Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Satoshi Kon|
|Story by||Satoshi Kon|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan|
Tokyo Godfathers was the third animated film directed by Kon and the second which he both wrote and directed. Keiko Nobumoto, noted for being the creator of the Wolf's Rain series and a head scriptwriter for Cowboy Bebop, co-wrote the script with Kon.
One Christmas Eve after watching a children's performance of the Nativity scene, three homeless people – a middle-aged alcoholic named Gin, a former drag queen 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 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 being 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.
- Tōru Emori (Japanese) and Jon Avner (English)[a] as Gin (ギン); a gambling addict and former bicycle shop owner who claims to have been a bicycle racer. He ran away from his family when his debts became too great. His daughter, a nurse, shares the name of the newfound baby Kiyoko.
- Yoshiaki Umegaki (Japanese) and Shakina Nayfack (English)[a] as Hana (ハナ); a former drag queen who became homeless following the death of a former boyfriend. Hana was also an abandoned child, and is the most sympathetic to Kiyoko's plight and is the one who gives the baby her name.
- Aya Okamoto (Japanese) and Victoria Grace (English)[a] as Miyuki (ミユキ); a runaway high school student who left home following a violent argument with her father when her pet cat Angel went missing-(until she realizes towards the end of the film that her cat had returned home). After returning Kiyoko to her biological parents, she becomes Kiyoko's god-sister and is reunited with her father.
- Satomi Koorogi (Japanese) and Kari Wahlgren (English) as Kiyoko (清子) an abandoned infant girl that the main characters find in the dumpster on Christmas Eve and decide to reunite her with her parents.
- Shōzō Iizuka (Japanese) and Jamieson Price (English) as Ōta (太田); a yakuza boss who the main characters save from being crushed by his car. In gratitude, he invites them to his daughter's wedding reception.
- Seizō Katō (Japanese) and Kate Bornstein (English) as Mother (母さん, Kaa-san); the proprietor of the gay bar Hana was formerly employed in.
- Hiroya Ishimaru (Japanese) and Kirk Thornton (English) as Yasuo (泰男); Sachiko's husband and the one who left Kiyoko at the garbage dump.
- Ryūji Saikachi (Japanese) and David Manis (English) as an old homeless man who is discovered by Gin. He entrusts Gin with the disposal of a small red bag before passing away.
- Yūsaku Yara (Japanese) and Crispin Freeman (English) as Ishida; a policeman in charge of searching for the missing baby Kiyoko, who was separated from her family. He is revealed to be Miyuki's father.
- Kyōko Terase (Japanese) and Larissa Gallagher (English) as Sachiko (幸子); a woman who claims to be Kiyoko's mother.
- Mamiko Noto (Japanese) and Erica Schroeder (English) as Gin's daughter; a nurse who is also named Kiyoko.
- Satomi Kōrogi as the daughter of the yakuza boss Ōta, who is also named Kiyoko.
- Akio Ōtsuka (Japanese) and Jamieson Price (English) as a doctor engaged to Gin's daughter Kiyoko.
- Rikiya Koyama (Japanese) and Michael Sinterniklaas (English) as Arao (新郎); Ōta's son-in-law who was collecting debt from Gin.
- Inuko Inuyama (Japanese) and Philece Sampler (English) as Kurumizawa (胡桃沢); a resident of Sachiko's former neighborhood.
- Kanako Yahara (Japanese) and Philece Sampler (English) as Yamanōchi (山之内)
- Rie Shibata (Japanese) and Erica Schroeder (English) as Cat lady (猫ババ)
- Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese) and Marc Thompson (English) as Taxi driver
Additional voices (Japanese): Nobuyuki Furuta, Masao Harada, Bin Horikawa, Kazuaki Itō, Eriko Kawasaki, Akiko Kawase, Yuto Kazama, Tsuguo Mogami, Mitsuru Ogata, Chiyako Shibahara, Toshitaka Shimizu, Yoshinori Sonobe, Akiko Takeguchi, Hidenari Umezu, Atsuko Yuya
Additional voices (English): Jordan Cole, Philece Sampler, Lexie Foley, Erica Schroeder, Crispin Freeman, Michael Sinterniklaas, David Manis, Marc Thompson, Jamieson Price, Kirk Thornton, Orlando Rios, Jaden Waldman 
The film puts an emphasis on the theme of "coincidences". 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."
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. 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.
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. The movie was released on sub-only DVD on April 13, 2004, and they planned to use DTS for the DVD, but was ultimately scrapped. 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.
The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 7.08/10. The critics consensus states, "Beautiful and substantive, Tokyo Godfathers adds a moving – and somewhat unconventional – entry to the animated Christmas canon." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "harrowing and heartwarming."
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- Napier, Susan (2008). "From Spiritual Fathers to 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.
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- Macdonald, Christopher (February 3, 2004). "Tokyo Godfathers DVD Release". Retrieved December 19, 2019.
- @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.
- "Tokyo Godfathers (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
- "Tokyo Godfathers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
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