Anime Abandon: Tokyo Godfathers

An anime film about Christmas that’s NOT a punch to the brain?! This IS a Christmas miracle!

About Bennett the Sage

Bennett "The Sage" White has opinions, and you have ears. Let him put those opinions in your ears.

92 comments

  1. I'mVeryAngryIt'sNotButter

    It’s hard to be hyped up for next week’s review when you don’t even show us what it is.

  2. It’s always seemed to me that subtitled films are something you basically have to learn how to watch. If you watch subtitled films frequently, you can easily answer all the questions that you posed about that clip in the video, because youv’e trained yourself in how to do that. In a way, after a period you stop actually “reading” the subtitles. You kind of just… absorb them. I’m not just speaking in terms of anime, for the record, but any subtitled media. It really is a skill you have to learn. It’s a completely different way of both watching films and reading.

    And so it’s completely and 100% understandable that a lot of people have no desire to learn how to do it, because seriously, if there is a dub, why bother.

    • True that.
      Here in Mexico where a lot of movies are realeased in English with subtitles, we are all accoustemed to “absorb” the subtitles, like you put it. This subtitle problem is something mostly USA has, and maybe Australia and the UK.

      • I never really had to learn to ‘absorb’, maybe it’s because the few French lessons I had at school, the teacher would just stick a film on with subtitles – I was the only person paying attention. I find if you are enjoying watching something, your brain just automatically adjusts – It shouldn’t really take you more than 20 minutes to become accustomed to subtitles.

        Btw, I am from the UK – the only people I know who refuse subs, are some of my older relatives who are just very stubborn!

        • Similar to me. I was used to watching subbed films and cartoons pretty much since I learned to read so I never had any problem of following the flow of the movie.

          • I watch so much foreign stuff (not just anime but various other genres) that reading the subs comes second nature to me. Plus a lot of languages actually sound pleasing to the ear, at least to me.

    • While as a german i actually would have a wide array of dubbed anime i still chose to go with subs and learned how to “absorb”.
      At first because i wanted to see what the difference is, later on in many cases, because i couldn’t stand the dubbed voices.

      But yes, watching an anime, or anything else, with subs is a skill you have to learn.

      • Same here in Luxembourg. J have access to German, French and English dubs, but i prefer subs.
        With some exceptions due to nostalgia (Some French dubs) or because the dub is really good (Like the excellent German dub of Detective Conan). Never really liked English anime dubs, somehow.

        Interestingly, i associate French dubs\subs more with Anime than German\English one. I just seems to feel right. Same goes for translated Manga.

        • Ok Lou H. Wolfskin, Englerp. Would you kindly list me a few German Dubbed Anime?…. I’m from Poland & haven’t had the opportunity to be touch with German for years & I’d love to watch more stuff in German so the language won’t wade out for me from lack of any kind of interaction with it.. Please? BTW I saw Hellsing, Digimon, X & Agent Aika in German (which had a dubb far superior to the English one )

          • Most of the stuff i watched dubbed in German, i watched on TV, so i don’t know that many dubs of OVAs and movies, though the German dubs of the Miyazaki films are not bad.
            Concerning shows: The German Detective Conan dub iis really good one of the few cases where i prefer the German to the French dub (Which was rather lackluster imho). I also quite liked the Cat’s Eye dub. DBZ was solid afair.
            I have to say, i’m a bit out of touch though.

          • That is pretty easy, follwing animes got dubbed in Germany:
            Pokemon
            InuYasha (interesting the dubs of the movies keep Japanese honorics like -same and -chan and even use words like oni and yokai while the show ignores the honorics and just uses demon)
            Sailor Moon
            Kickers
            DoReMi
            Jeanne, die Kamikaze Diebin
            One Piece
            Taro Alien
            Flint Hammerhead
            Detektiv Conan
            Das Dschungelbuch
            Power Stone
            Wedding Peach
            Yu-Gi-Oh!
            Blue Dragon
            Inazuma Eleven
            Pretty Cure
            Monster Rancher
            Beyblade
            Duel Masters
            Dragon Ball and its following series
            Elfenlief
            Lady Oscar
            Heidi
            Ranma
            Kimba
            Mila Superstar
            Pom Poko
            Chihiro’s Reise ins Zauberland
            Ponyo
            Das wandelnde Schloss
            Devil May Cry
            Akira
            Ghost in the Shell
            Perfect Blue
            Prinzessin Mononoke
            Speed Racer
            Captain Future
            Pinnochio
            and the list goes on and on, it is too much.
            Interestingly some aimes were coproductions like Biene Maja and Wickie und die starken Männer
            You can look them up here:
            http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Anime-Titel

    • I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve always been a fairly fast reader and when I started watching subbed anime I got faster. I can usually read the subs fast enough to be able to see everything that’s going on in the scene, only rarely having to rewind.

