My Santa Anime Review
Itsudatte My Santa
Always My Santa!
US Release By
Hyperactive Romantic Comedy
2 25-minute episodes
Meet a rather ill-fated youth: Born on Christmas eve, his parents spend so much time abroad that every year he spends what should be two happy occasions alone and friendless. As if that weren't enough, his parents also named him Santa. His luck might just change this year, though, when Mai, a santa-in-training, shows up out of nowhere determined to do absolutely anything within her somewhat limited magical powers to make this Christmas his first happy one.
Things get further complicated when her little sister and outspoken childhood friend show up, too.
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My Santa, based on a comic short by Ken Akamatsu of Love Hina fame, crams a season's worth of generic comedy--lots of wacky hijinks, some cheesy drama, a few awkward misunderstandings, and a moral of some sort--into two episodes. This might sound like Excel Saga/Elf Princess Rane territory, but while there are a few particularly funny bits surrounding the santa-in-training's ability to magically produce anything beginning with "sa," for the most part it just goes by so fast you don't have time to care much about anything. The art, music, and acting are all acceptable but forgettable--really the only memorable thing about it is the dizzying pace and barely even that.
In the end it's got just enough mean spirit mixed in with the sap to keep it from being too annoying, and it did get a few laughs out of me, so I won't call it a complete waste of time. It isn't, however, anywhere near clever or funny enough to be worth going out of your way to see unless you're a big fan of Ken Akamatsu and/or Ah My Goddess rip-offs.
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Itsudatte My Santa, aside from being based on a one-shot manga by Ken Akamatsu of Love Hina and Negima fame, looks like yet another love comedy, and that's exactly what it is... stuck on fast forward. No, really--it's eight minutes into the first episode before the show even inhales, and then only for some fanservice and a flashback or two. The second episode breathlessly montages through six months in about a minute and a half, and the show as a whole stuffs a TV season's worth of generic comedy-romance into two episodes.
This might sound like Elf Princess Rane--a sort of deranged hyperactive genius. Sadly, My Santa really is just a generic Ah My Goddess rip-off on a caffeine bender--the hyperactivity doesn't add much, it just makes it go by so fast there's no time to develop any attachment to the characters. If you look past the manic pacing, there's a mountain of lame jokes, a few awkward misunderstandings, some requisite cheesy drama, and just a few bits that are whacked-out enough to actually laugh at.
Those few memorable bits mostly consist of unexpectedly mean-spirited cheap shots, which break up the sappy sentiment enough to keep it from getting too annoying. There are also a couple of particularly out-there uses of the santa-in-training's ability to magically produce anything that starts with "sa." Of course, they're over so quickly you might miss them, and there's a lot of uninspired craziness diluting it.
Other than the pacing, the most noteworthy stylistic bit is that most of the plot is told through flashbacks, likely due to lack of time and any establishing material whatsoever. There's also the fact that the first few minutes of the second episode are almost an exact repeat of the first, but I'm suspicious that had as much to do with budget constraints as repetitive comic cadence.
Incidentally, while there's a preview for a nonexistent third episode, unlike most two-and-out OAV series the end is acceptably satisfying for this sort of thing, and the preview was apparently intended as a joke. (The accompanying voiceover notes that it never got made, and I'm not sure whether there was ever a plan to go past two episodes, though given the teaser of giant robotic reindeer I'd actually like to see it.)
The male protagonist has a stiff dose of pointless teen angst, but then that's kind of the point (moral: You think you have problems? Quit whining!). He also has a bit of a mean streak when it comes to his too-willing cheer-bringer, which at least puts a crack in the generic mold. Said would-be-santa, Mai, is frankly rather annoying, but not painfully so. On the positive side she's not oblivious to her surroundings, just a little nutty.
We do learn one thing, though: Becoming a full-fledged santa apparently means you get more curvaceous and more Aryan. No, really, if you look at our two examples they go from being cute brunettes to centerfold-bodied blondes. The original Kringle was German, I suppose, and it beats a beard and a pot-belly. I also note that while transformation sequences with breast-expansion shots are nothing new, this features one of the few butt-boost shots I can think of.
On the flip side, My Santa deserves credit for taking a moment to acknowledge the religious meaning of Christmas, even if only briefly. Ironic that one of the few anime stories to touch on the subject is probably the one that should stay the farthest from it.
In the visual department My Santa probably cost more to make than it looks on account of the frantic pace, but is otherwise completely generic. The characters are cute but forgettable, the art is bland, undetailed stuff, and the Christmasy backgrounds are loosely drawn and uninteresting.
