Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review | Movie | Tokyo Godfathers

TOKYO GODFATHERS : While dumpster diving in Tokyo, three homeless people,
ex-cyclist Gin, transvestite Hana, and teenage runaway Miyuki, discover an
abandoned newborn baby. Hana is convinced it is a Christmas miracle, as she has
always wanted to be a mother, but could never be because she was born male.
Finally, Gin and Miyuki convince Hana that the child must be turned in, and Hana
concludes that, with their help, she will locate the baby's mother and find
out why she abandoned her child.

After becoming enthralled with anime masterpiece Millennium Actress, I decided to look into other Satoshi Kon creations, and happened upon Tokyo Godfathers. Though the simple storyline didn't quite capture me at first, Kon has once again amazed me with another incredible film.

The overall plot is a very simple one at that: Three homeless people find an abandoned baby and plot to turn it in. Adding onto the details, these homeless people have rather interesting backgrounds: Gin is a middle-aged alcoholic who worked as a professional cyclist in his youth, but thanks to "a get-rich-quick scheme" from a rival, he lost a race that would fund bills for his critically-ill daughter, who consequentially died, his wife following soon after. Next in line is Hana, a transvestite who worked as a performer at a gay bar, but fled after attacking a drunk customer for calling her an "old fart". The last, and perhaps the most mysterious of the quirky group, is Miyuki, a teenager afraid to return home. The details of why she is afraid to return are unclear at first, though before the spoilers come in, we do manage to collect that she stabbed her own father when her cat went missing, implying that Miyuki suspected her father got rid of her beloved cat Angel. Her father being a policeman, Miyuki fled out of shame, and possibly to escape severe punishment. The wacky threesome are a comedy troupe all on their own, and it doesn't take long for us to start laughing at their perks.

Being homeless, they make their livings through selling objects they find in the trash, and one night, as Christmas approaches, they stumble upon a newborn baby girl, wrapped in blankets and a key in its person, laying amongst the trash. Hana, overcome with delusions of being a mother, is thrilled, and calls it a "Christmas miracle", that God has brought her a child. Miyuki and Gin, however, try to convince Hana that the child does not belong to her and that it should be turned into the police, in which Hana revolts, telling them that if the mother wanted the child, she would not have abandoned in. After much pressure from Miyuki and Gin, Hana does at last come to terms with the fact that the baby needs its real mother, and decides that instead of merely turning the baby into the police, she will find the baby's mother on her own, so she can ask the mother face-to-face why she abandoned her baby. Using information found in a locker opened with the baby's key, the three set out across Tokyo searching for the parents of "Kiyoko" (a name Hana gave to the child), encountering many hilarious obstacles along the way.

I was extremely impressed at how much comedy and overall enjoyment could come out of such a simple storyline. I was hooked from the minute Hana took up Kiyoko, which is clearly not an unusual side effect from picking up a Satoshi Kon film. Hana is a blast to watch in the film for dishing out the humor at the perfect moments, though all-in-all they are truly The Three Stooges: Individually, they're funny, but together, they're hilarious, and together they make each other shine their brightest.

This film holds a PG-13 rating for "thematic elements, violent images, language and some sexual material", and the sexual material is probably derived from the slight nudity in the film (though this nudity is not depicted sexually.) We see a woman breastfeeding two children (breasts are obvious) and a woman attempts to breastfeed a child but the child does not (the woman's breast and nipple are evident, and furthermore taking up most of the screen.) A transvestite male asks another if his boyfriend died from AIDS. Characters curse throughout the movie, and a transvestite male is called several derogatory names (queer, homo, fa**ot, etc.) We hear a girl stabbed her father, and a woman attempts to commit suicide twice (once while holding a baby), and two homeless men are beaten up by a group of younger men. A man is shot (we later hear he survived) and the shooter hostages a teenage girl and a baby to get away.

Tokyo Godfathers is inches from being slapstick in its comedy, and is a complete pleasure to watch from beginning to end. Anyone who enjoyed Kon's amazing Millennium Actress will not want to miss out on Tokyo Godfathers. I'll definitely be adding this DVD to my collection, and you may very well decide to add it to yours.

