Category Archives: Christmas

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Christmas Day: Toradora!

Toradora ep19

I am an introvert by nature, and one of my biggest struggles with Christmas is all the parties. I am scared of parties in which I do not know most of the people attending. I have literally had breakdowns before parties. In individual relationships I do well, but I struggle with social interaction. I love talking one-on-one, because I can quickly go deep and find ways to help people on a deeper level. I can’t go deep in a group, because everyone is staying shallow. I am pretty much an open book and I love people, but I am super sensitive to rejection. And growing up, people often would try to dress me up and change me. Now, I have trouble dressing up for events because I think people are trying to erase the real me. I mention all this because, I believe this really fits with Toradora episode 19.

When we are in love, sometimes we try to change or alter who we are to make someone like us. Sometimes, we try to fit in. We all do it. I tend to give up on fitting in, and hide in the background where I feel safer. This is a defense mechanism, and it takes my focus off of what is around me and I get locked in my fear. I miss what is happening to the people I care about. I think this fits with Ryūji as well. He begins this episode trying to invite Minori to their school Christmas Eve party, but Taiga is being her normal self and yelling at him while he is on the phone. Unknown to Ryūji, Taiga is secretly plotting many things. One of which is a conspiracy to get Minori to hangout with Ryūji. Unfortunately, this means she will be spending Christmas alone waiting for Santa. Ryūji learns of part of Taiga’s plan, and rushes in to save Taiga’s Christmas. He does, but then ends up having to run back to school in a Santa Bear costume. He then releases he doesn’t have the gift he left in his pocket, that is with the suit he traded for the bear costume. Taiga starts crying after she kicks Ryūji out, so he will go meet Minori. She starts to chase after him after realizing that she doesn’t want to give him up. She cries outside here condo building and Minori sees from around the street corner. Minori then finds Ryūji and dumps him.

Taiga - Toradora ep 19

What if what you want isn’t the best thing for you? What if you must give up something for someone else’s sake? In this case, Taiga tries to hookup Ryūji and Minori. Ryūji makes a fool of himself to make sure Taiga isn’t lonely. Minori, basically dumps Ryūji, because she knows Taiga loves him. Is this not love? Love is far more than a feeling or idea. More than a chemical reaction. It is a sacrifice and is often painful. If you love someone, you will sacrifice some of your own wants and desires for their sake, if you don’t, it isn’t love.

I realized this at a party on Sunday. I was hiding in plain sight, avoiding people’s conversations. I decided to go hangout with my nieces who are in town and play with them. I am sure some people thought I was weird for it, but honestly, does that even matter? Because of it, I got to share with some family friends my passion for missions work in Japan. God changed my perspective and even helped me bless people when I was outside my comfort zone. So whether you need to crawl through a friends window in a Santa Bear suit or what ever else, realize that love will push you out of your comfort zone and it will demand sacrifice on your part, but it will be worth it. Love is incredible and is powerful, but the greatest love one can show is giving your life for a friend. This means love will cost you everything, but is it not worth it?

By the way, this is one of Charles favorite anime, if not his favorite (Editor’s Note: Yep, I would say it’s my very favorite!). Merry Christmas to all of you.

And a Merry Christmas to You

Merry Christmas!  I hope that you all are having a wonderful time with family and friends today.

Madoka Christmas

If you’re expecting a flippant remark about Christmas and goddesses, you’re obviously new to this blog (Pixiv Artist しあん)

I also hope that you’ll spend a few minutes reflecting on the meaning of Christmas – that on this day, we celebrate the most humble and unexpected of births of the One who through grace, would offer humankind the most significant of gifts – life itself.

Merry Christmas!

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 11: Nodame Cantabile: Paris-Hen

Ever since the mainstream westernization of Japanese culture, Japan, and thus anime, has had a rather fond relationship with the “foreign” holiday of Christmas. Although it is no surprise, the Christmas we see in Japanese animation is a more romantic, commercialized Christmas than what we witness here in the West.* With that said, having an anime set in Paris, a staple city of the West no less, significantly changes the presentation that the Japanese anime show us of Christmas.

