Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tokyo Godfathers - Part Two

Yesterday I got started talking about Tokyo Godfathers and didn't have enough space to finish. Just to recap, I'm playing a little game where I try to keep this under 500 words; the prize being not wasting your time with my bullshit. But, yesterday's post didn't even mention the plot, so looks like I fucked that up. The questions we have left to answer are: "Does this movie contribute in any way?" and "Is it worth seeing?"

Anyway, the plot draws heavily from an old 1940s movie called Three Godfathers, but, and let me just enshrine this rule right now, if you haven't heard of the thing the movie is referencing or remaking, it might as well not even exist. In Tokyo Godfathers , three homeless people stumble upon an abandoned baby and decide to try and find its mother. Here is where the tonal dissonance begins to occur, because the issues of homelessness and abandoned children are not exactly adorable topics, but the tone of the movie seems to indicate that these things are no big d. For example, the movie looks like this half the time:

But looks like this the other half of the time:

The question then becomes whether this was intentional or if the creators thought that just by pure virtue of being an animation movie, they needed exaggerated facial expressions and goofy characters. I'm going to argue that the tonal shift in this movie both succeeds and fails. Here's an example of the tonal dissonance failing:

This comes near the climax of the movie, where a woman who has stolen the baby will probably soon kill herself and it. Again, very, very dark subject matter, very tense moment, but then we got this asshole with his huge anime face dissolving the seriousness of the scene. It hurts because it's things like that that took me out of the experience and I think kept this from becoming a perfect movie.

However, the time where the tonal shift occurs successfully does two wonderful things. The first is that it takes the edge off. As I keep saying, this movie has a lot of dark subject matter, and I think that if it was live-action, or didn't have a light-hearted moment or character in there, this would just be wrist-cuttingly depressing.

The second way it succeeds is in showing how little the citizens of Tokyo actually care about each other, and how rare it is when they actually do. The crux of this claim lies in a background scene where a couple gets hit by a car and nobody, not even our main characters, seem to care. When our protagonists find the McGuffin Baby, they too don't seem to show much interest and are eager to get rid of it as soon as possible. Throughout the entire movie, every Japanese person that encounters our homeless trio is either completely apathetic, disdainful or, in one case, outright violent. The only truly kind person in the movie aside from our protagonists is foreign. There's a reason that "Tokyo" is in the title. In a city like this, wouldn't everyone treat things like suicides, abandoned babies and homeslessness as nothing serious? Follow-up question: Isn't that the world that we live in already?

Take a look at this image, where a ubiquitous mass of drab, sickly-looking Tokyo citizens wait around under the gaze of a carbon-copied, youthful ideal. These people are miserable, unconcerned with each other, and falling well below society's expectation of them.

Our protagonists subvert what Tokyo has turned everyone into by putting forth such care into watching this baby and trying to find its family. This lack of concern in one's fellow man is what our protagonists are really fighting against, and it shows in the final scene of the movie: The baby's parents are talking to a police officer and requesting to meet the people that brought their child back to them. The police officer responds that they're actually quite homeless and the couple replies, "Who cares?" Well, everyone in Tokyo cared actually. Nobody took the time to worry about these homeless people until they, in the worst of positions, took the time to care about someone else.

Christ, 700 words already?

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