Dean Talks Anime: Christmas Anime I Have Known
A review/opinion by Christopher Kinsey
I seem to be one of those few nerdy folks that actually love the holidays. Even before I had a kid to delight with the greed and grandeur that is Christmas morning, I would have get-togethers with friends, plan elaborate gift wrapping to frustrate, and figure out which charities to try and spare some extra time for. Another thing I’d do is marvel at the fact my anime collection had a few Christmas themed episodes. I had figured the holiday was absent in a country that has a pretty negligible percentage of Christians in the population. And boy was I wrong.
Think of the gaudiest mall you’ve seen decorated, then barf that all over every metropolitan area. Then prepare for Valentine’s day part three, because you have to spend Christmas eve with your true sweetheart. And OK, so maybe you don’t have anyone to spend it with, why not have an overly decorated cake with your family. And then curl up with a bucket of fried chicken (You did reserve yours from KFC didn’t you?) while you wait for the real holiday, New Years.
Now of days I know whatever current uguu encrusted moé relationship fest will have a Christmas episode, but back in the day you could sprinkle that good old Xmas spirit on a few cells (and a few drops of office party whiskey) and crank out a miracle. Let’s walk through my old DVD collection and weeb up our holidays!
Ranma ½- A small cheat on this one, being as this wasn’t part of the regular Ranma ½ television series but an OVA called “Tendo Family Christmas Scramble”. It came out sometime after the second movie, “Nihao My Concubine” and is notable for the fact it contains just about every character we’ve seen in the regular anime to this point (At least those native to or living in Japan). I remember this being notable to me because I didn’t have much of the Ranma ½ series at the time, so I could just wonder “What, who, what the hell is that?” Of course the internet being a much more precious commodity back then meant I probably wasn’t doing research on the bits and pieces of the series I couldn’t find/afford.
The story is plain enough. It’s Christmas so having a large place to hang out, the Tendo Dojo is going to host a Christmas party. And of course being a Christmas in Japan every woman who is interested in Ranma is bargaining for some special time with him. Even Akane in her own way wants to do a gift exchange. I’m not going to go over everything, because it’s Ranma ½ and you know pretty much where it’s going. Women are claiming Ranma, there is misunderstandings because no one talks about their feelings, and so on and so forth. But there is a pretty nice song by DoCo (The voice actresses of the series did several music albums thanks to the success of the show) and for a fan of the series it’s pretty hard not to appreciate a good old fashioned throwback episode for such a long running series.
I give it, four shakes of nutmeg in a cup of nog out of half the tin (Like my wife likes it).
Big O- “Daemonseed” is more appropriate as the title of a Warhammer 40K novel than a Christmas episode of a cartoon. When it comes to this series I expect a bit more introspective about humanities need for certain things. And there is discussion about tradition and the lot, but ultimately this is one of the more “Cool action” stand-alone parts of the saga known as Big O. And there is nothing wrong with a slick robot beating the crap out of an out of control tree, right?
In this episode Roger Smith isn’t really a fan of “Heaven’s Day” which happens every December 25th. It’s just another remnant of some memory that has been around in Paradigm, and of course being who he is, Roger’s not much on sentimentality in the first place. Interlaced with this is a McGuffin based tale with a dash of “The Gift of the Magi” thrown in for good measure, in the lives of Oliver and Laura. Laura is blind and her boyfriend, Oliver, wants to get her something special for Heaven’s day. As most of these tales go they don’t have much money, and Oliver is struggling to make it as a musician, busking for spare change as the holiday wears on. Given a strange golden teardrop by a deranged man in a Santa suit, he unwittingly unleashes a giant coniferous tree on the city with giant roots. The Big O is summoned to fight the threat, but in reality it just grows to the point of breaking the dome and just stops. Symbolism? In any case Roger winds up softening his heart so Dorothy can have something special for Heaven’s day, because even if her enjoyment of the holiday is merely a rote put in there from her creator it’s still important that she enjoys it. Oh, oooooh now I get it.
I give it five golden rings out of ten lords a leapin’.
Azumanga Daioh– Part of me has a need to weed out more lovey-dovey episodes and believe you me, there’s a lot of weeding to do. So let’s go to where a lot of our current anime problems have started with good ol’ Azumanga Daioh. For the record I do like this series, but unfortunately I blame it for a lot of the stylistic choices and writing themes thrust into the sphere of anime after its wildly successful run. But that is a review and rant for another day. It’s Christmas after all, time for some good cheer.
This one is kind of a cheat. Being of a fractured nature of a 4koma translation to screen, only half of this episode draws from anything Christmas related. The first part relates to the youngest classmate Chiyo (our studious ten year old in high school) and if she still believes in Santa Claus or not. Her response is pretty disproportionately mature, her father is Santa. Well far be it to leave well enough alone, Sakaki (The tough, cool girl who in reality, is not) has one of her by now famous fever dreams about Chiyo’s dad being this weird alien cat-like thing, but now in a santa hat. It’s a very “You had to be there… and remember all the gags” anime. The classroom conversation turns to what everyone wants for Christmas and if reindeer exist, thus paving the way for CHOCOLATE F***ING CORONET CONVERSATIONS. No, merry, merry. It ends with the girls having a fun night out at a karaoke lounge Christmas Eve.
I give it two lights with burnt out filaments, making your lights useless, out of a strand.
Wow, Christmas anime is kind of dull, eh? One would think at least there would be some sort of anime New Year specials to make up for it, with it being the vastly more important holiday there. To be fair such an anime wouldn’t be that exciting, being as New Years is basically a lot of loafing around where it’s warm, eating oranges and reading stacks of cards given to you by everyone you’ve met in your life, and possibly past lives. Well that and watching Downtown (a very popular Japanese comedy duo) and friends get their asses beat over and over for laughing at ridiculous crap over a 24 hour period.
Well Christmas anime is a wash, so what to watch instead. Say, you know what became popular not too long ago? Proclaiming “Die Hard” was your favorite Christmas movie. Personally I felt the idea was funny at first, then just boorish approximately two hours later when everyone picked up on it. Ell-oh-ell violence in my Christmas raw-full. Well I’m going to counter that right now. The best Christmas movie ever full of violence and weird Japanese stuff is “Survive Style 5+”.
This is a movie about some really weird crap happening to four different people, and the hitman played by Vinnie Jones that unites them all together. Without spoiling too much I will say that the entire affair involves a famous hypnotist, his jilted commercial pitching girlfriend, a typical Japanese suburban family, a trio of young thieves and an artist whose wife just will not stay dead no matter how many times and ways he does it. The entire movie takes place against a backdrop that gets more and more Christmas filled as time passes in the movie, like it invades your personal space and kind of comes to a really loud and beautiful climax before it’s all taken away in one fell swoop by a definitive murder. Confused? Yes, but that’s what the holidays are all about, confusion. Well and eating. And this has a really great soundtrack including Cake’s version of “I Will Survive” as a bright bow on a cheerful looking but dark humored present.
So yeah, let’s watch that instead. Well except for Kentaro Miura because “Idolm@ster” has a Christmas episode so you know, he’s booked.
Dean The Adequate wishes you and yours the happiest festival of your choosing at this time of year that is to invoke emotions. And for that reason he asks that if you can, find some way to help your community this year. Winter comes at us fast, and there are lots of local charities that need things for those who can’t afford warmth. Coat drives, oil funds, anything to keep your communities alight, warm and healthy as things get downright bitter cold. The holidays are about celebrating the year that has happened, knowing what good and ill has come from it, and learning from it. But practice two lessons, that we can acknowledge someone suffering in our own neighborhoods and that we can make things better for that very someone.