Enter Nodame Cantabile: Paris-Hen.

Nodame Cantabile Christmas

Art by まつりか (Pixiv ID 7470407)

If you are not familiar with the Nodame Cantabile series, Paris-Hen is the second season, after Nodame Cantabile and before Nodame Cantabile Finale. In this chapter, our main characters, Chiaka and ‘Nodame’, are studying and performing music in Paris (a major change from the Japanese setting of the first season). Surrounded by western culture, both geographically and socially, one would expect a bit more of an accurate representation of the Christmas celebration, right? Well, that depends on how you define an “accurate representation of the Christmas celebration.”

Nodame Cantabile: Paris-Hen‘s “Christmas” episode does not function as a stereotypical anime “Christmas episode” as much as simply an episode that happens to take place at Christmas. However, there are merits to this approach. Unlike many anime, the commercialized, idealized Christmas is not what takes the spotlight, but the characters. Therefore, western Christmas traditions can be shown in, perhaps, a bit more demure, realistic light.

Take, for instance, the inclusion of the children’s Christmas play. We are given the opportunity to see a European cathedral and its congregation celebrating the religious roots of Christianity with an ordinary children’s play, something none too common in Japan. Additionally, if you pay attention to the background music in the scenes at the cathedral, you will notice the inclusion of several traditional choral Christmas pieces, namely “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.” In this light, it is nice to see Christmas receiving attention for its original intended purpose, which is quite uncommon in anime.

The flip side of this is that the main characters are portrayed, quite frankly, as outsiders who care quite little about the custom and treat Christmas as merely a cultural celebration.** This is particularly seen in Nodame, who spends most of her Christmas spirit grabbing for attention as a donkey in the pageant and trying to fit an oversized Christmas tree in her apartment.

Despite this, Paris-Hen’s portrayal of Christmas is a refreshing one in the anime world. Santa Claus is never focused upon nor even mentioned (at least that I can recall), the church is treated without disdain, albeit merely as a cultural device, and people who would normally care very little about Christmas reflect how they would treat it: as a fun holiday with little effect on anything else. Christmas, both by the characters and by the writers, is treated simply as another day, though one with a bit of celebration.

You may be wondering why a lack of emphasis on the holiday feels like a breath of fresh air to me, and I would be happy to explain. Christmas, though wonderful for its representation of God’s gift to the world (John 3:16), is not in and of itself a sacred day. Just as the Sabbath was an important day for the Jews and its purpose should be remembered and honored, it should not be done so to the point that our practical actions no longer reflect the purpose of the day. Chiaki and Nodame encounter a powerful turning point in their relationship in Paris-Hen’s Christmas episode, and, just so, Christmas should not be used as an excuse to ignore life.

While Christmas is a day to remember God’s gift to the world, and to reflect that gift to us by giving gifts to others, in the process of reflecting the gift, never forget the reason you are giving, the source that you are reflecting.

On this wonderful night, the celebration of the eve of the coming of Christ, let us remember that Christmas is a day to move forward, just like any other day. Don’t get caught up in the hubbub of commercialism, or the unrealistic expectations of Hollywood, but enjoy the day that God gave us as He has given us every day, which we can wholeheartedly enjoy because He first gave us the greatest gift.

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12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 10: Full Moon o Sagashite

The Christmas episode of Full Moon o Sagashite is not really the most interesting one on the list. In fact, it’s rather boring and mundane. Mitsuki plans a Christmas party for her friends and classmates, and prepares Christmas presents. Despite the fact that Takuto and Meroko, Mitsuki’s friends, are both Shinigami, no comment is made about the spiritual significance of Christmas, which isn’t really surprising. Unlike the manga, the anime of Full Moon o Sagashite always seemed to keep things more lighthearted most of the time.

