The Art of Tokyo Godfathers – Satoshi Kon

Posted By yonghow on July 8th, 2009

Having visited the Art of Millenium Actress in a previous post, let us now take a look at the art behind Satoshi Kon’s next film – the hilarious and heartwarming “Tokyo Godfathers” – a big favourite amongst many of the director’s fans.

The story of Tokyo Godfathers (loosely based on John Ford’s Western “3 Godfathers”) follow a trio of homeless people who become unlikely surrogates to an abandoned infant they discovered on Christmas Eve, and their subsequent adventures/misadventures as they go in search of the baby’s mother. From start till end, the film is a relentless assault on the eyes of the viewer – scene after scene of astounding, gorgeously rendered background art, an artistic celebration of the hulking metropolis that is Tokyo.

(above, middle panel) The Tokyo Metropolitan Building, one of Shinjuku’s most famous landmarks – fans of Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor II will no doubt recognize it too. ( the other prominent skyscraper in Shinjuku is the NTT Docomo Building.)
In creating the background plates for the film, the artists wanted to show not just the glittery and brightly illuminated streets that we’ve come to associate Tokyo (especially Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area ) with, but also the underside of the city – “because it is only by standing in the dark shadows of a back alley and gazing out that the city’s true form and brillant colors are truly revealed, and its intensity amplified.”

(above) Many background plates in Godfathers were created using a technique called “Digital Harmony” – which blurs the line between the foreground cell objects and background elements, creating a more seamless mise-en-scene.

(above) Satoshi Kon talks about some select storyboards – the film’s entire storyboard sequence was drawn by the man himself. The complete storyboard collection is available as a book that comes bundled with the sumptuous Tokyo Godfathers dvd boxset. ( purchase links below )

(above) The Tokyo Godfathers “Angel Book”. ( purchase link below ) Now if only they published a dedicated background artbook !

(below) Pages from the Tokyo Godfathers movie pressbook – Read this older post on Japan’s beautiful movie pressbooks. The Whale sculpture below is a real playground you can find in Shinjuku’s Central Park, pretty close to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building.

I simply love the poster illustration above, painted by Satoshi Kon himself, I believe.

I feel like watching the film all over again after looking at these beautiful artwork ! For folks who have visited Tokyo before, were your initial impressions of the city (especially Shinjuku) anything like the artwork featured in this film ?

Tokyo Godfathers “Angel Book” Art Book Details :

– Dimensions – 7 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
– Softcover, 95 pages
– Full color / b & w, Japanese language

Tokyo Godfathers - Satoshi Kon art book
Buy From | Buy From Amazon CA | Buy From Amazon UK

Buy From | Buy From Amazon CA | Buy From Amazon UK

You might also be interested in these other films by the late (R.I.P) Satoshi Kon :


12 Responses to “The Art of Tokyo Godfathers – Satoshi Kon”


An other way to discover Tokyo 🙂


I first saw this film before I was really aware of Satoshi Kon. Reading this just makes me want to watch it again, about 4 years later after I last watched it. Now where did I put that DVD?

j. smalls

Nice! The pics remind me of the Tekkon Kinkreet art book. I bet you have an insane collection of books.

tragic comedy

I watched the film only after visiting tokyo…it did reaffirm my impression of the place though, especially in the way the underside of the city was expressed.


nice whale


When i go to tokyo last year i arrived at 8:30 pm, after leaving my laugagge in my room i definitively have to take a walk, with my two best friends, we walked to the corner of the street and suddenly the first thing we say was Tokyo Tower… XD

Remember catch on Tokyo Tower several times trough the film, even the tokyo in satoshi´s kon film is melancholic and in lot of ways have a “enclosed” feeling, also show a realistic tokyo with overpopulated places, quiet dark alleys and lights full of colors everywhere.

My favorite place, was odaiba bay, it means a lot to me.
And i was stounded while watching Palette Town Ferris Whell colors from the main observatory of Tokyo Tower. 🙂


As Expected, beautiful animation quality


Kiji – Agreed – watching anime can very often be a good way to discover sights in Tokyo.

TDD – I couldn’t resist and watched the show again shortly after posting this, fabulous as always ! :]

j. smalls – Haha, not really, just the ones that I really like.

tragic comedy – Yes indeed, the way the artists set about depicting the night scene of Tokyo is brilliant.

helen – I’ve yet to see it in person, soon perhaps !

rulascalaca – Odaiba huh…you have to check out my new post then haha !

Gunstray – From Satoshi Kon, we can expect no less ! :]


Looks like a really cool book. I wasnt that keen on millennium actress, but i loved Tokyo godfathers – particularly the background art, which seems to be documented in detail here.

Ill see if i can pick up a copy in october – im going to japan for a month then!


Oh man! You’re gotta be kiddin’ me. I’ve already collected my money for the fabulous Tekkon Kinkreet Artbooks (maybe one autographed..) and then you post THIS. Maaan, I need more money!

Anyway… wonderful piece of art.


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