So, for the past week, I've been taking about Tokyo Godfathers. Part One is here. Part Two is here. Still trying to keep this around 500 words, and the scorecard so far is:
1) Well made? - Yes, very.
2) Did it contribute to anything? - ???
3) Did I have a good time watching it? - Yes.
4) Would I watch it again? - I wouldn't hate it, but probably not.
5) Was it worth watching once? - Sure.
6) To whom would I recommend it? - Not to fans of anime or kids, ironically, but most people.
In regards to whether this movie contributes to any issues in society, I'd like to talk about the homeless characters in this movie. Take a look at the poster again:
You might be forgiven for thinking that this is a man, a woman, a young girl and a baby, but this is actually two men, a young girl and a baby. One of those men is gay. Can you guess which one?
Take your time.
Can't figure it out, can you? Well, it's this one:
At first glance and considering this comes from the not-so-progressive country of Japan, you might think that this character, whose name is Hana, is the worst combination of stereotypes and prejudices about homosexuals. In a lot of ways, that's correct: Hana is irrational, constantly overreacting, dresses in drag, acts effeminate, flirts with a cab driver, and, well, c'mon, just look at him.
However, Hana is, thankfully, more than a walking pile of stereotypes, and is actually one of the better characterized and more easily relateable characters in this movie. For starters, her actions get the plot rolling in this movie. Whereas upon finding the McGuffin Baby, the other main characters want to take it the police, but Hana wants to find the baby's mother, in part because no one should be unhappy or abandoned on Christmas, the mother needs to explain her actions, and Hana sees herself in this abandoned child. Hana is the antithesis of the cold, uncaring sentiments expressed throughout Tokyo.
I've also been referring to Hana as "he" up until this point, but that's entirely accurate, nor does the movie fully explain exactly what Hana's orientation is. He is constantly referring to himself as a "queer" and a "homosexual" but also states early on that he was put in the wrong body. So, switching pronouns, she is never seen in a "man form" and always in women's clothes, jewelry and hairstyles. The movie doesn't outright say this, and I'm making a bit of a jump, but I think Hana is either a pre-op or post-op transsexual. The difference between her being homosexual and her being transsexual has a huge impact on character and how she came to be homeless.
See, the other two characters made themselves homeless, and that is important. I'm not sure whether Satoshi Kon is making a statement about homelessness in general, whether it's a self-inflicted condition or what, but at least these two do more damage to themselves than anything else. The grown man gets into gambling debts and abandons his wife and child out of shame. The young girl gets into a pointless argument with her father about a cat, overreacts, stabs him, and then overreacts some more and chooses to live on the street. It becomes clear throughout the course of the movie that both of these characters' families are willing to take them back at any point.
Hana, on the other hand, has no family proper to speak of, except for a former boss she calls "mother", who is also more than willing to take her back. Working at a drag bar, Hana assaults a costumer yelling rude things at her, and leaves the bar out of shame. Pretty similar to the others so far, but a bar is not your home, and a boss is not a mother. Why not get a new job? The older man is in debt and bankrupt, the young girl is a young girl and can't support herself. Hana could get a job anywhere, right?
Well, maybe that's what the movie is trying to say. Maybe Hana can't find work because she's a transsexual, living in a city that generally doesn't care whether its inhabitants live or die.
And, I've already made two assumptions about her sexual orientation and her homeless, so I'll make one more. Hana probably has AIDS. She is definitely shown to be sick at one point, although the cause is never stated. Her "mother" at the bar also asks about her boyfriend. Hana replies that he died, and when the "mother" asks if it was AIDS, she says something like he slipped in the shower. Do we believe her? Nope.
Again, I keep making assumptions about this character, but from that, I believe that if someone lived in the Tokyo represented in this movie, where nobody cares about any other person, it would be natural to assume that nobody cares if you have a fatal disease. All of these characters believe that nobody cares about them, and except in the cases of their families, they are correct. It is only natural that they should be expected to deal with their suffering alone and stoically, which is why Hana's decision to care for the child sticks out as being so brave and so rash. The movie makes it clear at the end that Hana's actions lead her to being under the protection of the divine, since she broke the cycle of apathy.