The phrase in the title came from one of the three homeless characters when they found a baby in the trash, but it also applies to anime fans and this film. There are not many cases in this genre in which you can watch a story that has the effect this one has on the feelings of the viewer. I do not pretend to be an expert on anime, far from it, but the only anime production that had a similar effect on me was "Grave of the Fireflies". Just the mere fact that "Tokyo Godfathers" can be put in the same echelon as that masterpiece should be telling.
When an unlikely trio of homeless people finds a very special Christmas present, their world is shook in ways in they do not think possible. Thus, a bitter old man, an ex-drag queen and a teenager with a grudge towards her family embark in a quest to find the parents of the beautiful baby girl they found in the trash. The story starts out slow, but it gradually draws you into it, until you are hopelessly hooked. Little by little we come to understand the facts that led the three characters to their current situation and we are mesmerized by their search, which leads them to interact with an array of characters that range from desperate to happy to be alive.
I particularly enjoyed the graphics of this movie, but you need to understand that these differ from the common benchmark for the genre. In the film we get drawings with a good amount of detail in the main characters and in the background when it is close-up. But the general background and people that are not as relevant to the story are drawn with a lot less details. I interpreted this as a way to highlight what is important, but different people will have different interpretations for its purpose. Another aspect that surprised me is how good the tone of the voice of the different characters blended with the mood. I have seen many anime films in which the voices of the characters are a monotonous high-strung dialogue, and this one is not like that at all.
This is a movie that portrays the worst and best in human nature, and many layers in between. Therefore, there are portions that are heart-wrenching and others that are uplifting. It definitely has all the components of a great dramatic story. There is even humor sprinkled throughout the story, helping alleviate the mood at times, but not detracting from the seriousness of the plot. Simply put, this is a masterpiece that you cannot miss.