    • thank for understanding, honestly some people just don’t care to adjust to reading subs

    • I agree completely. Sage your opinion is all about people that are not use to watch subtitles movies/amine. You come from an english speaking country. For the rest of the world the movies/anime you have seen and the majority of games people have played in english did this with subtiltes. Its all about habbit. If you get use to seen subtitles content is amazingly easy to follow it and answer all of your questions.

      • It still feels like busy work, looking down at subtitles and then looking back up to the action possibly missing small little details that could have happened on the scene.
        I wanted to speak Japanese at one point so I dont have to read.. But since I am a lazy piece of shit I cant be bothered.
        So I mostly avoid subbed anime unless I REALLY like it.

    • entirely correct. i watch subbed anime, i have trained myself to absorb the subtitles but i’ve also picked up some of the basics of japanese to make that easier. nothing major, hello, goodbye, good day. the stuff anyone could pick up. its just a matter of patience and dedication to your love of the media in question in my opinion. i ADORE anime so its no chore to have to learn a new way of watching something. it also helped me in my own french classes when my teacher would put on the movies

    • Agreed. It is something you do have to teach yourself to do. My attitude towards dubs is that, provided the people doing the dubbing make a genuine attempt to do a good job and don’t just shit all over it to get a product out and on the market as quickly and profitably as possible, there’s not really a problem with it. Because some people are just casual watchers and don’t want to get as involved in every aspect of the film. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, because everybody watches movies in different ways for different reasons.
      But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dive into the culture of the film, to understand it on every level I could. To that end, I not only taught myself how to watch a subtitled film in a way that I can absorb it, but actually took several years of a language course to learn to speak Japanese (I’m not fluent at all; in fact, I can barely speak it, but I can listen to the language quite efficiently and that’s all I really wanted). Knowing what I know about Japanese (both the language and the culture), watching the subtitles adds layers to the film that go completely by you watching the dub. In short, I’m a hardcore watcher. I rarely watch TV, but when I do, I’m not just watching it for something to distract myself from my miserable life, or just to entertain myself. I immerse myself in the experience and watching the sub is a part of that for me. It’s not the only way to enjoy anime, but it’s the only way I personally enjoy anime.

    • I know exactly how you feel. I watch some French period pieces in sub sometimes (mostly Count of Monte Cristo with Gerard Depardieu) and after a bit, I don’t even ‘hear’ the French, I certainly don’t know more than a few words, but I read fast enough that I can interpret the speech like English. Same when I watch subbed anime.

      The only reason I prefer dubbed is that I like to multitask, in which I play video games or draw while watching….which I cannot do with subs since I need to read the speech. XD

  3. I guess the last name White doesn’t joke around, and of course he deserves dubbed over subbed.

    I’m a white Italian, and i enjoy subs more than dubs when it comes to a majority of animes.

    As for Tokyo Godfathers, i’ve watched it a couple times, i got it on my computer and it’s one of those films that is just simply good for this time of the year.

    Much like Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

  4. I have a copy Tokyo Godfathers dubbed….in spanish.
    I was walking down a Waltmart and found it.

  5. Thank you so much for reviewing this brilliant Christmas special. It was the Nostalgia Critic who introduced me to Tokyo Godfathers in his Overlooked Christmas Specials. I quickly went out to find a copy and yes was blown away by both the animation, the story filled to the brim with miracles and the display of humanity in all of us..(save for those punk kids who beat on homeless people). I prefer subtitles and with time it’s a viewing you adapt to. Like American Sign Language that uses hand symbols but your eyes must concentrate on the signer’s facial expression. Listening to the script in Japanese also introduces you to the sound of the culture as well…where anime is a medium like film, television and literature and not just for kids. Hearing the joy and sorrow of these characters’ voices is at times impossible for English voice actors to recreate. I do however appreciate your reasoning for preferring dubbing to subtitling (which I liked better than than “Japanese womens’ high pitched voices drive you nuts” rationale ). Happy Holidays!

