kind to those with disabilities—physical, mental, or a combination of both. It’s better now than it was ten/twenty years ago, and sure as hell better than a century ago, but there’s still a long ways to go as long as selfishness and hard hearts exist. Yes, it IS difficult to take care of those who need help 24/7, but that’s an obstacle that can easily overshadow them who are still people, but trapped in a body that’s barely functioning as-is. Learning this as children makes it easier to love and care for the unfortunate who continue to smile every day despite their handicap.
“My Sister Momoko” is a great example of what it means to love and smile, as told through the eyes of nine-year-old Riki whose twin sister, the titular Momoko, suffers from an unnamed disability that’s rendered her physically and mentally underdeveloped. Despite the hardships he and his family go through every day, her smiles and innocent countenance bring just as much happiness to them. They are more blessed than others who go through similar ordeals as revealed in the circle of mothers with their own more-severely disabled children, and it’s Riki who learns this as much as his parents.
It’s not just Riki, it’s also his peers who learn to care and even love Momoko when she graces their company with her smiles and encouragement to her big brother. The one who goes through more development is Ryuuji, whose strict father demands he study long and hard to become the best of the best, as “only the strong come out on top in today’s world”. Hesitant as he is, he’s the one who’s the most cold toward Momoko joining the class though he takes it out mostly on Riki whose own struggles causes him to waver in his love toward his sister.
It’s almost hard to believe this was animated in 2003, as the style is reminiscent of the 90s (well, maybe the 80s as it made me think of “Barefoot Gen”, honestly), and is a little cheap-looking to boot. There’s some off-model moments here in there (mostly in the face), but I have to give them praise for how Momoko is portrayed. It’s rare to see a physically-disabled character in animation, and her frail physique and the way she supports her head on a shoulder is unique in that aspect. So many things could’ve gone wrong in animating her and keeping her consistent, but she works well with her environment, limitations and all. She also stands out in that she’s the only special needs child who is able to walk around and even talk, which also means she gets the most attention—justified, as she’s the main character, and the other disabled children have their needed screentime whenever we see her school or them on a field trip.
When it comes to voice-acting, again, Momoko stands out the most, and Kurumi Mamiya did a wonderful job. I imagine recording this movie was emotionally draining for many people involved, to be on point with emotions where appropriate must have been some form of catharsis. I’m no voice actor in the slightest, so I can only guess what goes on in those sound booths for projects like this and the amount of time and numerous takes needed to get it just right. I secretly wish this had gotten a dub somehow, but who knows if that dub would’ve hit all the right notes in a movie that can’t afford slip ups that would risk ruining the mood. I want to be optimistic in that whoever would’ve dubbed it would’ve given their all much like the original dub, but alas, it’s just a pipe dream at this point. Given its obscurity and age, I doubt anyone will pick this up at this point despite its relevance. At the very least, the English fansub did a great job, and I thank them for bringing this to light at long last.
This little film was hard to watch sometimes as it brought back a lot of bittersweet memories, and my youngest brother (who’s more severely-autistic than the other two) was constantly on my mind watching Momoko. I still think about that young man and wonder where he is today, if he’s still alive, or if his work is done and he’s finally passed on. I also still think about the other children I’ve met in my lifetime from middle school-on who had disabilities, and with some of them, I regret not being kind enough to become friends with them. My heart goes out to those families who struggle to raise their children in a world that looks down on them, who deep down wants to be rid of the burden, but love keeps them going. It may never get better on an outward appearance, but it’s better to learn and grow to be caring and nurturing toward these poor, yet happy souls than not at all. Personal experience made sure of that.
It’s been slowly picking up, but until the day comes when a children’s show/movie is able to portray disabilities without being ham-fisted, prejudiced, biased, or anything that could be harmful or just “passable”, “My Sister Momoko” will be that diamond in the rough that doesn’t try to fix the world all at once as it knows its limits, but is still positive in its message. The experience is different for each person, so if it doesn’t affect you on a personal level or make you tear up, it’s fine since it’s meant to raise awareness, but hopefully on a positive level than negative.
2: InuYasha Movie 3: Tenka Hadou no Ken
English: InuYasha the Movie 3: Swords of an Honorable Ruler
Japanese: 映画 犬夜叉 天下覇道の剣
MAL Score: 7.80
Izayoi and Inu no Taishou, Inuyasha’s parents, are having problems with a human named Setsuna no Takemaru. Sou’unga a magical sword that has been sealed away for 700 years is found. Now everyone is after the sword and its powers but it seems the sword has something else in mind.
