Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Director (and co-writer): Satoshi Kon
Voice cast: Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, Aya Okamoto, Shozo Izuka, Seizo Kato, Hiroya Ishimaru
On Christmas Eve, three homeless people living on the streets of Tokyo discover a newborn baby among the trash and set out to find its parents. – IMDB
*Posted on Friday Film Club*
Inspired by the 1948 American Western film 3 Godfathers, Satoshi Kon wrote and directed Tokyo Godfathers, a film that differed from his previous directorial efforts as it was grounded in realism and no fantasy. Tokyo Godfathers tells the story of three homeless people: a transgender woman Hana, a middled aged alcoholic man Gin and a runaway teenage girl Miyuki who find a baby in the garbage pile on Christmas Eve. They take the baby in and name her Kiyoko and decide to use the information provided in her belongings to seek out her mother and find out why. Its how this dysfunctional family comes together as this week long adventure ends up finding solace and resolution for the three’s own issues.
Tokyo Godfather is a thoughtful film that portrays its homeless people not with sadness but with solitude . Each of these three have chosen homelessness because of a past event and now are all alone because they haven’t faced their problem. It’s a heartwarming story even if a bit odd at times especially since their search takes them to meet some very odd situations from a yakuza boss being trapped under his car to a Latino hitman right down to the big finale of finding the parents of Kiyoko. It’s all a series of events that connect these three together who were homeless friends but never really knew the deeper stories of each other. Each person’s story is different and representative of a different thing right up to the little baby’s as well.
Tokyo Godfathers delivers three colorful characters and takes us for a fun and sentimental journey from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. While the time doesn’t really have a measure here and the three do a lot of walking to move around, it still feels like they do encounter a lot as they face one dead end after another and find more clues to the next location Kiyoko’s mother might be. There’s a lot to love about Tokyo Godfathers and is also a wonderful alternate holiday film to give a watch.
Perfect Blue (1997)
Director: Satoshi Kon
Voice cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Okura, Yosuke Akimoto, Yoku Shioya, Hideyuki Hori, Emi Shinohara
A pop singer gives up her career to become an actress, but she slowly goes insane when she starts being stalked by an obsessed fan and what seems to be a ghost of her past. – IMDB
Satoshi Kon’s feature directorial debut is animated psychological thriller Perfect Blue, which is based on the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. Featuring one of Satoshi Kon’s trademarks of blurring the line between reality and fantasy, Perfect Blue tells the story of a idol singer who decides to give up her idol to become an actress and makes some immense changes to her image with the acting decisions which also make her start to lose grip of reality when the stress of the change and the uncertainty of her choice clashes with the external forces of an obsessive fan and a growing number of dead bodies connected to her.
Perfect Blue is some top notch animated film. While the film is a little behind its times in technology, the setting of idols and overobsessive fans is a conversation that is still relevant. The psychological thriller nature gives the film space to have some rather extreme moments but where the film starts boggling the mind is the constant feeling that the main character Mima is losing her mind as she sees the idol version of herself judging her for her actions which is an inner struggle that she is having. It doesn’t play only on the external fear of being stalked and her fans reaction to her decisions but actually dives deeper into Mima herself as she deals with them to change her image and reaches a breaking point. The twist in the big finale also matches with her reality and the psychological issue.
For an animated film, the film’s art style feels very grounded in reality. It doesn’t have the more cute animation but here it reflects the material. As you watch the film, Mima may be an animated character but she feels very real. The character has many dimensions much like the supporting characters that pop up around her whether its her agent or her manager. The agent drives her down this rabbit hole and slippery slope while her manager also has to face up to her decisions and has her own disagreement to it. The reveal of the stalker is also one that becomes rather shocking and does a good job in mostly giving it that set-up to make it more surprising. Perhaps what makes this animation stand out are the bigger obscene scenes whether its the filming for the rape scene to the attack and fighting scene against her stalker, it all gives this film the grittiness that the genre needs.
There’s a lot to love about Perfect Blue. Satoshi Kon’s animation style and directorial trademarks shows off perfectly on this film. While the film is based off a novel, other than the key elements of B-idol, stalker and horror being kept, the author allowed Satoshi Kon to create a story revolving those elements which he brought in another screenplay writer to achieve which brings in the play in a play and the inner psychological struggle for Mima. The collective elements of both the original source material and the screenplay are what makes this film fairly revolutionary back in the 1990s in terms of anime. Its a film with a lot of depth and honestly feels like another watch might even help catch some more details.