  6. I actually stumbled across this one at my local library. I remember it being good but I’ve forgotten so much about it I think I’m due for a rewatch.

    I have no real idea what the next one is but your reaction makes me think it’s Love Hina related lol.

  7. The only way that ending could have been funnier is if the package was hand-delivered by Spoony, Doug, or JesuOtaku.

  8. that ending music…..I think……can it be?

  9. Just finished Tokyo Godfathers! I was expecting it to be bittersweet, but it was so darn heartwarming! XD

  10. Tokyo Godfathers is friggin awesome! Fantastic remake of 3 Godfathers that is actually better than the original and that movie was great 🙂

  11. As you mentioned about the whole dub and sub thing you cant really judge the perfromance fully if you dont know the language itself. This also bugs me about dub haters who say they put no emotion in dubs but say subs do when themselves dont speak the language or know the language.

  12. I’m realy surprised to know that this movie isn’t dub in english. I was curious to know how they sound.

  13. I personally prefer dubs. I feel I absorb more from a series when I hear what is going on. As someone who does get sensory overload, dub makes it easier to focus. I also like to have a show playing while I draw in Photoshop, however doing this with sub shows is very very difficult.

    I know some people are purely subs. I do understand why people would prefer the Japanese voice cast over something that sounds like it was recorded in someone’s basement…however some sub purest seem to overreact to the whole thing. Disney has a great voice cast when it comes to dubbing the Miyazaki films but I ran across people who won’t even attempt to watch the English version of the films. What bugs me even more are those who watch shows like Power Puff Girls or My Little Pony in Japanese with subs and say things like “it is so much better.”

  14. So based on that bit at the end where you can’t figure out why its set in Christmas, I guess you missed the point (which was pointed out a lot less subtlety in the clip you showed your friends) that the three bums are “Magi” and the abandoned baby is “Jesus.”

    Its a lot harder to have a Magi/Baby Jesus-esque story if you set it in the summer. I know its not a retelling or anything of the like, but its pretty clear that those are the characters.

    • Heh, you made the point I was going to make as to why this is a Christmas-exclusive movie! Sure, the timeline is cut off before Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas, when the Magi presented their gifts to the infant Jesus), but taking it to New Years (which is the Octave of Christmas, and the celebration of Mary as Mother) makes sense within the story being told, wherein the focus is on rebirth/renewal and connection. While I hesitate to ascribe Christian eschatology to the director and writer, it seems like the parties involved knew more about what was involved in the Christmas holiday than the general Japanese populace, and made free use of the symbolism and mythology (emphasizing more of the Japanese secular uses thereof).

      I say this as someone who’s lived in Japan and who has both Japanese Catholic and Buddhist relatives. 😀

  15. Tokyo Godfathers, looks like a fine flick to watch around the holidays. Now to wait until we find out what in the name of all that’s sacred Mark sent you. WHAT IS IT? WHAT IN THE NAME OF HELL IS THAT THING?! Is it a Yaoi, a Shonen, a other copy of Violence Jack, Evangelion 1.11, a copy of the Love Hina series? WHAT IS IT?! Can’t wait until next time. MERRY CHRISTMAS LUNCHBOX!

  16. Translation explanation time:
    The insult that sets Hana off is “kusojiji”, which literally means “shitty old man”
    She mentions she wants to be called “kusobaba,” which means “shitty old woman”
    …or actually she doesn’t care what she’s called as long as she’s not called anything masculine.

    This Japanese lesson brought to you by someone who has spent waaaay to much time studying it.

