Tokyo Godfathers: Parental Perception

by Aaron H. Bynum

The role of a parent is apparently quite complicated. The value a parent can possess is oft overlooked due to a child's perceptible inability to comprehend social evolution. But even as the aforesaid concept may be true, such an idea relies on the fact that the parental role is habitually taken for granted by the parent and the child. I find that "Parent" is a title representative of, more or less, a mature figure, wise in the ways of the world as the results of personal experience. Additionally, the anime feature film Tokyo Godfathers expresses many themes, but through the thoughts and words of the primary cast of characters, we find an unabashed scrutiny of one's awareness (or the lack thereof) of parental wisdom.

The emotional distress one feels when abandoned often results from a combination of loneliness and fear. There are times when one feels without hope and self-worth due to the fact that a person quite close to them has abandoned them. Tokyo Godfathers is an anime film that takes this analysis and switches it around on most accounts. Instead of understanding what it feels like to be abandoned, the movie primarily focuses on the sentiments of the individuals actually in the position of one who may abandon others. I know that in movies the concept of abandonment is at times overused; however, within only a few character dialogues of Satoshi Kon's film viewers are able to observe a distressful situation from an alternate perspective.

The story of three homeless individuals who find a baby in the trash one night is an interesting perspective into the way that human relationships work. A group of three people, reluctantly repentant to each buried past: Gin, an older man whose best skills include drinking and gambling; Hana, an overly emotional homosexual male; and Kiyuki, a teenage runaway girl. Tokyo Godfathers continues as the trio discovers an abandoned baby in the trash one winter night, a moment's notice that things are about to get a little hectic in terms of decision-making.

The character Gin, neither a middle-aged man nor a near cadaver, at one point in the film points out an untold truth of parenthood. Upon watching a baby in its angelic slumber, he confesses, "I was married once... You never forget for one second. A child's the only thing you hold dearer than life itself." This being told to Hana --who cannot bear children for obvious reasons-- brings to light a very real personal struggle. It is at times due to the value that parents have for the life of a child that they may be driven to split their emotional awareness from oneself, as well as other aspects of life, such as various social obligations (work, school, hobbies), a significant other, and even another child. The resulted division of attention --albeit undoubtedly hazardous-- can come as a result of the parent's realization that he or she is responsible for the entire life of another person.

The only thing that can negate such a phenomenon would be if the parent steals away to a frame of mind free of responsibility and worry, a fairly tempting trap. As a man with neither family nor home, Gin is one such individual who has fallen prey to false inspiration (in his case, drinking and gambling habits). With a generally apathetic perspective of life in its entirety, he no longer expected good things to occur, and felt a little bit of satisfaction in understanding his irreversible sorrow as well as that of others. The emotional torment he now feels, however, results from his lack of repentance, a state of mind and soul that is far worse than that which he had initially wished for.

In addition to responsibility as a defining element of the soul of the parent, therein also lies self-assurance. Other than keeping the well being of a loved one intact, parents must manage their own integrity as well. I find that with the absence of confidence there can also exist the absence of purpose, and with the absence of purpose, vulnerability arises. The character Hana feels obliged to parent the abandoned baby found in the trash on Christmas Eve, feeling a need to protect and shelter the innocent. Although using a slightly different set of 'maternal instincts' than we are familiar with, Hana's understanding of child abandonment is founded upon the reasoning that even when overwhelmed, and even when panicked, a good conscious should always prevail. "Nothing should make you abandon a child!" Hana notes. "That means you've taken love and tossed it away, like trash." In the context of this quote, we have two implications: one being that self-pity and poor morale only fuels indecisiveness and that self-assurance aids humility. In response to a question from Gin on what to do next with an abandoned child, Hana states, "Find her mother. And ask why she abandoned her baby. If she can make me understand... I'll forgive her, and my mother too."

It is because of a lack of strength and hope within oneself and perhaps a lack of support from others that the role of the Parent has become understandably more difficult over the years. Moral degradation spawns social difficulties in ways unimaginable; examples include destructive personal relationships, poor time management, being ostracized from a community, and perhaps child abandonment. Therefore, in order to maintain a cohesive relationship with others and in order to continually increase morale, the Parent must endure the never-ending search for ethical reassurance and emotional strength.

Not to say that within Tokyo Godfathers individuals collectively risk sanity for degradation (apathy, indifference, etc.) on any given day at any given moment, but only to clarify that one's stability (moral and ethical, emotional, physical, etc.) is jeopardized when there is a potential imbalance concerning moral depth and emotional awareness.

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