First of all, the artwork looks really pretty, and the plot of the story is very enjoyable. This movie basically gives you a little flashback into Inuyasha’s past, and who his parents were. Like any Inuyasha movie, there’s plenty of action to see.
In my opinion, the movie could have went a little bit deeper into the past, but overall it’s great!
1: Tokyo Godfathers
English: Tokyo Godfathers
MAL Score: 8.29
One Christmas Eve, Hana, Gin, and Miyuki are rummaging for presents through heaps of garbage when they chance upon an abandoned baby in the cold winter night. Appalled at the pitiful sight, Hana’s maternal instincts kick in and she insists on finding the baby’s biological mother to demand an explanation. Naming the baby Kiyoko—meaning pure child—they begin their search using the possible clues left alongside her: a mysterious key and a single note. However, their plans are soon thrown into disarray as they get caught up in a series of unprecedented events.
Tokyo Godfathers follows the journey of the trio as they stick together through thick and thin, hoping to deliver Kiyoko to her true home, and find their very own Christmas miracle.
STORY – In brief, Tokyo Godfathers is a heart-warming Christmas story about family. Slightly elaborated, it’s a rather unique slice-of-life movie featuring a less-than-average family. Sure, inspiration was taken from an old western film (3 Godfathers), but I haven’t seen it, and I don’t think having seen it would have affected the charm of this one. (Other than the bare bones, the details of the two movies are vastly different anyway.)
Though thoroughly punctuated with reminders of how hard life can be, the movie was fun, comedic at times, and pretty darn feel-good, reflecting the general optimism associated with the winter holidays. It was uplifting, meaningful, and potentially relevant to people from all walks of life. That said, there were a lot of situations that felt a bit contrived and overly corny. For a destined-to-have-a-happy-ending story like this, a few coincidences here and there are completely expected and can even be cute. But there’s a line somewhere and after a certain point, it starts to get a bit silly. (How many characters do we need to be coincidentally named "Kiyoko"?) I’d say that Tokyo Godfathers crossed this very vague line — maybe not by much, but it was crossed all the same. I guess I can only take so much cute before I start groaning.
The main theme of this movie is the importance of family, which is a huge shift from Kon’s usual work involving diminished divides between fantasy and reality. Even so, there are little indications of the man’s handiwork woven carefully into the backstories of the individual characters, which I found interesting. After all, you don’t immediately think of hobos when you think "family values," but the homeless might be among more believable subjects for those who may want to disassociate themselves with reality. It was subtle, but I really think Kon did a superb job blending the two themes together, and that was just what I needed to tide me over.
CHARACTER – The characters were definitely the highlight of the film. The three protagonists were all wonderfully in-depth, but I never got the feeling that their complexity was being flaunted or that they were throwing it in our faces. Gin, Hana, and Mitsuki are all introduced as fairly ordinary people, which makes them easy to sympathize with and easy to relate to, even for such unconventional characters as Hana. They were all troubled people — a deadbeat debtor, an okama with AIDS (implied), and a teenage runaway, all homeless and living in a tent in the park. But each character’s personal issues were presented in gradual fragments, and there is enough ambiguity and deception to keep you wondering. That scores big in the realism department with me; after all, you don’t really go around dumping life issues on people, even if they’re your friends.
Throughout the movie, each of our three godparents struggle with their personal issues, even as they all deal with the immediate crisis involving the baby. But despite the fact that the baby problem was very pressing and is the main storyline, it’s hard to miss the gradual development in the characters. There are short, solo scenes for all the protagonists scattered throughout the movie, and that’s where some of the coincidences start mounting. Tokyo is a huge city, and I found it a little ridiculous that so many relevant figures from the characters’ past should appear in such a short time, but I realize that those situations are hard to avoid, if not impossible. All the same, I really enjoyed each character’s maturation, especially since so little was actually said in two out of three cases. That made everything seem all the more poignant. For some reason, even though I thought Miyuki’s runaway story was a bit "Wait, what?" I could sympathize with her all the same.
