Christmas is a different holiday in Japan compared to the United States. Even putting aside the religious vs. secular aspects, December 25th is traditionally seen in Japan as more of a romantic occasion featuring cake and fried chicken, and various anime and manga throughout the years have reflected this. That’s why I was surprised to see that the Christmas episode of Aikatsu Friends!—aptly titled “Merry Friends Christmas”—feels so at-home with a more American conception of the holiday.
The episode begins with drawing lots for a big idol tournament. Once the matches have all been decided, each duo goes out to practice and to shore up their weaknesses. The portrayal of “idol activities” is always a highlight of the Aikatsu! franchise, and watching the two goth girls weight-lift using an oversized die and a black crystal ball to shore up their weak stamina reminds me of why I enjoy these shows. What’s more, I like that it doesn’t dedicate the entire episode to Christmas, as it minimizes the sense that this is a one-off break from the main story. The celebration is woven into the overall momentum of Aikatsu Friends!
Heroine Aine decides to invite her partner Mio and their rival teams to have a fun Christmas party, and there’s just something familiarly heartwarming about the gathering. The exchanging of presents, the overall sense that the competition doesn’t overshadow their friendships, and the festive mood would fit right in with US Christmas TV specials—but with all of the morals about kindness and giving merely implied instead of said outright. It’s the sort of execution that makes me wish Aikatsu! could get a real foothold outside of Japan, even though I realize that its success is tied in heavily with the arcade games.
As with every Aikatsu! Christmas, they end with a rendition with of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with a characteristic rap section that talks about turning a holy night into a party night. At this point, and I have to wonder what the reason is behind keeping the song from year to year. It’s not a bad thing, but I would have expected them to switch it up from series to series—maybe some “Jingle Bells” or “Deck the Halls.” Maybe it’s just what the fans expect, and hearing the latest generation of Aikatsu! stars give their own take on the song is itself a tradition.
Overall, it’s an excellent Christmas episode from Aikatsu Friends, and an excellent way to set the mood for the holidays. It also makes me wonder if the image of Christmas has changed in Japan! That investigation will have to be for another time.
This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.
Not every Aikatsumas used that particular song. This Akari generation episode had an original song. https://youtu.be/z_gnaRXpeKk
Also Japan celebrates it on the 24th as Xmas Eve (much like we celebrate the eve of All Hallows’ Day on Halloween and for not entirely dissimilar reasons for it not being the day of), while the 25th is generally blown off as a regular non holiday day, often with decorations already being taken down in favor of getting ready for Hatsumode (I once even read a blog story once by an American staying there upset by this being the case…) Part of this is a very subtle way of acknowledging the holiday secularly while not needing to honor the religious aspect given that so few in Japan are particularly religious, let alone Christian. :)
Anyway, Happy Holidays! And Merry Axe-mas, as I call it in Aikatsu… ;)
Oh, I think they used the other song in the fourth year, too? I believe all the others are We Wish You a Merry Christmas though, but I have not checked on Aikatsu Friends this year just yet. :)
Pingback: Mystic Eyes: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for January 2019 | OGIUE MANIAX