Full Moon o Sagashite Christmas

Source unknown

There is an emphasis on happiness, and the episode includes some cameos of minor characters enjoying Christmas. As is typical for a Christmas episode, there is also a romance theme, and the show seizes this opportunity to a tie up a loose relationship thread with a confession between two of Mitsuki’s classmates during her Christmas Party. Meroko also confesses to Takuto for the 53rd time (Since they met, not during the anime, thank goodness) and he decides to be kinder to her this time around by acknowledging her feelings rather than ignoring them.

But among all this rather cliché fare, there is one part that stands out, though it’s not given much screen time. During Mitsuki’s preparations for Christmas, she knits her Grandmother a shawl as a present. Mitsuki and her Grandmother don’t exactly have the best relationship: Her grandmother is cold and traditional, and strongly disapproves of Mitsuki’s passion for singing for various reasons. But despite these misgivings between them, Mitsuki works hard to make the shawl, and hopes that her Grandmother will be pleased with her gift. Instead of giving it to her in person, she chooses to leave it outside her door with a note after asking permission to spend the evening with her friends. Later, Mitsuki’s Grandmother is shown sitting with the shawl beside her. Though the exchange is short, it holds much more weight than the cheerful Christmas scenes and foreshadows the eventual reconciliation between the two. Although any parallel is unintended, it definitely evokes one of the reasons that Jesus came to earth: To recouncile God and humanity, and to bridge the coldness and separation that came between us after the Fall.

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 9: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Haruhi

If I were to list off my strongest memories, some of them would be moments of happiness and joy. Some would be moments of pain and sorrow. All of them would bemoments when someone else was there for me. They would be moments of friendship, fellowship, love, and unity. What could possibly fit better?

I love The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.  The story is okay, the animation is pretty, and overall  it is enjoyable, but what really hits home is something else. Something that words fail to adequately describe. It is the moment when your heart beats in tune with another. A rhythmic relationship that creates a harmonious melody. Then the song ends and you find yourself alone. Not sure what has changed. Unsure of what went wrong. The ache and longing persist. And you feel your heart start to grow cold. In desperation, you try to relive the lose. You search, but nothing matches up. Nothing fits like that moment did. And we shrink into the wallpaper and pray someone sees us. Then, like a rain drop in a famine, a glimmer of hope appears. We are so desperate that we chase after, with our minds saying it is no use. Our hope fades, and then another appears. We chase after. Then another, and another. And next time we look up we see a couple, andthen many, and then a multitude, and a rain drop becomes a lake and then an ocean. We open up our hearts to the hope we lost and the joy that has been misplaced. Our dessert turns into our dream. We are reluctant to open up. We fear more hurt. Yet, we are so in need that our fears are overwhelmed. We find that we have faith we didn’t know of. We learn that we can still stand. We find out that we weren’t ever alone.

Untitled 4

“Haruhi is…Haruhi.” Kyon goes on a journey to find Haruhi. Not just Haruhi, but all of the mysterious SOS Brigade. He is given the option to continue in a normal life, without Haruhi. He is given a chance to make everything crazy again. Can you guess what he chooses? There is something about the state of normalcy, that appears to thrive in apparent chaos. Like an adventure within safe confines, we chase our desires from our seats. We look to money, fictional greatness, human approval, and many other things that really don’t matter. My favorite thing about christmas is the fact, that for once in the year there is at least some focus on what is really important. Relationship. The most powerful force in a persons life is not nature, or chance, or fear. It is something greater. Something timeless.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. – John 1:1

God is timeless, but also the perfect example of relationship. A God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Who created the entire human race for fellowship. The God who gave up everything, came to earth, died, and rose again to restore our relationship with himself for all eternity. A powerful love.

I can’t say for sure and I might just be crazy here, but I believe that Kyon is just like us. A character who thinks he’s plain. Complaining about where were at, while at the same time believing we are going to miss it. To busy yelling medokusai, we miss the beauty in front of us. To lost in our own affliction, we forget to share our affection. To busy dreaming, we loose our chance to change things. To busy surviving, we miss out on thriving. But Kyon received a It’s a Wonderful Life moment. I am a bit jealous to say the least, but I have decided, that I am really going to try to treasure this next few weeks. Next year, I will probably be half way around the world. And I am going to miss this. Will you?

