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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Tokyo Godfathers

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

Michael Osadciw


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Posted April 12 2004 - 07:08 AM

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Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2003

U.S. Rating: PG-13
Canadian Rating: 14A
Rated for Thematic Elements, Violent Images,
Language and Some Sexual Material

Film Length: 92 minutes
Genre: Animated Drama

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (anamorphic)
Audio: Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US$26.96

Release Date: April 13, 2004

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Starring voices: Toru Emori (Gin), Yoshiaki Umegaki (Hana), Aya Okamoto (Miyuki)

Taking anime to the next level, Director Satoshi Kon introduces us to three unlikely protagonists in Tokyo Godfathers. On Christmas Eve in Tokyo, Japan, three homeless people rummage through trash heaps in the cold winter night of Tokyo to find an unlikely surprise: an abandoned baby wrapped in a blanket. They are first appalled that someone would do such a hideous crime of leaving a baby for dead, but not soon after they take it in as one of them as it gives them a feeling of happiness they once had.

The loudest of the trio, Hana, an ex-drag queen, sees the baby as a sign from God since s/he always wanted to have a baby to take care of. Miyuki, the youngest of the three and a teenage runaway, doesn’t see having the baby with them too much of a benefit. With all logic in place, Gin, the oldest of the bunch and a man with his own past believes the baby should be taken to the police to find its mother, or someone who will take care of it. Fearing their own involvement with the police, the three of them set out on their journey to find the parents of the child. Several events and miracles happen along the way they attribute to having the child. Not only do they escape quick brushes with death, their adventures also provide closure with their pasts and a chance to forgive them for all they’ve done wrong to their lives.

Geared towards a mature audience, Tokyo Godfathers has been successful thus far and should hit a wider audience with this DVD. The title is created by highly acclaimed anime director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millenium Actress) with animation done by world renown animation studio Madhouse (X, Vampire Hunter D, Ninja Scroll). The title was premiered at the Big Apple Anime Fest in New York on August 30, 2003. It was complemented by rave reviews. I have to agree. I enjoyed the story of Tokyo Godfathers and believe that so much can be done with animation that can’t be done with live action. Some people will tell what they believe is fit or unfit for animation, but I have to agree with the director that the story is what makes or breaks a film. Look at Disney for example, who recently is hinting at dropping hand drawn animation in favor of computer animation. Is it the medium or the message at fault? I think they need some better ideas because none of the recent animated films will stand the test of time. Too many times, the anime industry is looking for cute looking girls, robots, and explosions, and less time is spent on the presentation of the story. This is where Tokyo Godfathers is a success. Kon was able to create three unlikely homeless heroes believable characters as the story unravels. To most audiences, especially with live action films, the homeless aren’t portrayed as anything more than drunk and pitiful. Now we have heroes, and heroes they prove themselves to be because in their hearts lie a greater love than even the richest in society.

This film is presented in the original Japanese language with optional subtitles for four languages.

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This DVD is able to capture is very nice animation on this film. The image is free from any distracting artifacts. The nighttime imagery is wonderfully displayed with contrasts of bright and dark elements bringing your attention to focus on what is important. Colours are rendered nicely with never a hint of over saturation. Edge enhancement, compression artifacts are absent from this stellar release. The only hic-up I saw was a scene in Chapter 24 when the colour temperature seemed to be flickering from warm to cool in a brief period of time. The picture is available as an anamorphically enhanced disc, framed at what looks to be about 1.95:1.

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The audio is another success with this film. While not always an over the top presentation as far as activity, the sound is clean and detailed. The soundstage of this film, encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, is wide and pleasing that does stretch to the surrounds. Bass is nicely integrated but never overbearing, and dialogue is firmly anchored in the center channel and always intelligible (at least to my ear – I don’t understand Japanese, but I think it sounds clear!). Overall, an excellent soundtrack.

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There is a 22 minute special feature on Tokyo Godfathers featuring clips of several interviews with director, cast, artists, premiers, and the like. Its in 4:3 with various aspect ratios, and in DD2.0 stereo. There are 8 previews of related anime films and shows, including a DVD trailer for Tokyo Godfathers. Also included is an insert with a review of the film from Daily Variety (no chapter stops in the insert), and a special bonus: an exclusive Satoshi Kon character drawing postcard.


This is a good looking DVD of a good looking anime film. Fans of the genre may want to take a look at this release, and fans of animation in general, or people looking for a good story regardless of presentation style, should check out Tokyo Godfathers. I look forward to seeing what other projects Kon will be working on and look forward to anime progressing successfully beyond North American releases, since many of them really haven’t peaked my interest lately. A good job on the film and DVD, thus recommended.

Michael Osadciw

THX/ISF Professional Video Calibrator

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   ChrisBEA



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Posted April 12 2004 - 09:25 AM

Nice review! I've been wanting to see this one for a while, Millenium Actress was excellent. Looking forward to picking it up.

Nice to see anime get reviewed here.Posted Image

#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Joe Cortez

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Posted April 13 2004 - 12:42 PM

Thanks for the review, I've been waiting to see this flick for awhile now.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   Derek Miner

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Posted April 13 2004 - 05:11 PM

This is actually showing in the theater I work at this week. I thought it was a wonderful little movie, with great themes about family as well as a nice story and great visuals. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're on the fence.
= Derek Miner =
Co-founder, Sunscreen Film Festival