Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Directed By: Satoshi Kon

Screenplay By: Keiko Nobumoto; Satoshi Kon

Cast: Tooru Emori; Yoshiaki Umegaki; Aya Okamoto; Satomi Koorogi; Shouzou Likzuka; Seizou Katou; Hiroya Ishimaru; Ryuuji Saikachi; Yuusaku Yara; Kyouko Terase; Mamiko Noto; Akio Ootsuka; Rikiya Koyama; Kouichi Yamadera

Language: Japanese                                                

Genre: Action; Tragicomedy

Run Time: 1 hour 32 minutes

Satoshi Kon’s Christmas tale Tokyo Godfathers is a heart-warming story of three homeless people in Tokyo finding an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve. The film follows them on their miraculous misadventures as they try to locate the babe’s birth parents.

Gin (Tooru Emori) is a middle-aged alcoholic man, Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) a former drag queen and Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) is the teenage runaway staying with them. They are a makeshift family making their way on the streets. In a bid to find a suitable ‘Christmas gift’ they rummage through the items abandoned by people and in that rubbish, they find a baby. Hana is ecstatic and seeing it as an apt Christmas gift, names the baby Kiyoko which means ‘pure’. Hana does not want to return Kiyoko, after all she was abandoned. She wishes to raise the child, which for Gin is unrealistic considering their circumstances. In their journey to return the child, they cross paths with yakuza, foreign assassins, worn out taxi drivers and dysfunctional people who are striving to live.

Right from the opening sequence, Kon fuses the Nativity narrative into the film. Much like St Joseph, Gin is a foster father, reluctant he might be but his concern for Miyuki, the baby Kiyoko and his own daughter, coincidentally also called Kiyoko, is present. He and another homeless man (Ryuuji Saikachi) are attacked by the local delinquents who do not see any point in ‘trash’ living around the city. The lack of space to exist itself mirrors the Bethlehem inn’s lack of accommodation.  

Kon emphasises the idea of the found family and yet also acknowledges the fact that while the traditional family set up might be flawed, it can still be worked around. At every point that Hana stresses that she would like a family of her own, she equally backtracks and believes that things must go back to how they are supposed to be. This might be because she has been conditioned to accept a certain idea of the family. Yet every moment of the film reiterates that a found family is just as important.

Tokyo Godfathers explores homelessness with heart. People end up homeless for various reasons. Financial instability may be one part of it but it could just as well be because they feel let down or abandoned or the guilt surrounding their actions make facing up to the realities of life hard.

The animation style veers between realistic and exaggerated realism much like the story which while set within tragic circumstances is moved along through moments of humour and miracles. The kind of miracles that could happen in daily life but here all the miracles come together to make it a touching and oddly hilarious Christmas story.

The Tokyo in the title is a reference to the other main character of the film. A silent, passive presence; the city fuels homelessness through market action and yet attempts to and sometimes fails to provide a haven to the homeless.

Suspect X (2008) #SherylPuthur

Directed By: Hiroshi Nishitani

Written By: Keigo Higashino; Yasushi Fukuda


Shinichi Tsutsumi – Tetsuya Ishigami

Masaharu Fukuyama – Manabu Yukawa

Kou Shibasaki – Kaoru Utsumi

Yasuko Matsuyuki – Yasuko Hanaoka

Miho Kanazawa – Misato Hanaoka

Kazuki Kitamura – Shunpei Kusanagi

Dankan – Kuniaki Kudo

Keishi Nagatsuka – Shinji Togashi

Language: Japanese                                                   Genre: Mystery-Thriller


After Drishyam released there were many reports of how the film was inspired by the Japanese film Suspect X. Naturally curious, I decided to watch it. There are conceptual similarities but while Drishyam is the story of a family, Suspect X is a love story.

Tetsuya Ishigami (Shinichi Tsutsumi) is a washed out, reclusive high school mathematics teacher who seems to be shuffling in and out of his house feeling like he has made no impression on the world. He seems to have a soft corner for his pretty next-door neighbour, the owner of a bento shop – Yasuko Hanaoka (Yasuko Matsuyuki), a single mother.

There seems to be limited interaction between them till he overhears a violent scuffle in her house after the arrival of her abusive ex-husband Shinji Togashi (Keishi Nagatsuka). He knocks to find a dead body and then starts the cover up.

The cops, Kusanagi (Kazuki Kitamura) and Utsumi (Kou Shibasaki) are stumped because they cannot break the alibis Hanaoka and Misato, her daughter (Miho Kanazawa) have created. So they turn to the genius physicist of Teito University, Yukawa sensei (Masaharu Fukuyama) for help. Yukawa sensei in the beginning of the film is shown solving a rather complex murder case which was masked as a high profile accident.

Yukawa and Ishigami, known as geniuses in their fields, are revealed to be friends from college. But now, they are on the opposite sides. What follows is a mind game between the two – almost eerily reminiscent of the mind games between Light and L in the manga/anime Death Note.

The whole story begins to take on the form of a power play. Suddenly, everything is suspicious. In every corner, something is lurking and the ever-present sense that something is not quite right – is cloying. Even the fact that Ishigami is helping Hanaoka and Misato – why?

The film throws light on the hidden lives that people live. How being non-expressive for cultural reasons does not imply that people do not feel. In the penultimate moment when Ishigami actually shows emotion, it is a gut-wrenching scene that leaves your senses shocked.

Even if you think, as you watch the film that you’ve solved it, the equation isn’t complete because the X factor is still an unknown quality.