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 8: Kamichu!

As Christmas approaches, Matsuri decides to wage a one-woman battle against the holiday, proclaiming that her friends, family, and area residents should forgo the “foreign” celebration in lieu of a newly created one that will be sure to attract visitors to Raifuku Shrine.

At the recommendation of D.M. Dutcher, I decided to watch this episode of Kamichu!, even though I knew next to nothing about the series.  It was relatively easy to catch on and understand the show and each of it’s main characters, though.  For those uninitiated, Kamichu! follows Yurie, an otherwise normal schoolgirl who has become a Shinto god, and her friends Matsuri and Mitsue.  There’s a sweet simplicity to the show, which is also demonstrated in how Christmas is presented.  The series makes no qualms about it – Christmas is about presents, romance, cake, and Santa Claus.

The “lesson” from the episode, though, is perhaps just a little deeper.  In trying to free her neighbors from a western religious holiday, Matsuri is instead impressing upon them her own, Yurie-centered thanksgiving day.  Matsuri’s shy sister, Miko, is the one who delivers the main message at the end, saying that she’ll celebrate Christmas in her own way, with the implication that we should all do so and be open to one another.

Kamichu Christmas

(L-R) Linus, Charlie Brown, Sally, and Lucy (source: Ha Neul Seom)

In other words, this episode is a conservative, evangelical Christian’s nightmare.

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12 Days of Christmas, Day 7: ef~A Tale of Melodies

If ef began with the characters who were lost in the present, then it ended with characters who hopefully looked forward to the future. Although A Tale of Melodies is not a continuation of the stories within the first season, the two tales are tied together by Himura and Yuko and the two twin cities. In the same way Memories began with events on Christmas Eve, Melodies ends on the same holiday, but with a much different tone.

While this episode shows all the characters at some point, its focus is on the conclusion between Himura and Yuko, the two with the most bittersweet relationship of the series. Although Himura has spent the entire series repeating his claim that there is no such thing as a miracle, his reunion with Yuko can only be called a supernatural miracle. After years of living in the past, Himura finally obtains closure on one of his greatest regrets in life. As a result, he is finally able to look toward the future and live life to its fullest.

art by れもよな

art by れもよな

Similarly, all the other characters are shown with feelings of hope as they are no longer bound by the problems they had when they were first introduced. As they spend Christmas with their loved ones, they reminisce about their past, how they have grown, and look toward the future with hope and anticipation. They do not expect things to be go perfect; rather, they understand more trials await them. However, they have learned that they no longer have to deal with their problems alone. They are no longer the lost people who they were when they were first introduced. The episode – and the series – ends with a final reminder given by all the characters: no matter the trial, no matter the hardship, always remember there is someone who is willing to help you continue toward a happier future.

The celebration of Christmas is not just a reminder of past events but also one of the future. Christ was born, died, and rose from the dead, but He is also coming back. As Christians, we continue to anticipate the day of His return. We don’t know how long it will take, and the wait will involve an array of events from blessings to suffering. We don’t know what the future really holds for us. Simultaneously, however, our relationship with Christ Himself is what helps us move forward. As difficult as it may be at times, God is always with us. That doesn’t mean things will go as we want, but it does mean things will be a little more bearable. Thus, Christ came not only to seek the lost but also to guide us along the difficult path of life.  As Christmas approaches, whatever situation your life be at, remember that Christ is right next to you. Oftentimes it may not seem like He is there; the hardships are too great and the support is too little. However, that is exactly one of the reasons to celebrate Christmas. It is to remind ourselves that Christ came for us, died for us, resurrected, and will continue to be with us forever.

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 6: ef~A Tale of Memories

While Christianity is a tiny minority in Japan, Christmas is still celebrated, albeit as a commercial holiday rather than any religious reasons. In fact, it is considered one of the most romantic holidays of the year, a day for lovers. And thus, ef~A Tale of Memories, a story of all kinds of romance, begins on this day. There are three key moments which happen in this first episode during Christmas Eve. These moments are not big or eventful, but for the characters they involve, they are far more than what might otherwise be called a fated meeting of lovers.

