Of all the anime we saw yesterday evening, my own favourite is Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers. I love it for its characters, its breathtakingly cheeky coincidence-laden plot, and above all for its portrait of a Tokyo rarely depicted in anime – the Tokyo of unglamorous streets and cheap rooms, where living on the edge means queuing at soup kitchens and rummaging in rubbish heaps rather than fighting alien invaders and teenage angst. Tokyo Godfathers is a film for grown-ups, but one that acknowledges the confused, fearful, hopeful child’s heart hidden in every adult.
Satoshi Kon is a very clever director, but he never allows the themes and ideas of his films, and the games he plays, to become more important than the people in them. His characters are completely convincing. Even when they veer into conventional cartoon territory, limbs and faces stretching like rubber, voices shrieking upwards, they keep their basic humanity.
If we hadn’t seen Toyko Godfathers yesterday, I would have chosen Ryuji Masuda’s Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta: Mr. Stein of Trash Street (Garakutadori no Stain.) This is anime as Terry Gilliam might make it – low-budget, creator-controlled, but visually rich, with a wryly inventive script underpinning its wordless antics. Mr. Stain lives in a quiet side alley off the bustling city streets, and rummages through the trash that collects there. The treasures he finds always turn out to be two-edged swords.
He and his friend Palvan, the giant orange cat, are a pair of innocents abroad, experiencing that busy, confusing world outside through found objects that promise much but usually deliver something unexpected. The episodes are short, around seven minutes, but each is a perfect little parable, again aimed at the child in all of us, and each one ends on a note of optimism, with the credits rolling over a party where everyone involved in that day’s adventure lets their hair, fur or feathers down and looks forward to another day.
Both titles have been released in the USA. Tokyo Godfathers is also available in the UK. The FUNimation DVD release of Ga-Ra-Ku-Ta isn’t easy to find, but you can track down the series online. The DVD has some good extras, including interviews with director/writer Masuda, producer Shunsuke Koga and CGI director Daisuke Suzuki and a clutch of CGI shorts.
So what was your favourite clip from yesterday’s class?