The show has a tiny voice cast of uneven quality (in Japanese--I haven't listened to the dub). Mai's voice (supplied by Hirano Aya, best known for voicing Haruhi Suzumiya) is the only memorable one, both for sounding a little different from the generic cutie and sheer speed, though she never quite hits the dizzying cadence of Excel Saga or Elf Princess Rane. Santa (Jun Kamei in his only role to date) is forgettable, and while the antagonist, Shari (voiced by Yu Kobayashi), sounds good angry, the rest of her performance is noticeably underpowered. The music is the forgettable Christmassy stuff you'd expect.
On balance My Santa is memorable for the dizzying pace and not a whole lot else. It got a few laughs out of me, so I won't call it a complete waste of time, but isn't anywhere near clever or funny enough to be worth going out of your way to see unless you're a big fan of Ken Akamatsu.
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For similar comedic hyperactivity ratcheted up several notches, Elf Princess Rane is the place to be. Excel Saga is also hyperactive but far, far crazier; Dragon Slayer does the same whole-series-on-fast-forward thing to the light fantasy genre, which works better. It also has plenty in common with just about every guy-followed-by-supernatural-girl comedy ever made, Ah My Goddess! topping the list (and universally better). There are also of course Ken Akamatsu's better known series, Love Hina and Negima, though both of those are more harem shows.
Notes and Trivia
Santa is an actual Japanese given name, although you probably wouldn't expect someone to name their kid that if he were born on Christmas Eve.
Funimation's subtitles don't do anything with this, but after transforming into their full "santa" form, the various santas start using the very masculine version of I, "ore." One assumes this is a nod to the original bearded prototype, regardless of the gender and facial hair status of the speaker.
The manga short story on which this is based only covers the pair's meeting on Christmas; Mai's friends and relatives and the shenanigans of the second episode were added for the anime. The comic version isn't officially available in English as of this writing.
The anime was, unsurprisingly, released around Christmas time in both Japan and the US (in Japan it was actually available on two DVDs, ridiculously enough, though both were released at the same time and were also sold as a box set). According to Wikipedia, Funimation bungled the original Christmas 2007 release by putting a TV-PG instead of TV-MA on the box, resulting in a re-release in late 2008; true or not, there are two functionally-identical versions floating around.
There are also no less than five soundtrack(-ish) CDs available in Japan; a 15 or so minute CD single for each of the four female characters (yes, even the teacher gets one) featuring character songs, plus a full soundtrack with the background music and some extras.
If you're unfamiliar with how Christmas is celebrated in Japan: It is a largely secular holiday, with very little in the way of religious overtones. Though there are certainly decorations (public; very few people put up a Christmas tree at home), it's a relatively low-key holiday. The main tradition is for couples to go out on Christmas Eve and do something romantic. Families will often eat a Christmas cake (a very fancy decorated sponge cake usually pre-ordered from bakeries for a small fortune) in the evening and maybe give a present to children. Christmas Day doesn't have much in the way of tradition.
Note, also, that New Year's in Japan is much closer to Christmas from a family/religious perspective (at least as it's celebrated in the US): there is a long national holiday, families gather together for a traditional feast on the eve, and people usually go to visit a temple on New Year's Day or shortly afterward. Gifts are also traditionally given to kids, though usually just an appropriately presented wad of cash (that applies to a lot of Japanese gifts). There are also all manner of TV specials, which often appear near the end of the season in anime. People usually do not have big drunken parties, and the "big countdown" isn't a central event. Buddhist temples do ring their bells 100 times at midnight, though.
US DVD Review
Funimation's DVD features both episodes in decent-looking anamorphic widescreen (direct to video, so it's interlaced, though) with English or Japanese stereo audio and a soft subtitle track... and that's it. There's a chapter index and some previews for other Funimation titles, but not a single bonus to be found. Note that there is an original and "re-release" version, both of which are apparently identical save the rating printed on the box.
There's some blatant fanservice and requisite awkward situations but nothing wildly objectionable; I'd call it about 13-up unless you're touchy about the relatively brief nudity. Funimation labeled it TV-MA (the original release mistakenly says TV-PG).
Violence: 1 - There are some wacky, very cartoony brawls played for laughs.
Nudity: 2 - The requisite transformation sequence is more in-your-face than average, but otherwise limited to moderate amounts of fanservice.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Not without implications, but nothing explicit at all.
Language: 1 - Nothing significant that I remember in the subtitles.
Available in North America on a single bilingual DVD from Funimation, currently out of print. The DVD was available as both an original and re-release version, which are nearly identical.
Amazon has plenty of copies listed new and used on the cheap: My Santa! (Re-release)