Art by 柚茶

Art by 柚茶

The first moment is when Kyousuke is with his girlfriend and he catches a glimpse of Kei running home. It is only a moment but he captures her on film, and there is something about her which fascinates him. It is not a romantic feeling but an artistic one. As an aspiring film maker, there was something about her which appealed to his artistic sense. The second moment is when Miyako and Hirano meet by chance and she decides to “borrow” his bicycle to chase after a thief. It is a coincidental meeting, but at the same time, it was an eventful change in each of their otherwise static lives. At first glance, they are both regular teenagers; however, they both carry a burden easy to overlook. The third moment occurs in a church, although neither character is religious. Renji asks Himura for advice on his future and is told to simply do what he loves. It is a clichéd answer, but it is because of Himura’s words that Renji’s view begins to change.

What can be said about many of these characters is that they are lost, searching for something. Renji is searching for what he wants to do with his life. Kyousuke is searching for something to bring life to his films. Hirono is searching for a color to his colorless life. Miyako is searching for a place to belong. However, in these key moments, these characters feel something. They do not know what it is but there is something that is drawing them, calling on their feeling of being lost. These meetings spark something, and they feel that if they follow the spark, they will find the answers they seek.

In the same way, Christ came into this world to seek and to save those who are lost. He did not make a grand entrance; he was born in a measly manger. When he called his disciples, he did not give them detailed explanations of what was to come; he merely said “follow me.” Be it the disciples back then or us of today, the calling is small and subtle. We do not understand how it works, but we are drawn to it. There is something about Christ’s love that satisfies our soul although it is intangible and difficult, even impossible, to explain concretely. Without Christ, we are lost sheep searching for something. Such feelings are vague and undefined. People try to fill up the gap with worldly things, but nothing of this world can truly fill it permanently. However, as Christmas approaches, let us remember that Christ came for our sakes: to cleanse our sins and to give us what our souls are searching for, even if we do not realize what that may be ourselves. No matter how small the interest in Christ may be, if we follow it to the end, we will find something far more fulfilling than anything the material world could give.

12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 5: Love Hina

If there’s one thing that anime Christmas episodes have in common, it’s romance.  Most of them involve a romantic element, with the usual involving some Christmas date presented with some anime misunderstanding or angst.  Christmas cakes are also involved, as is snow and shopping.

With this in mind, the other day I asked my Tumblr readers if they considered Christmas to be a romantic holiday.  They responded with an emphatic no.

Maybe anime has gotten to me, but in my mind, Christmas has become more and more romantic, right up there with New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.  And my favorite Christmas anime is a romantic one – the Love Hina Christmas special.

art source unknown

art source unknown

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12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 4: Ghost Hunt

Christmas in Ghost Hunt started the way Christmas probably does for many people: hanging up Christmas decorations and vaguely wondering why they are celebrating the holiday in the first place.

The scene starts with Mai putting up a Christmas tree at the Shibuya Psychic Research Center when Naru comes in, stares blankly at it, and tells her to take it down, because he couldn’t have something as colorful and cheery as a Christmas tree in his presence. The psychic Masako enters and loves the tree. Then Houshou, a Buddhist monk, and Ayako, a shrine maiden, follow in and they all like the tree so much Naru decides he doesn’t want to fight with them and is content with just giving an annoyed look.

Then the Houshou and Ayako ask:

“Ayoko: You’re a monk and you celebrate Christmas?

Houshou: What about you? You’re a priestess, right?”

Ghost

Ha, ha, ha, ha, we don’t know what we’re doing.

After that, Father John Brown comes in and tells them they have a case at a church, and everyone gets excited because Christmas definitely needs to involve a church somehow, but no one is really sure why.

What followed is probably the only Christmas special I’ve ever seen with possessions and an exorcism. Read the rest of this entry