  17. I’m going to be disappointed if it’s not Boku no Pico.

  18. I was introduced to “Tokyo Godfathers” from Suede when he talked about it one Christmas, and when I watched it, I fell in love. It was my first time being exposed to Satoshi Kon, which was probably a good way to get into his works since I wasn’t yet used to getting mindscrewed. Thus far, “Tokyo Godfathers” is the only Satoshi Kon movie I own mainly because I just haven’t run into the other films yet (I’m still kicking myself for not snatching “Paranoia Agent” when I saw it mainly because I didn’t have the money). And since you explained why it is his films are different from other Japanese anime in terms of feel and cinematography, it totally makes a lot of sense now why it is everything of his are easy to get into and why they felt so natural to me while still being of Japanese origin. Considering that “Tokyo Godfathers” is basically based off of the silent film “The Three Godfathers”, it’s more obvious where his influences came from. I’ll have to go through my copy of “Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist” again and see if him being influenced from Western films is ever mentioned.

    I agree with the subs issue. I’ve only been reading subtitles on a regular basis for… three, almost four years now, and while I am a quick reader, and I have managed to catch on to some Japanese phrases that I can look up at the animation/look away from the screen and still understand what they’re saying, but depending on the show, sometimes I just forget what they were saying because I’m too busy looking at what’s going on, or it just bores me so I kinda “space out” for a few seconds. Or it could be because I’m just taking too much information in in a twenty-minute-or-so run-time, so I just can’t process it all fast enough. In a way, I am soaking things in, though I’ve managed to read and understand what’s being said when it comes to other anime. So it varies for me, personally, but it did take a good amount of anime for me to get into the groove. Still, I can go back and forth between subs and dubs when available, and unless the dub’s really bad and/or distracting (it can be either English or Japanese), I usually don’t complain or let it bother me.

    Next week’s review must be really bad if we don’t get to see what it is. I’ll cast the same vote as another in the comments and guess it’s InuYasha, though I don’t know how that would relate to Christmas…

  19. I didn’t start watching anime subbed until six months before I moved to Japan to work. (I ended up there for six years.) And it wasn’t a great immersion technique to learn much Japanese, since the register of speech people use isn’t very realistic. But after I was there, I kept buying R1 DVDs and kept watching subs as well as dubs, to see how the translation worked, and I got used to it. My Japanese isn’t great, but anyway, there were times when I didn’t need subtitles to figure out the gist. And yes, it is a modest distraction from the visuals of the original, though the ability to see the whole screen does get better over time. But there’s nothing wrong with watching a dub. And the rules of pitch determining character traits is surprisingly hard, with not a ton of deviation. Men with high voices are either effeminate or ultimate badasses despite not coming across as such, or hide their power. Men with low voices tend to be authority figures. Women with low pitched voices are rough and physical, and direct, whereas women with high pitched voices are young, usually polite (unless they’re motormouths), and ineffective physically. Teens… well, it gets a bit complicated, but the same rules are usually true.

    It’s irritating how typecast voices with specific pitches are. Most American dubs don’t follow that pattern exactly, because Western audiences don’t have the same rules as that, and it’s a good thing. This particular rule of anime is, well… dumb.

    Great review, and I’ll have to track this one down.

  20. Also, scanning (the skill related to reading,) is definitely relevant. If you can read 400 wpm, subs aren’t that big a deal.

  21. If you watch your entertainment in its original language, and understand what’s happening. Give me a Hell Yeah!

  22. I’m going to mirror some other comments. I have been watching subs since I was very young, not only that, but I have been reading books since I was small too. I read subtitles faster than they speak their dialogue, so then I simply am able to watch the background and foreground. I answered all the questions correct that you asked in your video.

  23. I life in germany, and always watch german dubs except if they are so terrible that it makes you wanna smash your head against a wall 30 times in a row, in that case I prefer subs.
    Considering the average qulity of german anime subs that means I virtually only watch subs as almost all anime get horrible localisation.

    Anyway if you are used to subs you get better at getting the whole picture, and in good anime I tend to repeat a scene after reading the subs and watch it again. somestimes more than once (well so do I with dubs).

  24. One tip to make subs easier… don’t sit too close if you’re watching on a computer monitor. If you sit just a little further back than what you’re normally used to (whatever that distance is), your eyes will be better trained to take in more of the whole image rather than looking from one part of the screen to another.

    No matter what, getting good at taking in everything with subs is still something to practice with.

    That said, I completely understand the issues in regards to the editing process for the videos.