The main trio aside, the other characters were more roles within the story than actual characters. Sachiko was a little over the top for me, and her husband a bit predictable as well, but that’s okay. The other support characters more than make up for them. The yakuza guy was entertaining, and the Hispanic hitman intriguing, not to mention the raving, crazy, old hobo. They’re as good as minor characters get.
ART & ANIMATION – Tokyo Godfathers was a gorgeous, gorgeous movie, but I wouldn’t have expected or accepted anything less. Seriously, there wasn’t much not to like here visually. The characters were all distinct, memorable, and animated. Expressions were rendered with impressive realism, and the scenic city background was beautiful. I especially loved how the snow and light rail were handled, as well as nighttime city lights. The realness of the city really resonated as well. We do see a few prominent landmarks like Tokyo Tower, but pretty much all the buildings looked like they could have been real. The big city feeling really came out perfectly. It was kind of nice to see a few trademarks of Satoshi Kon’s style as well, including that a stout, self-important man, and that one creepy, old guy. They’re Kon’s white doves.
MUSIC – Average in that I-don’t-really-remember-any-of-it way. The final melody that played with the end credits was nice though.
VOICE ACTING – I saw this movie subbed, and it was lovely. The cast for our three protagonists all did great; the emotion was clearly there. I was especially fond of Yoshiaki Umegaki, who voiced Hana. I suppose I’m always impressed with those that do well playing less traditional roles, but it was a very believable portrayal. And… the baby cry was too believable. I don’t like babies much, but even amongst the baby lovers of the world, I’m sure there is a general consensus that the noise they can make is incredibly unpleasant. I almost muted this movie so many times because oh, snap, there is a lot of baby wailing in this movie. Oh well. More realism points?
The inclusion of a few Spanish-speaking characters in the movie was a nice surprise and scored some multicultural points. I like Spanish a lot and even though I probably wasn’t the best student of the language, I understood well enough without subtitles (I guess KAA hadn’t been prepared to sub Spanish). They used real Spanish-speakers too, so it actually sounded like Spanish instead of some strange, garbled Supaniishu. Yay!
OVERALL – Barring a bit of partial nudity (exposed breasts for breastfeeding), I think Tokyo Godfathers is an excellent family film. The story is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. All the traditional elements of a Christmas movie are there — inspiration, hope, good deeds, strong relationships, family values, feel-goodness, and a happy ending — but the rich characters that Satoshi Kon brings into the mix really makes the difference. So yeah, even with all the silly little coincidences that move it along, I really enjoyed this movie.
Story: This story is about 3 homeless people (a washed-up father/husband, a homo, and a runaway teen) during the Christmas Holidays. The story gets going when they find an abandoned baby at a dump site. Even though one of them wants to raise the baby himself, they knew that they couldn’t, so they go on a search for the baby’s parents. As this search goes on, they start to learn about each others past’s and we see how it ties into the present.
While it may seem like a pretty straight forward concept, Kon Satoshi manages to fully utilize it by putting all these twists and turn that keeps the movie exciting. What makes the story so special is how Satoshi manages to portray the homeless urban hood and how he cleverly ties everyone’s pasts together. So if a funny, compelling, heart-filled story is what you’re searching for, then look no further than this.
Animation: For a movie made in 2003, the animation is very solid. Style-wise, there is nothing spectacular about it. It doesn’t differentiate itself from other anime like Mind Game or Dead Leaves does, however, what makes it so appealing is all the detail it has when presenting urban Tokyo. A lot of work must have been done to try to represent the homeless.
Sound: There really isn’t much to say about this. There weren’t really anything that gave a huge impression; however, all I can say is that the music really fit the movie. Its one of the reason why movie stayed exciting
Character: Probably the best aspect of the movie was the characters. The first thing I want to point out is the realism. While they may be “weird” characters, their situations are really similar to society today. I can see a teenager running away from home. I can see a washed-up husband/father becoming homeless. Another fascinating thing about the characters is the growth that they go through. Because of this baby, we see the subtle growth of each character and the bonds between them becoming tighter.
Overall: This was a surprisingly good movie. It is a great addition to a Christmas holiday collection. I haven’t been glued to a movie like this in a while. Now I am definitely looking forward to his latest work Paprika.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Tokyo Godfathers
2. InuYasha Movie 3: Tenka Hadou no Ken
3. Momoko, Kaeru no Uta ga Kikoeru yo.
5. Wonderful Days