2003, Satoshi Kon (Millenium Actress, Paranoia Agent) -- DVD
This is easily one of my favourite Xmas stories and definitely in my top 10 for all Anime.
I mentioned last year, its loosely based on 3 Godfathers, a western about 3 bank robbers who find a baby and take care of it, at their own expense. The anime movie (stand alone, no TV series) is about three homeless people who find a baby and via a handful of Christmas eve misadventures, return it to her mother, while being exposed to Xmas miracles. Or coincidences. You decide.
There is Gin, the classic bum, always drunk and smelly. He claims to have a tragic past involving dead children and thrown bicycle races but really, he's just a drunk with a gambling problem. Hana is a drag queen (and drama queen) and kind of obsessed with motherhood. She ended up in the streets after losing her partner and is generally a broken person. I say 'she' not to ascribe to the politics of trans folks, but because she spends the entire movie playing an overwrought mother desperate to take care of little Kiyoko. And then there is teen Miyuki. She's a brat living on the street because of some altercation with her father, a knife and a cat. She won't go home because she stabbed her father, over a cat. That cat came home shortly after, so there is probably an immense amount of shame there. All three work the streets together, squabbling and fighting over space in the box they share, setup in a central Tokyo park. All three end up basically playing godfather to this abandoned baby.
The eve and the following day is played out in so many layers There is the exposure of Tokyo and Christmas culture in Japan, as the three talk about trees and presents and good cheer for all mankind, but stop at a temple to pray surrounded by incense sticks. It takes place on an atypical, snowy night in Tokyo, the kind of night quickly collects on their hats and slows the walking down. And affects the subways and gets cars stuck, like that of the Yakuza oyabun who gets trapped under a car but is rescued by the trio. He takes them to the wedding of his daughter, where Gin recognizes the groom as someone who scammed him into a bad bet, and his current deep state of debt. And then a Spanish speaking gunman shoots up the wedding, taking the baby and Hana gives chase. Characters continue to cross into each other, all solidifying Hana's statement that Kiyoko is a gift from God, on this Christmas eve. Things go wrong but always end up well for the trio. She may be right. And each of them get to acknowledge and deal with their troubles, as only the connecting thread of the baby allows.
The movie is funny and sentimental and tragic and hopeful, as any Xmas movie should be. It is not what you would expect from anime but somehow, I don't see the movie as being as charming if it wasn't animated.