  25. I prefer subs to dubs, simply because I like the sound of the Japanese language.

  26. This is easily my favourite Christmas movie, and I’m so glad to see it finally getting more exposure. It’s a hugely-fun, yet still dramatic, Christmas romp that everyone should watch at least once.

  27. This is the best christmas/new years anime of all time, and one of the great all-around anime classics AND holiday movies in general! It is sooooooooooooooo good!

    I’m glad that both Doug and Sage give it some well deserved attention!

  28. Reading subtitles depends largely on the device you are watching the work on.Back in the day when I was still watching tv,I had no problem with subbed works.But now that I watch everything on a computer,with a big ass monitor that is just about 1m from my eyes,its much harder for me to focus on the the action and still comprehend more than 50% of the text.I have to focus either on reading or on whats happening on the screen.

  29. What about Hourou Musuko / Wandering Son? Yes it’s a anime series instead of a movie like Tokyo Godfather but it’s probably the one series that mentions transgenderism the most of all anime because the main characters are transgender people and it is the main subject of the series!!

  30. What I think is very important to address is that while even though the specific person in this movie is a transgender person – a guy dressing up in the same way a female does doesn’t always mean they want to BE a girl. Sometimes, a guy just wants to be allowed to be effeminate and androgynous. And this is an issue never ever tackled in any movies or shows from my experience.

    Also, for the record – I haven’t seen this movie, but I could follow that scene with subtitles perfectly fine. Then again, I’m used to subtitled movies. It’s a thing you learn to get used to. But I also understand why you don’t want to have to go through all that trouble, since it DOES take a lot of time.

    • Nah, in this case, Hana states (in the subs) “I’m a mistake made by God!” and something about wanting to be a woman. Unfortunately in Japan’s case, the term “okama” is used to lump both a gay, or effeminate, or trans person all into one label. Nowadays there’s more distinction between trans and gay in anime, which is nice, but it’s still a common stereotype that gets bandied around.

      • Well… see? That’s the issue I have here. And it’s downright horrible that a effeminate androgynous guy should have to view themselves as a “mistake made by God”. It’s especially baffling since animes are very well known for having effeminate androgynous males in them all the time.

        • Japan has a strange relationship regarding homosexuality.

          Long time ago, the Japanese were very much like the Greeks. A lot of the feudal lords would take in male lovers (younger boys), and it was pretty much a thing in the temples.

          The Kabuki theaters used to be all female cast, but started hiring boys and men when there were cases of the female actors supposedly prostituting themselves. They then realized that more of the prostitutes were the male actors.

          Supposedly the idea of homophobia came when the European countries started making their way into Japan. And now Japan has a stressed relationship with, frankly, non cisgender and hetero issues. They’re slowly making progress (gay people can have ceremonies, but apparently not legal benefits *shrugs* Weird, I know.).

        • Also, we should also realize that the ideal Japanese man is DIFFERENT from a European/American one.

          Japan has an entirely different body type, so it’s very uncommon to find a guy ripping with muscles (AHnold, Stallone, WWE wrestling, etc). Japanese men have more slender body types, and so anime portrays them as slender. Some may even say androgynous.

          Heck, if you look at Bara (gay manga made by gay men FOR gay men), it is often shown that overly muscular men would be the SUBMISSIVE ones.

          meanwhile yaoi is made by women for women. Women are told to be abstinith, just like Americans. Yaoi is their way to insert themselves in a sexual relationship without the whole shaming thing. The “uke”/submissive is supposed to be the self insert girl.

          Also, girls dig pretty boys.

        • Uh, while I agree with you that androgyny should be more widely accepted, my point was that Hana specifically wants to be female. Not androgynous or effeminate. Just straight up female.

          One more point I’d like to make about androgyny in anime. Out of all the series I’ve watched (and I tend to watch newer anime, as opposed to older ones), androgynous males only LOOK androgynous. They never ACT it. Effeminate gestures and/or language (mixing the pronouns women tend to use in Japan with the pronouns men use) are typically used to code or outright mark characters as being gay, which in most interpretations means that they are typcially also trans. Effeminate actions and transgender issues are usually played up for laughs to boot, which just makes it worse.

        • Well, Hana is a christian. She may not straight up hate herself, but she probably did internalise things like “transgendered people are mistakes of God” or the like.

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