Overall Rating:
/ 5

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Preview | Anime | Heart no Kuni no Alice

Heart No Kuni No Alice is a retelling of Lewis
Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, adapted from the game of the same
Unfortunately, this anime has been indefinitely delayed as of November 2008, so there is no word yet on its release. Even its MyAnimeList page is barren with no official word on its airing. We'll be sure to keep you posted once things are official.


Review | Anime | Shigofumi

SHIGOFUMI : Fumika and her talking staff Kanaka work shifts in Japan delivering
Shigofumis, posthumous letters from the dead, to loved ones left behind.
However, there is mystery behind Fumika: Unlike other Shigofumi mail carriers,
she ages with time, meaning that even though she is not living, she is
not dead either. Who exactly is Fumika?

Shigofumi is one of those animes I stumble upon completely accidentally while exploring the darkest corners of MyAnimeList, and is also one of those that I'm not really sure how to review exactly, so I'll do my best. While it was not a bad anime, it was actually quite good, I'm not really writhing on the floor from its illumination either.

We begin the story with a simple idea: A mail carrier from a different world delivers letters from those who have died as last words to those who are still living. It could be perhaps a thank-you for being a kind person, or a curse for being a terrible person. Delivering these letters will be a girl in a mail carrier's uniform - in our case, Fumika - that plays no part except to deliver the letters. Whether the letter is read, thrown away, or forgotten, is not the mail carrier's decision or concern. So how will humans react from a letter out of nowhere written by a dead loved one or acquaintance? Sounds like an interesting story up ahead.

Then again, there are only 12 episodes and an OVA. It takes a talented writer to fit a storyline, character profiles, and proper pace into 12-13 episodes. In the end, we're a little bit starved of Shigofumi deliveries, as we find out once we begin the show that the show isn't centered around the delivery of the Shigofumis at all; Actually, the Shigofumis are a bit of a side note. The actual center of the story is the mystery of Fumika and how she is able to age as time passes, despite Shigofumi mail carriers being dead. So for 12 episodes and an OVA, we're just following Fumika's life and job, rather than watching a show about Shigofumis. The actual Shigofumis are the stars of the show only for the first few episodes, before Kaname Nojima, a random high school student, suddenly recognizes Fumika from her old life. After that, it's entirely Fumika's playing ground, and the show title technically goes from being "Shigofumi" to "Fumika And Why She Exists".

Despite the composition being rather poor in that context, the show itself was very good. The show's theme song has a very steampunk aura to it, which on its own is fun and jumpy to listen to. The anime, however, has a dark and deathly feeling to it, so don't let them theme song fool you.

I don't think children would enjoy this show very much simply because of how complex and foggy it can be at times, but I'd definitely look into it first. Sihgofumis are messages from the dead, and the dead certainly don't cease to appear. Several characters, mostly high school students, commit suicide (one is shown jumping from a roof) and one character is stabbed and buried; his assailant is later shown stabbing the ground, implying he is buried underneath and his killer is compressing the body. We learn that a man makes money by forcing his middle/high school daughter to pose nude for pornographers, in one scene we see this taking place; the girl is obviously insecure and frightened as she poses on a bed surrounded by photographers who viciously snap pictures of her (no private regions are ever shown). We later hear the father intends to force his elementary school daughter to pose as well, but he is stopped before he carries this out. There are several cases throughout the series of child abuse; in one case, a child is nude with only a sheet covering her as her father paints slander onto her body (he is directing anger towards his ex-wife for leaving him). The paintbrush the father uses is made entirely of glass, and it is implied that at some points during his fits of rage he painted too hard and the glass cut into her skin. A Shigofumi mail carrier taunts another mail carrier by calling her "flat", and the latter adds that she will someday have "a nice body" because she is able to age. We hear two cases where an abused child attacks their father, and in one of the cases, the father dies.

Overall, this is a pretty good anime as far as constant death and mystery, but if you just want to watch for the Shigofumis, you may be slightly disappointed. In the end, I recommend this anime only for the mystery, not for the Shigofumis.

Overall Rating:
/ 5


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